Sunday, April 11, 2010

Keep your hands off our stuff - or else!

A few years ago, DH and I went on a 2-week Baltic cruise.  What a wonderful experience!  One of the ports on the itinerary was St. Petersburg, Russia.  As children of the Cold War, we were excited to be able to visit a country that seemed so forbidden, and forbiddening, to us in our childhood.  We remember bomb shelters, air raid drills and Mr. Khrushchev.

We saw so much during our two-day visit, including a performance of the Bolshoi ballet.  One of the highlights was a morning visit to the The Hermitage, Russia's premier art museum.  The museum is located in The Winter Palace, home to Russia's emperors for centuries.  The items in this museum are so precious, so irreplaceable, so valuable to the Russians that there are female docents in each and every gallery to protect the collection.  These ladies were austere both in dress and expression.  They sat on straight-backed chairs and watched every movement as tourists flocked through the large galleries.  They scared the hell out of us!  No way were we going to break any rules and risk a scolding by one of these ladies.

Few museums allow flash photography, but the rules at The Hermitage were explained to us in a very strong voice with lots of conviction!  You will not - nyet! - use the flash on your camera.  One very brazen young lady in our group took a photo with a flash and was sternly reprimanded and threatened with expulsion from the museum.  Her excuse?  "I don't know how to turn the flash off!"  Duhhh .... no wonder American tourists have such a bad reputation.  Either (a) learn how to turn off the flash, or (b) don't take any pictures!!!

In today's edition of the Los Angeles Times, there is a wonderful review of a solo exhibition by photographer Andy Freeberg.  Mr. Freeberg visited The Hermitage and took photographs of these dour-faced ladies guarding these precious works of art.  Well worth your time to read the review and perhaps visit the exhibit which is at the Kopeikin Gallery in West Hollywood.  Mr. Freeberg has fully captured the mood of The Hermitage as you walk by these sentinels.

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