This is Jamie looking very regal while standing in front of Catherine the Great’s throne in The Hermitage Museum. She wants one for our new house.
The primary reason we chose to stay at The Renaissance Hotel is because they advertise that they have a special door to The Hermitage so that guests don’t have to stand in line. Silly us. We assumed that meant the two buildings are adjacent to each other and that we could pass from one to the other with the turn of a knob.
No such luck.
What it really means is that the hotel has an arrangement with the museum. Find the ticket office (if you can), show your room key and you get to bypass the lines. Of course, you still have to stand in line at the ticket office, but that’s nothing. A trifle. Piffle.
The woman behind the glass in the ticket office spoke not a word of English. Well, she did speak just a few.
“Two hundred rubles.”
“I want two tickets,” I replied. “Is it two hundred rubles for one ticket or two tickets?”
“Two hundred rubles,” she said.
I handed her my Visa card.
“Cash only,” she spit contemptuously.
Luckily I had enough rubles. I handed her two hundred rubles and my room key.
“Passport,” she sighed, as if I were some sort of slow child.
Crap. The concierge hadn’t mentioned that we would need our passports to buy tickets. She simply said we needed our room key.
“Our passports are back at the hotel,” I sputtered.
She gave an even bigger sigh. She looked over at the other woman in the booth and shook her head slowly as if she couldn’t believe that God had foisted me upon her.
“Eight hundred rubles,” she said.
I have no idea how we went from two hundred rubles to eight hundred rubles, but I forked over the cash, grabbed my tickets and headed outside to find Jamie.
Sure enough, doors opened and we were allowed to bypass the long lines of people who’d been waiting far longer than we had. We went through security, feeling just a little bit better than all those little people waiting in the line that snaked out the door and through the immense courtyard.
Then we went through the turnstile and the female security guard, who also spoke not a word of English, made it clear that she was unhappy and that Jamie had committed a violation of some kind. Turns out Russia’s former Communists now know how to do business. The problem was that we hadn’t paid an extra fee required to bring a camera into the museum.
So we went back to the ticket line where we slapped down another pile of rubles for the little sticker that says, “I paid a small fortune to bring my camera into this museum” or, I’m sure, something very similar.
When we worked our way back through the crowd to the same security guard. She remembered us, almost smiled, then motioned for us to come through the turnstile again by using the same tickets and holding their barcodes up to the reader. For some unknown reason, the tickets would no longer trigger the turnstile. Perhaps the computer was programmed to allow just one admission per ticket and wouldn’t work because we were now attempting to use the for the second time. Who knows?
This security guard was actually quite nice. She motioned for Jamie to press up against the turnstile and motioned for me to get in right behind her. Then she wrapped her arms around us, used her bar coded ID card to trigger the turnstile and literally pulled us into the museum.
We all smiled nicely, said thank you and went into The Hermitage.