The tour that we had contracted with Exeter lasted seven days. But Mary wasn’t sure if she was ever going to get another opportunity to visit to the Hermitage, so she had scheduled a couple of extra days in St. Petersburg after the tour ended, to make sure that she got her chance to drink deeply at the well of art. Or something like that. Poetic metaphor is not exactly my strong suit. I’m better at lists. Unfortunately, people, well most people, don’t seem to be all that interested in reading lists, unless it’s lists of biggest maritime disasters of all time, or worst plastic surgery jobs on Hollywood celebrities.
The first day of the rest of our time in Russia we decided to go with the no-plans plan. That worked remarkably well. There was some sleeping in, a leisurely breakfast, and slow aimless walking about the city. Bliss! We eventually ambled down to Nevsky Prospekt, which is, I believe the main shopping boulevard. In any event there’s lots of shopping. And some interesting architecture, like this Singer Building, which you have to admit is pretty cool.
Close by is the Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, which was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Which explains why it’s the Cathedral ON the Spilled Blood, rather than the Cathedral OF the Spilled Blood. Bloody minded lot, those Russians.
We spent some time wandering through a park or three, stopped for some coffee and all in all enjoyed the first day of non-scheduled touring we had on this trip. Although we had a great time touring, the scheduling really does begin to wear on us after a while.
Second day, same as the first, except we actually had things to do and places to go. We went back to the Hermitage to soak up the art vibe. Then, in the evening, we repaired to a Russian vegetarian restaurant named The Idiot, after the Dostoyevsky story. I’m not sure to what the reference refers, are you an idiot for trying vegetarian food in Russia, or what? Actually, it was quite nice and the meal came with a complimentary glass of vodka, which is not something you see everyday. Or maybe you do in Russia, and we just weren’t going to the right restaurants.
Afterwards, we caught the opera, because Mary is on a lifelong mission to culture me up. Success on this front is somewhat spotty. It was a very long opera, and there’s hardly any beheadings or explosions worth mentioning, so after the second intermission I declared that I was all full up with culture for the evening and if there were to happen to be a third intermission I was going to bolt. Fortunately there was not, and so we left when everyone else did, at the end.
And that was the concluding act for Russia. In the morning we’d take the train, again, because …train! The railroad this time would take us to Helsinki, where we’d spent the night before flying back to London.