That is some Serious Art

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Russia  ,
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Being in St. Petersburg we had to make the pilgrimage to The Hermitage. This is where Catherine the Great's art collection is now housed. On the way we decided to walk through the Summer Palace gardens to look at the many statues they have on display in the park. Unfortunately during winter we found out they board up all the statues in wooden boxes. It was a bit strange walking through a park full of wooden boxes, but hey it's art isn't it?

At the Hermitage we left our puffy jackets and bag in the coat room, went through the metal detector (that went off as per usual, but didn't raise even a murmur from the security guards) and headed to the Egyptian display. Onwards to the European paintings, including works by Matisse, Picasso, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Gogh to name a few. We spent three hours wandering around inside the building and only managed to see about a third of the works on display. This place was huge! We read they only display about 5% of their collection at any one time. They also had displays of old armor, furniture, jewelry and a huge collection of Roman statues. The thing that grabbed our attention the most was the building itself. Each room was amazing; an artwork in itself. We didn't get a map at the entrance, because no one seemed to understand what we were after. In one of the empty halls Rick found a map sitting on the window sill. With no one around he thought "Great! Now we can work out where to go". This was until a French lady ran towards us, yelling "Give me back my map!" and snatched it out of his hand. Crazy old French lady. Where in the hell did she come from?

Inside The Hermitage we also continued our study of old ladies you find in museums. So far we've managed to categorise these into two discrete types:

1. Disturbus Minimus
This species of attendant is always perched next to an old water heater, a crochet blanket covering their lap, dead to the world asleep. Nothing can wake this species up. In an experiment Megan stomped as loudly as possible across one of the rooms. Disturbus Minimus didn't even flinch!

2. Constant Watchus Periodicus
This second species is always on alert, watching every move one makes. Some breeds also follow you, so close they are like another shadow. In one experiment, Rick remained in one room, while a group of tourists entered the room from another doorway. Constant Watchus Periodicus was perplexed, her head flicking left and right, taking a step one way, towards the tourists, and then the other back towards Rick. Which one to watch?

Overall we've learnt that there is always someone watching you - always.

Our legs finally ran out of juice walking around the massive art collection so we decided to head to the post office to send some postcards and a parcel back home. On our trip we've had some interesting times trying to send things home. Russia has now joined Vietnam on the list of "Could They Make it Harder to Post Something?" First you've got buy the postcard, walk around the block to another building to get the stamp. When you have the stamp you then walk to a third building, down the road, where you first get the postcard reviewed, weighed and then they send you to another queue to get stamped and posted. It took us roughly one hour to send a few postcards and a small parcel.

On the way back from the post office we got a little bit lost, taking a wrong turn somewhere as we always seem to do. It was good though as we got to see a side of St Petersburg off the tourist strip. We also saw the statute of Nicholas I and once back on Nevsky Prospect, the statue of Catherine the Great.
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