Over Pat's birthday, we went to St Petersburg for a tghree night stay. Having upgraded to business class on BA, the flights
were comfortable, the transfers at both ends went satisfactorily and the weather was reasonable for the most part.
The hotel was situated over a small shopping mall and was of moderate three star standard, nothing special. The location
could have been much better as the main reason for the trip was to go to the Hermitage Museum. This was a good 45 minute walk away - we did not try the metro system though it should not have been any problem ( there was a stop close to the hotel) but we were apprehensive of getting lost. I kept telling myself that the walk along the Nevsky Prospect was good for me but my feet, in particular, did not agree. The Winter Palace is a magnificent sight both across the square and close up. Many of the Palace rooms are splendidly furnished and works of art in their own right. One can but wonder at the craftmanship and expense involved. There are extensive collections of archaeological remains from various parts of Russia, a fine collection of Egyptian and classical works, as well as artefacts from the Middle Ages but our aim was to cover the art collection. While this is very extensive with some outstanding works, the overall impression was not as great as I was expecting - the 18 part series I have on disc led me to expect rather more. However, it is one of the truly great collections and I am gald we have at last sen it - I wonder what the recently opened outposts like the one in Amsterdam have to offer.
The Russian Museum was also something of a disappointment: the icons were striking but the spread of the collection was a
little too much to appreciate - possibly seeing it first thing rather than mid-afternoon would have helped. A real treat was the visit to the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, the interior covered in mosaics depicting various saints and religious scenes - again, the craftmanship left one speechless. The Nevsky Prospect which runs from the Winter Palace to the Moscow
Station is a broad, flat and straight boulevard with a number of historic buildings still standing despite the ravages of the Second World War and on both days we stopped for refreshments with, on Sunday, lunch at the restaurant frequented by Pushkin and others. Shopping was limited to a Russian atlas, some DVDs of Russian films we had seen such as Volga-Volga
and Kin-Dza-Dza. On the Monday morning we looked inside the Metro Station and went in to the church opposite the hotel which is dedicated to Saint Vladimir. Like the previous day's church, the outside is recognizably Russian but on a smaller scale and I was somewhat surprised at the number of worshippers, many of them quite young, that was there on a Monday morning. We also added to our DVD purchases in a nearby store including some recommended by the shopkeeper. We did
not see much of the city - the great Peter and Paul Fortress, for instance, - but that is true of many of our past city visits to some extent. One general comment which contradicts what we had been told beforehand is the vibrancy of the central area in particular though there are still places which need upgrading (just like parts of Oxford Street!) and the outer districts are typical of any major city. While well over a decade has passed since we were in Dresden and Leipzig, the contrast between the drabness in those two cities and the liveliness of St Petersburg is considerable.