Champagne, Herring, Songs and Dances

Trip Start Aug 06, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Friday, August 10, 2012

Today dawned cold, cloudy, a little rainy, just what you would expect in Russia. last we spent several hours trying to figure out the forms we had to fill out to get into Russia. We still don't know what a "patronymic" is so we left that blank. We think only Russians have those. Andrea remembers that it was a whole lot easier getting into China than it is getting into and out of Russia. We went through immigration holding our breath that they would tell us we had done the paperwork correctly and would let us in. We did and they did, but the immigration officials would not smile at us, even though Ms. Lach did try tap-dancing, which has always worked at Divorce Camp.
We meet our guide Elena, a sturdy Russian woman, who was very serious and very knowledgeable. In contrast to our Finnish guide yesterday, who told us all about life in Finland, including the healthcare system, taxes (including the fact that when you purchase a car the tax is equal to the purchase price of the car), education and maternity leave, Elena did not tells us anything about life in Russia. She did tells us about the neighborhoods we were driving through and about the rules for visiting the Hermitage, for that is where we were going. We saw several Russian Orthodox churches from the outside, the Neva River, some very depressing apartments that were very gray and sorely in need of some upkeep.
We reached the Hermitage, which was huge and pastel green and white. We got off the bus, went inside and there were hoards of people. We were there 2 1/2 hours and moved very quickly, stopping at an occasional painting. We saw Rembrandts, Titian, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Hals. There was medieval art. Then there was the impressionist floor, which used to be the servants quarters. We saw every impressionist you can name. This was a collection owned by some St. Petersburg business who fled the revolution and left their art. We were thinking that prior to 1917, this stuff must have been cheap. Not any more We would guess.

So we are just touring through the Hermitage, Andrea looked around for Ken and sure enough, there he is, talking to someone he knows, not on our tour, just someone he ran into. This is a regular occurrence when we travel. Small world and all that.

Coming back in through immigration, Ken's passport apparently broke the computer. He was sent to the other "cabinet" where it took forever for their computer to read his passport. We think the Russians need some technology assistance.
Then we had a quick lunch and sat in the bar writing the first portion of this blog, looking out at what appears to be the cooling towers of a nuclear reactor.

After a quick Russian dinner of borscht and herring, we headed out to an evening of Russian folk songs and dances. The seats appeared to be padded but when we sat on them it turned out they were only wood covered with cloth. The singers and dancers were amazing, the men incredibly athletic. Some of the musical instruments were quite unusual, but played with great skill. One musical interlude consisted of six women playing pottery birds of different sizes. The performance was 90 minutes long with an intermission where they gave us champagne. We left with sore butts and happy hearts.
We came back to a midnight herring buffet but Andrea ate cheese as she hates herring.
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Julie Nelson on

Hi---Glad you guys are having a good time! Come on, Ken, what kind of "Norse" are you? 'Patronymic' = Nelson; son of Nels! In your case: Niemi= mi of Nie??? Sounds like something from Monty Python (Knights that say Ni).

Happy trails!

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