A Hermitage Museum tour of Russia’s St. Petersburg lets you play with raccoons

Many more people than expected are coming to St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum to take a walk on the wild side — way beyond Baudelaire and Goya.

The classic 1905 Russian film “Aristocats” — which included a raccoon — and a book about them have been cited by many as reasons to visit the impressive art collection. But though the walk is closed to the public during the day, the museum has even more to offer — and that includes simulating a Cuban street without fear of attracting critters.

“The idea was to come up with a different way of showing out the six floors of the Hermitage,” museum spokesperson Yana Larin tells The Washington Post. “[We] wanted to give people a different experience while making themselves more comfortable.”

The website of a St. Petersburg tour company selling the course says the tour will allow viewers to catch a glimpse of “the basic building blocks of the human condition” — while other tour companies say a busload of tourists can actually take a stroll through the museum’s halls without ruining that experience.

“[W]e decided to present a different face of the Hermitage,” Larin told The Washington Post. “It’s as if we are creating a unique alternative to the amazing masterpieces in the Hermitage.”

The tour guides begin each day by asking visitors to consider which exhibits would work best on their walks. Then they wrap up the walking with a lunch catered by the Hermitage, a selection of vodka and a stroll through the Museum Zone, its four dining areas lined with artists’ works from the masterpiece to the collection’s few modern ones.

The tour can accommodate up to 15 visitors a day, though the Monet, Picasso and Renoir rooms are not open during the off-hours, and some of the exhibits still be closed.

“The tour is [a] walk in the museum,” Larin told The Washington Post. “We wanted to open up the museum to a wider audience.”

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