We were ashore at 10.15 am on Tuesday for the 2nd day in St Petersburg. Mira and the Mercedes driver were ready for us after we were released from the terminal by some rather sullen female immigration officers.
I find that if you smile at people you can usually get them to smile back – but not these girls.
We had the usual high speed journey across town. I talked to Mira about the financial situation for someone like her in Russia. She mentioned the sanctions and how they were making life difficult. She did say that her husband had had to work without pay for 2 years in the recent past. He didn’t want to stop working because of the difficulty of finding another job in the future. She had to support the family on her low income during that time, but it seems that now he is being paid again.
The plan today was to explore more of the Hermitage. Mira decided to take us round the areas that had been renovated and reopened since we were last there. Massive beautiful rooms and galleries.
At that stage the Hermitage was not overcrowded, but as the morning wore on, it became busier.
This rather strange clock apparently told the time but I couldn’t work out how, and Mira’s explanation was lost in the translation.
We had tickets for the Gold Rooms at 11.45am. It meant moving out of the main building into the Little Hermitage. It did not have the same facilities such as lifts and we were almost immediately confronted by a long flight of steps. Although Jane dislikes being lifted in her chair there was no option and Mira was soon seeking out a “boy” to help. She found a number during the rest of our visit! Cameras were not allowed in the Gold Rooms, and although the exhibits were good they were not as impressive as I had imagined they would be.
When we left the Hermitage at about 1.30pm there was a massive queue of people waiting to get in. It must have been half a mile long. It was very cold and we felt very sorry for them. They appeared to be Russian tourists rather than foreigners, who tend to be encouraged to visit in the morning.
We then returned to the ship via an expensive souvenir shop. It had been a very successful day and if anyone wants to take a private tour in St Petersburg I can recommend Mira, a superb guide.