Today I went to visit the Hermitage Museum (the main museum here). I caught the Metro, I popped out at Neski Prospect and met Igor as arranged. The Hermitage opens at 10.30 so we got there at 10am, even so the queue was over an hour. Igor says it can be up to 3 hours sometimes. There were so many people, an endless sea of swarming tour groups clearly trying to see the place in an hour as they barge through stopping for 30 seconds at the pictures. I spent 5 hours there, it was fantastic but also overwhelming. There are 4 floors including the ground with one corridor on each but the rooms mostly flow into each other. The ground floor has 90 rooms, the 1st floor has 189, the 2nd floor has 303 and the 3rd has 85.
What a place! It used to be a palace and one wing is still set up like when the Tsars lived there , glorious ballrooms, reception rooms, gold and marble columns marble floors with 12 types of wood inlaid.
There was a wing of Italian painters, a wing of Dutch, rooms filled with Rembrandt, Reuben, Leonardo de Vinci and other famous artists, and many priceless ornaments. On the ground floor were artefacts from Egypt – a room full of stuff from 4 BC !!! There were rooms full of Greek statues. It was unbelievable and well worth the visit.
I had wanted to go to the 3rd floor, but Igor left to go to work after we had seen the other floors and I went to the cafe for a much needed break. And then to the great surprise of all who know and love me I could not find the 3rd floor! I went over the Museum backwards and forwards, I asked directions at least 10 times and ended up in various parts of the Museum. Once I thought I was getting it finally but no, I ended up in the cloakroom (which of course I could not find without a few attempts when I went to leave). So after visiting the rest of the Museum – some of it multiple times – the Russian roomminders that I had asked for directions starting talking fast and jabbing their fingers mostly back to the way I had come. So I decided with the swarms of people to call it a day (then of course searched for awhile to re-find the cloakroom).
I then went and sat in the sun by the canal and had a cold beer. It was $20 – but a very enjoyable setting. I sat there reflecting that there is nothing I have to do for the rest of the day, nowhere to be, no one expecting me, the time is totally mine.
Observations of the day
- I am really bad at walking on the wrong side of the pavement. Good practice for when I bike. I am ok when concentrating but start to drift once I start looking at the sites.
- Russian supermarkets are called Cynermarkets and they are like our 4 Squares.
- At the rivers and canals you see students painting and sketching the amazing buildings.
Tomorrow I am meeting Igor at the Neski Prospect Metro stop again, at 10am. I am not sure where we are going, he did tell me while we were at the Museum but I did not want to tell him that not only do I get lost, not really know any of the Russian poets, writers or paintings, but I am also fairly deaf, and very deaf in background noise. So tomorrow will be a surprise.
I have not yet seen any of the other bikers yet, I have been keeping an eye out and have not seen anyone who looks likely. They should start arriving from now onwards. Mind you, I guess I probably don’t look like someone who is going to bike over 6,000 kilometres either. For all I know could have sat next to a fellow biker at breakfast already.