Hermitage,Blockade,Split Blood,St. Issacs, Kitsch

Trip Start Jul 10, 2008
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Flag of Russia  , Sankt-Peterburg,
Sunday, July 13, 2008

 We try to pace ourselves and yet the rhythm of the day always gets ahead of us. Last night, by the time we had to eat, we were grumpy and not happy with the atmosphere or our meal. The service by the teenagers was par for place. Each one of them staring at each other to make sure they were doing the right thing.

Now for today. I hope that we will keep it simple. We arrived early 10:15 for the entrance to the gigantic Hermitage that hugs the Neva and takes up blocks. Built by successive tsars. It is connected to the Winter Palace, their seasonal home until the Revolution. They say it would take a visitor 11 years to examine every one of the pieces in the collection. I know they only have 5% of the collection on display. Yikes!!!!!! In addition, we only saw 3 hours worth, due to our schedule.

In our need to see some remnants of the WWII disaster, the Siege, we attempted to visit the Blockade Museum. Little did we suspect that when we arrived it would be closed, “due to technical difficulties”. This really pissed us off. Kathy took a frowning image of me standing behind one of the two canons that flanked the entrance. This kind of cancellation seems common in St. Petersburg. We had flashbacks of the snarling policeman at the Underground station two days ago when we had to spend lots of money hiring a freelance cab to get to our tour bus.

On to the Church of the Spilled Blood. Curious name. Tsar Alexander was assassinated in 1881 and as a memorial, this Russian Revival structure was built. It resembles St. Basil’s in Moscow. The outside is far more interesting than the inside. The interior feels like wallpaper with all the icons spaced equally around and totally covering every surface. However, you have to admire their effort. It took twenty years to restore it after WWII. The Tsar’s reign is commemorated with twenty plaques around the perimeter.

At 6PM, we walked to the Cathedral of St. Isaac. Near the Admiralty.’ Kathy had been here earlier with French friends from the convention. We climbed to the observation walk, extra money of course, and gazed at the view (360 degrees) on this sunny afternoon. The circular staircase was quite a challenge with its 200 plus stairs. This would be as high an elevation in St. Petersburg that we would experience. The interior was much more fascinating than the other church. The massive squared columns gave a strong architectural power to the structure, which is the largest in Russia. In compliance with the Communist tenets, it became a museum of atheism.

While we were exiting, I managed to snap a shot or two of the beautiful trophy girlfriend or wife or escort of the informally dressed man. He was large and shorthaired, similar to another couple that we saw on our walk from the Blockade Museum. He was dressed in the usual pajama-look or tracksuit. There appears to be a standard set here. You make a lot of money, dress badly and have a beautiful mate.

As the sun descended into early evening, we came upon some young guys jumping into the Neva from the embankment. It wasn’t until I had photographed them that I think I detected a swastika, hidden cleverly by a tattooed armband on one of them. Sure enough, as we turned around with the sun at our backs did I verify my suspicion. I purposely withheld my discovery from Kathy until I was sure. She was disgusted. I found it fascinating that we came upon a “skinhead” that you here so much about.

We crossed the Blagoveshchenskiy Bridge built in 1850. This was the first permanent crossing of the river. Dinner at the Russian Kitsch Restaurant. As usual, the waiter had little to say, since English is not spoken much here.  Fun live music and good food.
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