It was so much quieter at breakfast as the Chinese Tour Group has departed. More business people now of varying nationalities, but using English as the standard language!
Farewell to the Novotel. It has been fun getting the Security Staff to smile and say hello!
Today, we go off to the Tretyakov Gallery to see the collection of world renowned Russian fine art, the largest in the world. Founded in 1856 by the wealthy merchant Pavel Tretyakov, who presented his private collection of Russian art to the city in 1892. It contains the largest collection of Russian Art in the World. 160,000 items, as the collection continued to expand after the Revolution. Not time to view them all!! Pavel's statue was removed during 'the Soviet era' but it has been reinstated.
Traffic was horrendous, roadworks, so it took an hour to get there. Should have gone on the Metro!! Very impressive and although we did not know many of the Russian artists we recognised the portrait subjects - Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
At Leningradskiy railway station it was a bit of a bun fight getting on to the Sapsan fast train to St Petersburg! We cannot embark until passports and tickets are checked together at the door of the train! The journey is under 4 hours at speeds of up to 150 mph (250 Km/h) & extremely comfortable. Good cabin service too.
Fascinating seeing the change from the city across the frozen Russian plain passing small towns & villages, still frozen lakes & rivers and Dr Zhivago-like birch forests. Run down apartment blocks sit alongside tiny houses with Dutch barn roofs and dilapidated storage outbuildings. There is more snow in the countryside which begins to disappear as we come into St Petersburg.
What a stunning city even at first sight especially as we have arrived to see it lit up at night. Cannot wait to explore it in the coming days.
But first .... we are taken to a hotel, where we have a booking, but it is not the one originally booked! Inn Tourist strikes again! Stunning hotel, we think they may have upgraded us, but it is a 40 mins walk to the centre not the 5 mins we wanted. After more calls to the UK we will transfer tomorrow to the Boutique hotel we had hoped for. A breath of fresh air along the river embankment has set us up for a good nights sleep after a lot of laughter!!!