Wednesday, May 18 we asked Marina to start the day visiting the subway (Metro), which gave us an opportunity to have an interesting political and historical discussion. I still remember the monumental Moscow’s Metro. While Saint Petersburg’s Metro is not as spectacular, there are many examples of Soviet era art and decoration. The Metro itself is old but impeccably clean and maintained.

Marina insisted in inviting us to a cup of tea at the famous Yeliseevskiy Gastronom at 56 Nevskiy Prospekt. A beautiful Art Nouveau building by architect Gabriel Baranovskii with a very fine selection of delicatessen.

From there we went straight to the Russian Museum. Marina gave us a very comprehensive and detailed lesson on the history of Russian art. I dare to say that it was quite primitive until the last Czars insisted in imitating and catching-up with the rest of Europe, so until the early XX century, most works were quite “derivative” if you ask me. Nevertheless, some amazing artists, largely unknown in the rest of the world, were producing some moving works. I particularly liked Ivan Kramskoi’s “Portrait of Ivan Shishkin”, the military officer Vasily Vereshchagin’s “Outing in a boat” (an impressionist style painting before the Impressionists), or his poignantly anti-war “Battlefield at the Shipka Pass” (which is nothing less than remarkable coming from a military officer). I was also impressed by Perov’s portraits and their accurate psychological characterizations, and by Nikolai Ge, a mathematician that was definitely a precursor of Impressionism, way ahead of its time.

I wish we would have had more time to explore Russian’s XX century art, which I really like. But we had to whisk by Kandinsky, Malevich, and their contemporaries. On our way out we also saw the temporary exhibition “Circus”.

After a quick late lunch on the ship, we changed to go to the ballet. I bought two tickets to see the ballet ”Swan Lake” at the Mariinsky II Theater for my wife’s birthday.

It was exciting, since I had been to the Mariinsky Theater and the Mikhaylovskiy Theater (where I saw the Rimsky-Korsakov ballet “Scheherazade” years ago), but had never been to the Mariinsky II. It is a modern building, and while you may miss the palatial setting of the original Mariinsky, this one has much better visibility and acoustics.

We had great seats and enjoyed tremendously the over 3 hours of performance.

The music, of course, was by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and the revised choreography and stage direction was by Konstantin Sergeyev. But everything was sublime, from the enveloping set designs by Igor Ivanov, to the gorgeous costume design by Galina Solovyova.

Vladimir Shklyarov was good as Prince Siegfried, and the whole group were spotless, but I was completely amazed by the natural and effortless ability of Yaroslav Baibordin (as Jester), who, by the way, Marina told us was recently in her apartment to discuss some aspects of the play with one of her nephews and she found him to be quite nice and charming.

Needless to say, Viktoria Tereshkina was absolutely breathtaking. Her transformation as Odette-Odile was incredible. You could have sworn it was two different ballerinas, and she was excellent as both. But definitely, when she was playing Odette, you were witnessing a swan dance in front of you. I have never seen anyone move the way she does.

We returned to the ship absolutely entranced and delighted. A night to remember for years to come.