On the deck of the Novikov Priboy, Paul '63 and Susan '63 Pineo, Chan Coddington, Peggy Wescott, Jane Coddington '55, Alicia MacLeay '97, Jim Foritano '65 (behind me), Maddy Littman, Paul Wescott '53, Joan Brenner (Bates '49), Sheila McCarthy, Everett Brenner (Bates '47), Barbara '43 and Mel Biedermann.
The tour offers its own benefits. In St. Petersburg we enter the Hermitage museum, home to more than 2.7-million pieces of artwork, hours before its regular opening. The museum, usually teeming with visitors, is virtually empty save for our group and a few art students attempting to reproduce the works of masters. We tour Catherine's Palace, a sprawling masterpiece, after the regular visitors have been sent home. We have a private ballet performance of pieces from "Swan Lake," "The Nutcracker" and "Giselle" in Catherine the Great's Hermitage Theater. It's hard not to see the advantages. Being able to view up close a Rembrandt or the restored Amber Room, rather than the back of someone's head is (as the MasterCard ad says) priceless. And it's not just the professors and guides who have given us new insights. The interests of the alumni are broad. In our group alone we have an art docent ready to explain the early techniques of van Gogh and Gauguin, a ballet dancer who can critique a ballerina's graceful footwork and several sailors. "We all profited from the specialized knowledge of each member of the group," says McCarthy, reflecting on the trip.
After 1,300 kilometers, two celebrated cities and countless facts, lectures and observations, our journey ends in St. Petersburg, Peter the Great's personal vision of Russia's future, a future that merged Western affluence with distinctive Russian drive and ingenuity. For our CBB group the question of what is next for Russia remains unanswered, but the trip has opened our eyes to its possibilities.
"I've been pleased and excited with the sense of wonder I've had about the place," says Bob Ferrell. "I feel like I've just put my toes in the water."