BLOG # 4 ST. PETERSBURG…DAY TWO….
Awake at 6 am; well rested and ready to tour. Had time to catch up with computers, make calls home to family in California, post my first Blog and enjoy a very nice breakfast at 8:30 am. Tatiana arrived at 10:30 am to start our day.
We walked the few blocks from our hotel to the Hermitage; so named when Catherine The Great wrote in a letter that she felt “like a hermit as she wandered alone among the vast accumulation of works of art that she’d collected and displayed in her palace.”
It is not one building but a series of five buildings. The collection now fills most of the buildings. An interesting note was that the palace does not contain any working fireplaces because of the great fire that destroyed most of the palace; it started from a fireplace.
The museum is divided by floors: The bottom floor houses the Greek and Egyptian collections, the second floor has the European Art divided into sections for the various countries. Today we visited the Museum to study the interiors and history plus the highlights of the Hermitage art collection. Later in the week we will return to study the art collection in greater detail. The lines were long but we passed them by and walked directly into the museum with Tatiana who had purchased our tickets earlier for an 11 am entrance and knew exactly where to take us. We spent two and a half hours there today.
Out into the street our driver George was summoned by cell phone and we were off to the summer place at Peterhof. Today we will do the gardens as rain is predicted for later in the week when we’d originally planned to visit them. It took us an hour to drive to the town on the Baltic Coast that surrounds the favorite summer retreat for Peter The Great. A stop at a local restaurant for a lunch of bourse soup, beef and cabbage, filling and very good. The sun was hot so we used our umbrellas as we walked the grounds; the shade was wonderful but the sun was VERY hot as we walked from fountain to fountain in this mammoth “garden”; famous for the one hundred and fifty different fountains that are powered by water flowing from a huge pond on the highest level. No pumps are used to create the stunning and very individually unique water fountains.
We discovered that Peter The Great had a sense of humor; there are several “fools” fountains that are designed to temp people to try to discover what rock to step on and trigger sudden sprays of water. It was a hot day and the children and some adults were having a wonderful time getting soaked in the water. A secret adult had the trigger and chose who and when to spray!
Today we spent over two hours walking the gardens and we only saw half of it…but the better half we understand. By 5:00 pm our feet could tread no more and we headed for the entrance where our driver George met us for the trip back to the city.
Tonight we ventured out on our own for dinner about 7 pm. Decided to go to the little restaurant next to our hotel. We had 1,500 Russia Rubles in our pocket to cover the tip as we planned to use our credit card. We still need to find an ATM but Tatiana had given us the 1500 Russian Rubles. We decided to go “Rick Steves” and said we’d have their recommendations. We ended with a wonderful meal of cheese bread (looked like a pizza) with three dishes. Cold Turkey in a broth, Veal with mushrooms and Beef with a spicy tomato sauce. Delicious but we definitely left food on the table. When the bill arrived we discovered they did not take cards…Cash Only. Oops…it was 1620 Rubles plus the tip. This was another first…did we have to wash dishes? No, they were very kind and took our I.O.U. We walked about half a mile and found an ATM and finally purchased some local currency. We needed the walk anyway to work off some of that dinner!
It is daylight until after 10 pm so the time flies at night. We are on the sixth floor of our hotel and have skylights in the ceiling.Enjoyed some phone calls with the family using the smart phone and the WiFi with Skype; the sound is so good it’s like we’re in the USA. Jim was off to bed by 10 pm and I worked until midnight on photos and the computer. Hope you’re enjoying our adventure.