Grand staircase in the Hermitage Museum
This morning was spent at the world famous Hermitage museum. It is a must-see for anyone who comes to St Petersburg, and of course there were large crowds of people, mostly groups from cruise ships it seemed. The cruise ship tours were shorter (maybe like 1 hour), our tour was almost 3 hours, and I had to say we were stilled rushed. It would be great to spend a whole day or 2 half days here. There were several connected buildings. The main building was the Winter Place in the Baroque style designed by Rastrelli, the famous Italian architech who also designed some of the Peterhof rooms, and rooms in Catherine's Palace. The Winter Palace was the official residence of the tsar family. In the 1917 revolution, the battleship Aurora (now docked on the Neva) fired some blank shots at the Winter Palace, where the provisional government used as its headquarters.
A golden chandelier in the Hermitage
The Red Guards then stormed the palace, which was defended unsuccefully by some 300 Cossacks.
Catherine the Great had a growing collection of paintings and other art objects she had her ambassadors purchase from across Europe. The collection soon outgrew the Winter Palace, so the Little Hermitage, and then Large Hermitage buildings were added next to it, all along the Neva river. The Atlantes, 10 granite sculptures of Atlantes 16 feet tall, hold up the public entrance to the Hermitage from 1852 til after the revolution was at the opposite side of the building, facing the Palace Square.
To visit the Hermitage was not only to see the collection, but also the buildings themselves. The doors, the walls, the ceilings, and even the exterior were something to appreciate.
A throne with painting of Peter the Great and his wife
There was a large room with gilded design on the ceiling, matched by a design of the parquet floor, very special. There were huge vases, tabletops etc made of malachite, lapis lazuli, and some special Russian stone in a dark grey color which you don't see elsewhere. I loved the mosaics on the floor of the Pavillion Hall, and on the fireplaces in some other smaller rooms. The Raphael's Loggias reminded me of what we saw at the Vatican Museum, but maybe even more beautiful, if that's possible. There were 2 paintings by Da Vinci, numerous paintings by Rembrandt, a famous Caravaggio "Young man playing a lute", manay Picassos (of course that was later than Catherine the Great), Matisses and other impressionists. Some rooms were VERY crowded, especially the room housing the impressionists.
A room with gilded columns and a gallery built to enable fire-fighting after a fire had damaged this room
However, if you just wait a few minutes, it would seem these were cruise ship tourists who were in a hurry and you could have the room almost to yourself. Kevin said it must be wonderful to come visit in the wintertime where there would be no crowdes. After about 3 hours, our feet were tired, and we probably had enough museum for the day.
In the afternoon, I walked from St Issac's square to the Admiralty, then to the Palace Sqaure, where there were many horse carriages for hire. Then to the winter canal for a picturesque view ala Venice. Then to the Church on Spill Blood, this time I only walked around the outside, and took some more photos. Next to the Lady of Kazan
church, which had impressive columns, a little like St Peters Square in the Vatican.
Wood floor design matches the gilded design on the ceiling directly above it. Can you match this portion with the ceiling of the next photo?
But its columns and exterior were really dark and a bit depressing, maybe it needs some cleaning, or maybe it's the natural color of the stones used. I walked through the inside of the church, free admission. But when I exited, I was approached by some little girl asking for money. It was the first time I had been approached in Russia. When I didn't give her anything, I think she started to curse. Hmm.
Back to the hotel for a rest before we went out on a cocktail party on a harbor cruise. Then our group had our fairwell dinner. It was amazing that 2 weeks went by already, and it's time to go home. Dinner was good.
When we returned to the hotel, Kevin and I walked to St Issac's Cathedral, purchased the tickets to go up to the colonnades, and climbed up for a night (or more like dusk) view of St Petersburg. Very nice up there. It was a pity we did not get to go inside the cathedral. Everytime we had a few minutes, the lines were really long, so even though we stayed in the hotel right across the street, we did not get to see its interior. One can probably spend a week in St Petersburg easily.
Not much sleep tonight, we had to get up at 4am tomorrow.