St. Petersburg - Sheremetyev Palace

Trip Start Aug 02, 2007
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Trip End Oct 05, 2007


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Saturday, August 18, 2007

After the long hike of yesterday, we wanted to stay closer to our hotel today.  Besides, the weather had looked threatening the entire morning, and Chuck's dogs were barking just a tad bit.

We decided to head to the Sheremetyev Palace which houses the Museum of Musical Instruments.  It was relatively close, and it would present us with the opportunity to see what we hoped would be an interesting collection.  While it was close (maybe a half to three quarters of a kilometer away), as luck would have it, it wasn't close enough.  Once we turned the corner onto Nevsky Prospekt, it started to rain.  Ho-Ki, as always was well prepared, I had been caught out a couple of times in Berlin, but this time I was prepared as well.  Tucked away in my trusty backpack was not only a jacket, but an umbrella (thank you Kaufhof am Alex - Berlin), both were immediately put to use.

We trudged on in the rain, fencing with all the other umbrellas on the Nevsky, until we reached the Fontanka Canal.  While we were close to our destination, we made a quick decision to find a place to duck out of the rain, and as luck would have it, Vladimir Ilych Lenin came to our rescue.  He had apparently given up revolution and the political world to become an innkeeper, so down the steps we went shaking off the rain, and into his pub.  Well, at least the sign said it was his pub.  There for any passerby to see were big, bold red letters that simply stated "Lenin Pub."  The many photos of the man, himself, confirmed that it was indeed his pub.  Turns out he serves some nice Czech beer as well as good pickled mushrooms, and a mean meat salyanka (meat soup).  

Our taste buds and tummies satisfied, and the rain gone away, we continued the couple hundred meters on to the palace.  There we were greeted with one of the most amazing sights we had seen in a long time.  A palace groundskeeper was standing next to the palace having a smoke and chatting away with an older lady (a museum or palace employee, my guess) while the groundskeeper's lawnmower roared away doing concentric circles on the lawn about 50 meters from where the groundskeeper was carrying on his conversation.  Remote control lawnmower you ask?  No, not really, well I guess sort of.  There was a stake in the ground roughly in the center of the grassy area, and onto the stake was tied one end of some rather heavy twine.  The other end of the twine was tied to the lawnmower, which kept lurching forward in ever diminishing circles.  Occasionally the groundskeeper would catch up to the mower, remove the clamp he used to keep the drive cut-off engaged, stop the mower and empty the grass catcher into a waiting wheelbarrow.  This was pure ingenuity with a capital "I" and it kept us thoroughly entertained for at least 10 to 15 minutes, whereupon we entered the Museum.

Fortunately for us, most of the museum staff spoke some English, which more than made up for our complete lack of Russian.  After paying our entrance fee (200 Rubles), and use of a camera fee (120 Rubles), we were soon greeted with a sign in English that said "Please put on museum shoes before entering museum."  Damn, damn, double-damn,  I had completely forgotten to pack any museum shoes in my already overstuffed bags, and I was pretty confident that Ho-Ki didn't have any in his luggage either.  Hmmmm, what to do?  Darned if I new, but it was at that point a couple exiting the museum stooped over and removed what looked to be some type of cloth bootie.  Aha! Museum shoes demystified, and our bacon saved (so to speak).

We found the unlabeled bin containing great quantities of museum shoes, all apparently the same size, so we grabbed a pair each and put them on.  With our feet now suitably adored in our one-size fits all museum shoes, we embarked on a very nice tour.  There were many unique musical instruments to be seen, and of course some real treasures.  They had a Stradivarius, as well as the very violin (Klottz of Mittenwald, Germany) that was used by Mikhail Glinka.  They even recreated the apartment study of the composer Alexander Glazunov.  All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we were going to brave the crowds (the guidebooks all tell us to try and avoid the weekends) and explore the Hermitage, but as all good explorers know, it pays to have a good guide.  For that we were going to defer to the vast knowledge of our hotel concierge...
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