Groups get to see the Scythian Gold Exhibit: The stunning artifacts found in the Ukrainian steppes and Crimea are on display at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Travel Q&A


Can you tell me if the Scythian Gold exhibit at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, will be open in January? When I was in the city last year, it was closed to the public.

The Scythian exhibit is open daily except Monday from 10: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but visitors must sign up as members of a group. The groups are assembled on the spot and leave every 15 minutes. The tour lasts from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the interest shown by the visitors.

Tickets cost the equivalent of $8.50 a person and are valid for the rest of the museum, which remains open to 6 p.m. every day except Monday.

The Scythian show is part of a section of the Hermitage called the Golden Store Room. Gold from the Scythians has been on display there since the late 1920s.

The items have been collected from a vast area of the south Ukrainian steppes and Crimea. Nomadic Scythian tribes from Central Asia invaded the southern Ukraine region nearly 3,000 years ago, eventually spreading across the area between the Danube and Don rivers. Modern excavations have suggested that their origins were in western Siberia.

At their height, the Scythians invaded Syria and upper Mesopotamia, threatening Judah but never actually occupying Palestine. In the seventh century B.C., the Scythians traded grain and their services as mercenaries in return for Greek wine and luxury items.

Excavations at burial mounds continue every summer, although most of today's finds go to Ukrainian museums. Many items at the Hermitage, including major finds made by a peasant as he dug a well near Stavropol, were bought from local people.

A friend and I wish to spend a few weeks in Torremolinos, Spain, but, since both of us have heart conditions, we want to know if there are any medical facilities there that could help us in the event of an emergency.

According to the Tourist Office of Spain, there are two hospitals in Torremolinos equipped to handle any medical emergencies, including treatment for the heart.

And if you are wondering whether English will be spoken there, remember that the British have been "colonizing" the Costa del Sol, of which Torremolinos is a part, for at least the past 25 years. You are as likely to find fish and chips and Watney's English beer in that part of Spain as you are to find castanets and flamenco.

These are the hospitals:

Clinica Salus, Avenida Palma de Mallorca, 63 Torremolinos (Malaga), Spain; telephone (95) 237 40 00 or (95) 900 50 12 61.

Clinica Santa Elena, Urbanizacion Los Alamos, Torremolinos (Malaga), Spain; (95) 238 62 66.

My wife and I will be in Rome, Florence and Venice in December and early January. Can you tell us what we can expect to find in terms of classical music, be it opera, ballet or chamber music?

The holiday season in Rome, Florence and Venice offers the classical music and opera lover a number of choices.

In Rome, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Italy's leading national symphony orchestra, will present a series of concerts in December and January. On Dec. 8-10, Claus Peter Flor will conduct Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor. Dec. 14-17 Kurt Sanderling will conduct works by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. A Christmas concert for peace will be held Dec. 19, while works by Tchaikovsky will be on the program Jan. 4-7, with Yuri Temirkanov conducting and the Russian violinist Vladimir Spivakov. Tickets range from $17.25 to $59, calculated at 1,448 lire to the dollar, and can be bought from the concert hall ticket office at 4 Via della Conciliazione; telephone (39-6) 68801044. Tickets can also be ordered by phone using a credit card at (39-6) 39387297 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. There is a $7 to $8.25 surcharge per ticket for credit card.

The Rome opera season starts Jan. 8, with Verdi's "Vespres Siciliennes," conducted by John Nelson. Performances will be held Jan. 8, Jan. 11, Jan. 14, Jan. 17, Jan. 19, Jan. 22 and Jan. 26, with tickets ranging from $27.60 to $152 for opening night. They can be bought at the ticket office in Piazza Beniamino Gigli from 10 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m. daily except Sunday. More information: (39-6) 481601.

Many other places in Rome, including churches, offer classical concerts, ballets, choir concerts and chamber music, especially at Christmastime. The weekly Roma C'e lists arts and entertainment events and has an English section called "Long-Hair Music." Every Thursday the Italian daily La Repubblica puts out Trova Roma, which lists the week's concerts, art shows and theater productions.

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