Good news: the insurance money has come through for my camera – God Bless travel insurance – so it’s time to go shopping. This would be attractive except that I have been suffering (since Oslo) from blisters on my feet – so so far today I have been letting Google “do the walking”, with rather limited success as my Russian really isn’t up to the challenge.
We’ve had a very cultural few days. On Tuesday we went to the Mariinsky to see the Kirov ballet company perform La Bayadere – which I thoroughly enjoyed, although after a champagne during the second intermission, the last act (in which it seems the dead heroine clones herself 42 times and all of the heroines demonstrate their, admittedly very impressive, skills individually and in groups of three) dragged a little.
La Bayadere, plot summary: set in a rather European-looking version of India, a temple dancer and a warrior are in love but unfortunately the Raja chooses the warrior to marry his daughter and the temple elder is in love with the dancer. Things culminate at the end of act 2 when the dancer has to dance at the betrothal (or is it wedding?) of the warrior and the princess. During the dance the heroine is given a bunch of flowers concealling a snake, which bites and kills her. Act 3 seems to be a dream sequence from a dream the warrior has about the now dead temple dancer.
On Wednesday we saw the Queen of Spades (opera) at the Mikhaylovsky which was also good although, being in Russian without any sur-titling, it did require caffeine beforehand and during both intermissions to stay tuned in.
Queen of Spades, plot summary: set in St Petersburg, a low ranked nobleman, Herman, falls in love with a countess, Lisa, but she is engaged to a Prince. Lisa’s grandmother knows a secret combination of cards that will win the player a fortune. Herman’s friends joke that if he could find out this secret he could make his fortune and marry his beloved. Meanwhile Lisa falls for Herman’s impassioned speeches and at a party she slips him the key to her room. Lisa’s room adjoins the older countess’s room and Herman enters this hoping to learn the secret of the cards. When the countess sees Herman in her room she has a heart-attach and dies. After her death the old countess appears to Herman and tells him 3-7-Ace. Herman meets with Lisa and he is raving about the vision and how he will now make his fortune. Lisa tries to talk sense into him but when this fails she commits suicide. Herman goes to the casino, the first 2 cards he does win with but on the 3rd he is beaten by the queen of spades and thus the countess gets her revenge and Herman commits suicide and dies with Lisa’s name on his lips.
Moral of the two stories (gleaned by me): love creates a lot of trouble, money does too; there’s a good chance that if you have (or don’t have) love (or money) you’ll end up dead; watch out: this may be untimely, malicious or self-inflicted.
We’ve also been to the Russian political history museum (my pick but I found it very tough going and some rooms had no English signage which didn’t help).
Finally, yesterday we spent the day at the Hermitage. With thanks to the K family we have a 2 day ticket so we spent yesterday on European art up to impressionism as well as many of the sumptuous rooms of the Winter Palace itself. We finished the day with the room we were most looking forward to: the Rembrandts which I’m glad we saved until last because they cast a bit of shadow over some of the other Europeans.
We were planning to go back today but my blisters have kept me away. We’ll go back over the weekend and hope that it’s not too busy – tomorrow is Russia day and apparently every hotel in St Petersburg is fully booked for the weekend – our (new) youth hostel is putting us in folding beds to fit us in.