The highlight of today was definitely the State Hermitage Museum – such an incredible building! Whilst Australian Tom and Vadmin went off to the mall (Tom needed to buy a proper winter coat as he only had a woollen one he bought in Bosnia, not sure that would cope with the -22 we’re heading for in Mongolia!), Florine, my Tom and me all went off to find the Hermitage Museum. The building itself takes your breath away. This vast turquoise and gold building starkly contrasts against the snow-white floor and sky, it completely dominates the square. The gold detail around the windows and pillars gives the building an extremely regal feel, it makes a magnificent palace. We walked trough the huge iron gates into a winter wonderland courtayard, the building towered over the snow covered trees and made a charming entrance to the museum.
After faffing a little with the free wifi, Florine went off to explore Jan Fabre, armed with her audio guide downloaded via the Hermitage app. Tom and I went to embark on the three hour ‘Hermitage General Tour’ – we lasted a good hour and half before giving up on the audio guide and exploring the rooms ourselves. The decor in the Winter Palace is exquisite! The rooms are so elaborately patterned, embellished with gold, luxurious fabrics, precious stone and marble, they are astonishingly beautiful. The audio guide was great for finding out the history of the building and the emperors who lived there. It was a great way to spend a few hours, walking around in the warmth and grandure of the Winter Palace.
We left the museum at about 3 o’clock, met up with Tom and Vadim and went to get some Borscht for lunch! I’m actually really enjoying eating Borscht, I never really thought beetroot soup with sour cream would be that nice but I was pleasantly surprised. Even Tom (English Tom) likes it too!
We then got a bus onto one of the other islands in St Petersburg and sat on the bus for ages, all to get me a knee support! I damaged my knee in early October doing a charity walk called Longmynd Hike and unfortunately it has started to play up after doing a couple of days solid walking and sightseeing. I felt bad that we’d gone on this huge trek for a knee support but hopefully this will help, with so much of the trip ahead of us. Vadim has been so helpful during our stay in St Petersburg, all four of us have said we’d be lost without him!
We got back to the hostel and prepared for our last supper in the city. Vadim has brought us to a delicious Thai restaurant round the corner from the hostel, we’re not travelling too far as tonight, we have our first train experience; the overnight train to Moscow! We’re all super excited to experience our first trip on the train! As long as Aussie Tom doesn’t snore too much tonight…he might be sleeping in the corridor, ha!
Ramona came to meet us for a drink this evening, she is Vadim’s boss from Vodkatrain and came to give us emergency contact cards in case we “get into any trouble” on the trains. This made us curious, what could she mean by getting into “trouble”…? It turns out plenty of people have got off the trains to explore a platform at a short stop and then never got back on! Imagine! Seeing the train chug off into the distance and being stranded on a random platform in the middle of Mongolia… hopefully none of us will experience that! We have two rules for being on the train; 1) Don’t get off the train at a short stop (for reasons highlighted above), and 2) Close your carriage doors when drinking. We might need a fair amount of vodka to drop off this evening, we’re all super excited for Moscow tomorrow!
Thank you for all of your help Vadim, you have been an excellent guide! St Petersburg wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good without your knowledge, enthusiasm and constant references that (English) Tom looks like Sergei Shnurov, a Russian rock star. Just for the record, Ramona disagreed.