Well... today is sunny and 75. There's like 4 sunny days a year in St. Petersburg and so far, we've had 2 of them (I may be slightly exaggerating).
SO Masha picked us up at 10am. Our hotel is on an island and all the bridges are closed to vehicle traffic because of the St. Petersburg marathon. After driving around to every bridge, we decide to give up and walk. Of course the minute we get out of the car, the bridge we're near opens. So we get back in the car and Masha shows us around town.
We asked Masha if she could take us somewhere where we could get souvenirs and not get ripped off. She took us to this place that was crazy huge. It is usually full of tourists that are dropped off by big buses like we were on earlier in the trip, but we managed to find a time where the store was totally empty except for us. We had a blast and we bought EVERYTHING. No lie, they had to split both of our bills because they couldn't charge that much in a single swipe. but how many times are you going to be in Russia right?
Here's some pix from our city tour and the store...
This is the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. SO beautiful.
GORGEOUS DAY. AND A BOAT!
This was the park we parked at when we were about to walk across the bridge.
That's the Hermitage across the river and the dome of St. Isaac's.
This statue is actually from Egypt. I can't remember who bought it, but it's legit.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
St. Isaac's Cathedral
Princes and other such royalty lived in these houses.
This one is part of a college now, though i cannot remember which...
A naval memorial...
Here are some of our new friends from the store where we doubled the Russian gross national product.
We arrived at the Hermitage in time for the appointment Masha made for us. This is also the plaza where the marathon came to its end.
The panoramic Karen was taking in the picture above.
Other half of the above plaza at the Hermitage
So thankful to have finished that race. in a skirt.
Karen was worn out as well.
So the Hermitage... wow. I thought the Louvre was big (650,000 sf), and then I thought Versailles was big (721,000 sf) ... and then i oh my goodness the Hermitage is ENORMOUS... 2,511,704 square feet. I'm not exactly sure what tiny fraction of this museum we covered, but I know it was small.
We were relieved of our backpacks inside the museum, which was a welcome relief, even practically empty, they get heavy. We also had to leave our water bottles in our backpacks. Some idiot came through here years ago and threw acid on a Rembrandt. seriously, what is wrong with people?
So here's some highlights from the Hermitage...
This is a clock with mechanisms similar to the imperial easter eggs. we didn't see it actually work, but they have videos of it on the screens. very cool.
This is an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo.
Abraham's Sacrifice (Rembrandt)
Throne Room. (duh)
Inlaid floor... gorgeous.
Two Madonnas by Da Vinci.
In March 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated. This is the coat he was wearing. The Church of the Savoir on Spilled Blood is built on the exact spot where he was killed.
Can't believe after all that running, she could still lift this 47 ton birdbath.
This table is probably about 36-40 inches in diameter... it is all mosaic. the leaves below are a close-up.
Another extraordinary mosaic table. (Close up below)
Last table pic... the closeup below is at the bottom of the smaller picture at 9 o'clock of the large central picture. it's hard to see because of the reflection... but you can get an idea how tiny the mosaic pieces are.
That bullet hole is from World War II.
Portrait of the actress Antonia Zarate, 1810-1811. Francisco De Goya
The Return of the Prodigal Son. 1663-1665. Rembrandt
Look closely at the people in the background. Look at the tattered clothes, the feet...
This painting was one I'd studied in school. When I got home I found it in one of my art history books. Looking at it there, I never imagined I would see it in person. This was truly amazing to me.
I've been looking for a floor lamp...
Distinguished military leaders.
Goodbye Hermitage, the fraction of the museum we saw was extraordinary.
After we left the Hermitage, Masha wanted to drive us around some more. She felt badly that we'd had such a rough start to our morning and she wanted to show us more of the city. Again, I have to sing the praises of Masha. She LOVES her city and her country. She is so proud to have the opportunity to show it to visitors and tell stories of the Russian people. I've learned (and forgotten) a lot of things about Russia over the years, she made things come alive by telling us stories you don't get in the history books. She was amazing and generous and so very helpful.
At the end of our day we were exhausted. We asked Masha what we should eat that would be truly Russian and she told us borscht and beef stroganoff. UGH. We decided to eat at our hotel as we had very little strength left after our big day. (We ran a marathon, remember?)
The restaurant was awesome and our waiters were fantastic. They said you have to have borscht with vodka. not sure why, but who am i to argue with thousands of years of Russian history? Karen ordered the stroganoff, I got the borscht and an amazing actual filet mignon for dinner. it was amazzazazzing. She had something i can't remember for desert and I pounced on the cheesecake. We fell into bed with happy bellies.
actually wasn't bad. tasted a little like tomato soup, which i love.
Karen's vodka. haha