Wednesday 9th: Our time with the group ended this morning. Those continuing on to Finland were collected at 9am and we waved them goodbye from the hotel steps in the snow. We had enjoyed the company of many but especially Barb and Irene and it was sad to see them go.
On our own again, we then took a taxi to Pushkin INN not far away where our room was ready for us so we settled in. The staff at reception were extremely friendly and helpful when we asked if we could keep our room until 8pm on the day we departed. Although our room would not be available, they arranged for us to move to a family suite for that time.
By 10.30 we were back at Hermitage Museum just around the corner with tickets bought online the previous night and spent the next five hours soaking up another million or so of its treasures. It was good to be able to go at our own pace and spend time where we wished. Also, crowds were not so thick as the holiday season had finished and there were no groups in certain parts of the museum. Up the Jordan staircase again, this time we turned into the Nicholas Hall and found a special temporary exhibition, the Leiden Collection, consisting of more than 250 works of art that comprise the largest and most important collections of 17th century Dutch art in private hands. Continuing around the outside of the palace we spent time in the private quarters and other living areas of the imperial families including the rooms that the last Romanov children lived in. We tried to see parts that we had not seen the day before but some overlap was impossible. One highlight that we had only glimpsed previously was the Raphael Loggias, a long gallery of copies of the famous frescoes done by Raphael and his pupils in 16th century in the loggias of the Vatican Palace. It was lovely to spend time here almost on our own.
With so much more to see it was hard to leave but by mid-afternoon we were tired so headed back to hotel for a rest before dinner. The hotel restaurant, Janno, was in the building next door and we were seated by a window onto the street. The entertainment was provided by the owners of various cars clearing off the snow with brooms and squeegees.