After two days in Moscow we took the high speed train to St. Petersburg, a distance of about 800 kilometers which meant a comfortable four hour journey with a leisurely three course lunch served as we sped along through what looked like endless forest.
The first thing to know about St. Petersburg is it’s a Baltic port city built on canals (which means in some ways it resembles Venice or Amsterdam). With a population of about 6 million, it’s smaller than Moscow, but perhaps more dense —
— with many shops, malls, restaurants, cafes and of course, palaces, churches and museums.
Our main goal was to spend as much time at the Hermitage as possible, but we hadn’t been warned about the crowds. There were three or four cruise ships in town the first day we went to the museum, which meant boatloads of tourists charging through the halls, all of them wanting to get as close to the artwork as possible.
Amazingly, no one seemed to notice the Rembrandts, so I was in heaven studying the following portraits unimpeded —