We had bought a two day pass to see the Hermitage museum and the Winter palace on the embankment of the Neva river. The majestic buildings were painted a pleasant green colour with white and gold coloured trim although the colour had been changed many times over the years. The Hermitage and palace was composed of five different adjoining buildings and the main building was three storeys high. There were many tourist buses and people waiting in line to buy tickets however we had bought ours online and just had to exchange them for “real” tickets and didn’t have such a wait. Most rooms of the museum and palace were not overcrowded and some of the corridors and not so popular exhibits were void of many or any tourists. Each room had a “Ludmila” (as Maurice named them) watching to see that nothing was taken or damaged and to tell people off who were using flash photography.
We saw a few who had nodded off on the job as we walked through the exhibition rooms and hallways.
We found it amazing that we could take photos in most rooms except for the temporary exhibits and one room housing a few of Monet’s paintings. We were stunned that there were no ropes or barriers to stop you from even touching some of the paintings by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Gaughin and other famous artists.
You could have your nose within centimetres of the paintings which was in contrast to the Frida Kahlo exhibition in Rome where the floor had sensors if you stepped within a metre of the paintings. If anything was touched alarm bells rang and it seemed that the Chinese groups were the main culprits.

We were told that if one spent a minute examinging each artifact and painting in the museum, it would take eleven years to see everything.
I can’t say that we examined each artifact and we managed to in seven hours (with a coffee and lunch break) the three floors of the main building of the museum and of the palace quarters. We had bought a two consecutive day pass so decided to leave the other three minor buildings to the next day.
The only disappointing aspect of the entire place was the lack of dining facilities. Unlike the palaces of Schoenbrunn and Versailles there was only one very small cafe with three tables with coffee and very basic snack food and an internet cafe where it was difficult to get around the tables with computers and there was only some stale fridge sandwiches and a sad looking greek salad on offer. The lack of any other kind of restaurant for a site with so many visitors was astounding. When we commented to the staff
about the lack of dining facilities they just shrugged.

The remaining four buildings we tackled on the second day. We were there before the doors opened and made our way around many exhibition rooms before encountering some of the groups trailing through the vast rooms. We covered two floors of three of the buildings by lunchtime which included more of the most amazing collections of Van Dyke, Rembrandt, Pisaro and Degas. To access Peter the First’s original small palace we had to walk around the entire hermitage and palace to the other side. There was a walkway over the river but not accessible. In great contrast to the rest of overwhelming magnitude of the place, what remained inside of Peter’s palace were a couple of extremely modest sized rooms.

Our tickets was also the Menchikov palace on the other side of the river.  The staff member omitted to tell us that it was about two kilometres away. She made it seem as though it was just over the bridge near us. It was refreshingly empty of tourists and beautiful but on a much smaller scale than the winter palace. Menchikov was Peter the First’s right hand man and a bit of a rogue who after Peter died was exiled with his family to Siberia.
The metro system is very good but to get to many of the most important monuments and sites means walking great distances and although we enjoyed walking for the for the first couple of days we were exhausted and the many cobblestoned streets were hard on the feet. Even so some young girls teetered on them in their very high shoes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.