The Hermitage

After a little tourist souviner shopping we went back to the hostel for another coffee. I chatted to a young couple of university students. He was from Ukraine, she Poland. They said they were hitchhiker’s…initially I assumed they meant backpackers, but no they literally hitchhiked here.

They told some funny stories about their travels. The Russians don’t understand hitchhiking so it was often difficult to get a ride. People would stop, thinking they were sick and needed help. And others demanded money after dropping them off.

Consequently, they had run out of money and were trying to work out how to get back to his home. They couldn’t afford a bus ticket and were looking at getting a BlaBla car…where you share the cost of petrol with someone going that way. But they were having trouble negotiating a fair price. I decide if they were still here when we go back at the end of the day I would organise a rally around with the other hostel guests to help them out.

We headed to the Hermitage exhibition of 19/20 century art in the General Staff Building. A massive building opposite the Winter Palace. Some of these paintings are the other half of the collection we saw in Moscow at the Pushkin.

Inside the refurbished museum and some arty advertising cars we passed in the streets.

We saw Renoir, Monet, Matisse, Sisley, Cezanne, van Gogh, lots of Picasso, Monet, and more. It’s been an amazing journey, exploring all this art in Europe! I thought I would visit a couple of art museums maybe, but we have actually focused on this throughout our trip.

I list some new artists I have been exposed to for future reference, although I may have seen and even photographed their work previously their names did not stick. Kees van Donegan, Maurice der Vlaminck, Andre Derrain, Georges Dupuis, Renato Gutusso, Chaim Soutine, Charles Guerin, Othon Friesz, Georges Rouault.

After another meal at our new favourite Georgian restaurant complete with a couple of glasses of quite decent home made red wine we decide to go and have some vodka at a bar seeing as we haven’t had any in Russia yet. (I am certainly not a fan of vodka.) So we head into this bar around the corner and chat to the young barman.

He says they don’t sell vodka! What…a bar in Russia doesn’t sell vodka!! He says that he will get us something better. His mate makes his own alcohol. We have one, then another…Smoky Pear and a horseradish one. A random guy comes in off the street to play Pink Floyd’s ‘Another brick in the wall’ on the piano. We sing and clap, he goes into a Beatles medoly. We buy him a drink, the barman buys us a drink.

The barman is studying to be a railway engineer at the Railway University! We ask him about home made liquor, seeing as we had just had a home made wine, and the law in Russia. He said it is not legal and just shrugged!

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