Once again we awoke to a (partially) sunny day, and with a full agenda. Breakfast accomplished in under 20 minutes, we set out for the Peter and Paul Fortress, its highlight being the Cathedral and the burial place of all but two Russian Tsars. Tour group swarms were light, the good part; but they were rather obnoxious in how easily they became agitated with those of us independent travelers who wished to view the highlights of the cathedral.
The Tomb of Peter the Great
The Memorial Room containing the Tomb of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, along with loyal family staff.
Gostiny Dvor was our next destination, in order that I might peruse the Imperial Russian Porcelain for a piece or two. This classic Russian shopping arcade (one of the oldest in the world) spans a full kilometer and has 53.000m2 of shopping space.
I perused, and perused again, the Russian Imperial Porcelain offerings but in the end no porcelain “spoke” to me; instead I came home with a Gzhel vase produced the traditional style by an independent artisan that I adore.
Time for a snack, and ours at the Gostiny Dvor cafeteria was classic milk bar: a Kotlety and a deliciously creamy potato puree for me; and something like a pork cutlet topped with diced vegetables and the same potato puree for Tony. Served on plain white china, though. We sat amongst several employees of the “mall” and watched them watching a grainy black-and-white Russian television show on the flatscreen. A different dining experience to date, certainly.
A tour of the Stroganov Palace was on the early afternoon agenda. No, not a gilded room-by-room history of the famous beef dish, but a painstakingly restored building that belonged to the wealthiest merchants of 16thcentury Russian Tsardom.The Stroganoffs were closely aligned with the czarist government and loved Europe; their son and namesake to the dish, Count Pavel Stroganoff was actually born in Paris, and the original Stroganoff recipe is derived from a French recipe. The Stroganov lineage is extinct; the palace is a now a delightful wander into the rooms of an aristocracy from long ago.
A room in the palace devoted to the family’s Mineral collection.
Back to the hotel for an hour of regrouping before dinner. Gosti, a traditional Russian and Serbian restaurant was our reservation for this evening. The setting was adorable, with Russian and French countryside fusion décor and a cozy booth into which we settled. Our server appeared as we sat down and informed us, “I will help you in five minutes.”
Roast Beef with Pickled Onions (and another basket of warm, delicious dark breads) began our epicurean adventure. For the main I chose wisely with a honey grilled half-chicken that appeared with a little boat of something like a salsa; Tony selected a Stroganov-like preparation of creamy chopped steak (sans mushrooms) over crispy potato gnocchi. Deliciousness with every bite. No shared dessert on this night, though: Apple Pie for him and the lightest Russian Honey Cake for me.
On the return to the hotel a light snow had begun to fall. And on this night the concierge reported, “Snow” for the following day. This was of no matter to us, as our final day would be The Hermitage Day.