I cannot recall a time when I was not fascinated with Russia, with the Czars and the story of the Anastasia, the daughter of Nicholas the Second who was executed with her entire family by the Bolsheviks. Or did she survive? I remember seeing a Hallamrk Hall of Fame teleplay starring Julie Harris as the maybe heiress and being so moved by it I got out a library book about the Romanovs and learned all I could.
The Winter Palace, which was already becoming a museum by the time we were fighting the Civil War, is now The Hermitage, another thing I don't recall not knowing about. It is one of the top museums in the world and in truth, I never really thought I'd see it. It is enormous and its collection is amazing.
Now, I've been to The Louvre, The Rijksmuseum, The Met, The Prado and I can say that I've never been so close to being trampled at any museum in my life.
Crowds? I've done them, but what makes The Hermitage different is that it seems nearly 90% of visitors come as part of a tour group. Flocks of people with earbuds, oblivious to other humans, dash from Famous Painting to Famous Sculpture like ice cutters in the Arctic, smashing through any humans who stands in their way.
And if there was any air conditioning, it was not obvious, so it's was about 80 degrees and humid inside, a babble of languages being shouted by non-amplified tour guides and what should have been a transcendent experience became Penn Station on Friday of Labor Day Weeknd.
And, as we said about Versailles, looking at that incredible opulence, it's easy to see why the peasants revolted. I'm sure there is a lesson there for America, but it will go unheed.