St. Petersburg Day One

March 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm (Uncategorized)

We all woke up at about eight thirty in the morning.  We looked outside the train and realized it was snowing violently.  Because of the weather we decided to do something inside after we got off the train.  Since it was a holiday weekend, we figured that the Hermitage would be pretty crowded.  Friday would probably be the least crowded, since most people still had school and work.  So we decided to go to the Hermitage on the first day.

The train pulled into St. Petersburg soon after we all had finished breakfast.  Luckily, it was not snowing very hard there.  We got off the train and had to figure out how to get from the train station to the hostel by ourselves.  I was the only one with a map because my tutor, Volodya (everyone and their brother is named Vladimir in Vladimir), gave one to me.  We are proud to say that we actually got from point A to point B with no problems.  Which is a rarity.

We stayed in a hostel called “Cuba Hostel,” which decided to go with a Latin American theme.  We stayed in room “Verde,” and there were many other rooms with other Spanish colors.  However there was one room named “Sin Nombre,” which means “No Name.”  It was pretty weird.  The hostel was very nice.  They had a common room, a kitchen, and free coffee and tea.  Our room was indeed green.  There were four bunk beds, so we all stayed in the same room (Joely and Sarah stayed in a different hostel).  After we had gotten all settled in, we set off to the Hermitage, which was in walking distance because our hostel was located on Nevsky Prospekt in the center of the city.

It was really strange seeing the Hermitage after seeing so many pictures of it, and hearing so much about it.  The main building of the museum is located in the Winter Palace, so it was a very beautiful area.

The Hermitage is the one museum in St. Petersburg that is free for students of all nationalities.  St. Petersburg has an extremely annoying habit of charging foreigners way more than Russian citizens for popular attractions.  However, if you wanted to take pictures in the Hermitage you have to pay 200 rubles.  I did because I thought it was worth it since I didn’t have to pay an entrance fee.  The Hermitage is also unbelievably huge, so we all had trouble deciding where to start.  Courtney and I decided to try and find a map so that we could see all the famous things in the museum.  The information desk told us that we could only purchase maps in the gift shops.  Of course.  Courtney bought one, but I didn’t because I didn’t think it was worth it.  Which meant that I got obscenely lost every two seconds.

Courtney and I started off in the Egypt exhibit, where there was a real mummy on display.  We sat there staring at it for a good while before Courtney finally said, “It looks like a dried up apple.”  Which was pretty much a dead-on description.  Russia would put ancient dead bodies on display.

Overall I thought that the architecture of the Hermitage was much more impressive than the paintings and sculptures.  Although, that may be because the rooms made entirely of gold were impressive no matter how many times I had to go through them, whereas after passing through a room with a giant sculpture of a cup five times while lost, I was like “I KNOW, I’ve SEEN you already!”  I did see several paintings by Monet, Manet, and Renoir, but they weren’t as impressive as I thought they’d be.  It was probably because I had spent an hour looking for them.  I really did love all of the old rooms of the palace because they were so beautiful.  I took lots of pictures of the ceiling.  At one point I realized there was a bride right next to me in her wedding dress, holding her husbands hand, who was on the phone, looking really unimpressed.

At one point I managed to make my way up to the third floor, which was basically no man’s land.  There were many tiny rooms, with plain white walls, and each room would maybe have one painting in it.  This was where all the Asian art was displayed.  If you ask me, the Asians got totally shafted because there was nothing up there, and I decided very quickly that I needed to get out of there.  It was an amazing contrast between this floor, and the other two floors, which were decked out in gold.

Towards the end of the afternoon I ran into Drew, and we decided to rest in the café for awhile.  About ten minutes went by before we saw Jeff coming up to us, looking very frustrated.  Of course, it was because he had also seen some rooms all of five times by accident, and couldn’t find other ones.  He said that he had seen the Michelangelo sculpture, which I hadn’t seen.  We decided that he would show me where the Michelangelo was in exchange for me showing him where the Monet paintings were.  We both swore we knew where each was.  We both got hopelessly lost.  Finally, we found the Michelangelo…which was slightly disappointing because it was a crouching boy that resembled several other sculptures of crouching boys in the museum.  The Michelangelo was completely stood up by the sculpture next to it, which depicted the most terrifying dolphin I have ever seen.  I think I would only have seen that dolphin swimming through the oceans of hell.

We finally had to ask one of the ladies who worked in the museum where the French impressionist paintings were.  Even though we asked in perfect Russian, she responded in English.  After following her directions, I realized that there was a completely different room where French impressionist paintings were.  I still have no idea why there were two rooms with the same artists, at completely different ends of the museum.  But we don’t ask questions about Russia.

After being disappointed by the impressionists again, Jeff, Drew, and I decided to get the hell out of the museum, before we got any more frustrated with it.  We decided to head over to Dostoevsky’s apartment museum before it closed at six.  It was at this point that we realized that everyone in Saint Petersburg walks at a glacial pace.  After being frustrated with the Hermitage for five hours, it was all we could do to keep from bowling over old ladies in the metro and on the streets who could not possibly have been going any slower.  It wasn’t even just older people, but also younger people.  We wanted to plant one of them in New York City and see how they fared.

We found the Dostoevsky museum easily enough, only to realize that the ticket office closed at five.  It was five after five.  It was really only to be expected.  So instead we went into one of the little Produktees (small grocery stores) nearby.  There were two rooms inside.  The first one was a big room stocked with alcohol, and the second was a tiny room with all of the “less important” stuff, like food.  Jeff and Drew bought spaghetti with “tomato sauce,” which ended up being nasty tomato paste.  I don’t know why they thought they could buy something normal, like tomato sauce, in Russia.

We finally got back to the hostel and had to collapse.  Jeff’s friend in the St. Petersburg group came over to hang out with us.  We heard enough about their drama to conclude that we were better than them.  Jeff and Courtney decided to go out, but the rest of us passed out.

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