Day 2

Trip Start Apr 29, 2011
Trip End Sep 03, 2011

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Flag of Finland  , Southern Finland,
Saturday, July 16, 2011

A grey, wet day. Not a bad day for spending time in a museum and what a museum – the Hermitage. We'd all wanted to go there for most of our lives so it would be a culmination of a joint dream. Still, the first challenge was to get there. In order to achieve this, we had booked seats on the free shuttle service that the hotel provides, this takes you to St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Hermitage is walkable from there. The shuttle left at 10:00 and at 09:50, we tried to get on, only to discover that all bar 3 of the seats had been taken by Italians. When prevailed upon to vacate their seats, they point blank refused and even an altercation with the management failed to shift them. It was particularly galling as it transpired that most of them got off well before the final destination, they could have walked that distance from the hotel! Anyway, it seemed that that tickets meant absolutely nothing, they had every right to refuse as it was a first come first served service and we left Rosemary & Louise on the shuttle whilst we had a cab – which we had to pay for. Hrrumph.

At the Hermitage, the crowds were gathering despite the torrential rain and we tried to discover which queue to join to purchase our tickets. Those with umbrellas queued outside whilst Louise and I tried our luck with the one automated ticket machine – all instructions in Russian but fortunately the polite and patient young girl behind us was Russian and helped us with the transaction. Armed with tickets, we dripped our way into the Hermitage. Now, about the Hermitage – I won’t dwell on its’ 3,000,000 contents, I will merely say GO THERE!!!! Here is a URL

Rather than describing the museum and its contents’ I will spend a paragraph on our reactions. Now I’m sure everyone is familiar with that feeling one gets when in a museum, one gets sated and tires and then the only thing that can get your attention is something out of the ordinary, everything else gets skipped. Well here we didn’t, as absolutely everything was extraordinary, the rooms , the sculptures, the paintings ( for instance 33 Picassos in one room!!!) and everything else. We were truly, completely, overwhelmed and, well, emotional. A quite extraordinary experience and one that I would rank as easily the best day I have ever spent in a museum. Truly unique so to repeat – GO THERE!!!!.

We managed to persuade a taxi to take all 5 of us (illegal) back to the hotel in time to refresh ourselves and for a bite to eat (more beer but not too much as we had a performance to watch), then another taxi to the theatre. Louise, bless her, was beside herself but it wasn’t long before the curtains were up and we were into the ballet – 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai’ by Boris Asayev, dating from 1934 and based upon a poem by Pushkin, written between 1821 and 1823. The story was about a young Polish girl, Maria who had her whole family, including her fiancÚ,killed by a gang of marauding Tatars led by Khan Ghirei and who was taken back to his harem in the palace of Bakhchisarai. There, Khan Ghirei’s favourite wife Zarema, saw that the Khan was infatuated with his Polish captive. Eventually, she kills Maria, is executed herself and the story ends with the Khan, inconsolable, by the ‘Fountain of Tears’ built in memory of Maria. Great stuff, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience and completely exhausted, we walked back to the hotel for a reviving G&T – the girls ended up singing ‘Doh a deer, a female deer’ a 12:30 in their room but fortunately no neighbours complained!
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