Why ironic? Catherine The Great, a formidable woman who overthrew her own husband and probably had a hand in his "accidental" death, built it originally as a retreat, her "hermitage." It grew into a complex of buildings housing one of the largest and most important art collections in the world. More significantly to us, this so-called "hermitage" is also one of the most overcrowded museums in the world. Russian "efficiency," coupled with the major world economic forum occurring during our visit, only enhanced the feelings of claustrophobia.
This is the "group entrance." We had to crowd our way inside and navigate around that large pillar on the left just to join the queue.
We gave up taking pictures fairly quickly. The entire museum was as crowded as, say, the crowd in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
This may be a Rembrandt self-portrait, but then again maybe it's not. We snapped it as we jogged by.
Gee, this must be another great painting, judging from the crowd.
Once we'd completed our whirlwind 2 1/4 hour tour, we ended up waiting a half hour for our bus. Why? Apparently Russian security had jammed cell phone signals to enhance security for the economic forum and the frustrated Anna couldn't get in touch with the driver. She finally found a landline phone after appealing to "officials" and made contact through her office.
Once he'd picked us up we drove for a minimum of 20 minutes, zigzagging around blocked streets before realizing that we'd just made our way back to the spot where we'd been picked up, albeit heading the opposite direction. While we waited, we had time to admire an official Economic Forum car parked in front.
Time to get back to the ship for a quick dinner before our evening at the ballet. Let's hope that provides us with an uplifting experience after this disappointing visit.