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5 Oct – St Petersburg

Today was Hermitage day. After breakfast we met our tour host who walked us to the Hermitage (which again after the tour yesterday most of us would have been able to find ourselves), and then left us to our own devices. We had managed to come to the Hermitage on the first Thursday of the month which meant it was free – yay. We spent nearly 3 hours in the Hermitage by which time we all had museum head. The place is huge and there is so much different stuff to see – paintings by Picasso, Cezanne and Rembrandt (to name but a few) and then there are the actual rooms and their architectural design, or paintings and statues, there is Peters throne, some of the Royal rooms and crockery and the list just goes on .. Way too much to take in that’s for sure but it was really interesting.

We headed off for lunch, then made our way over the water headed for the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress. As we crossed the bridge at Birzhevaya Pl. we came across a very very popular wedding photo area, right on the water in front of the fountains with the fortress in the background – very pretty – and today there were at least 8 bridal parties there. We stayed and watched them releasing doves, throwing their glasses at this granite ball and in true Russian tradition watching couples kiss everytime someone shouts “vodka” and then guests toasting the bride and groom .. I get the feeling receptions may be pretty wild here in Russia!

From the ‘wedding’ point we followed the water around to the Fortress and wandered around the Fortress grounds for a little while. We headed back over the river to the chocolate factory/museum that was pointed out on our tour yesterday, which really wasn’t either but rather just a shop selling chocolate in different shapes – soccer balls, airplanes etc, so we headed to a cafĂ© for coffee and cake.

Lisa Tash and I all ordered a hot chocolate only after intense discussions with the waitress that we wanted it made on milk, which she assured us it was … Hmm nope again we ended up with melted chocolate but this time with a jug of warm milk to mix in, which didn’t make it any easier to drink! Feeling ill we wandered very slowly towards our aptly named restaurant destination for the evening “Idiot” – a vegetarian place that has happy hour (buy one got one free) and a complimentary vodka on arrival. The place was pretty quirky and quite nice.

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