I was so excited to arrive in St Petersburg, and spent a lot of time in the Hermitage!
No really, just ask Aasa. My conversation helped distract her from the tooth ache that plagued her trip, poor thing. Apparently my conversation skills are just that good.
I suspect things like the Hermitage also helped, if I’m quite honest. How could it not distract?
We walked to the Hermitage, getting great views of the Neva, St Isaac’s, and of course the Winter Palace.
At the Hermitage, we went to check out the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art as planned. There is a painting by Matisse of red dancers on a blue background that reproductions don’t do justice to. You can see the tension and the movement of the dancers quite clearly, despite what looks almost like primitive figures. It’s a powerful, stunning painting – one of my favorites from their collection.
We also took a look at some of my favorite State Rooms. As we were heading back from one wing, we heard men’s voices mixing in harmony. Somehow there was a small male A Capella group singing while we were there and we had managed to time our visit so that we heard them. Serendipitous!
I’m not sure how it happened, but we ended up staying at the Hermitage longer than planned. (Surprise!) That was pretty much our touring day, as we went out for a very late lunch/early dinner at a place around the corner from the Hermitage. This place has a cabaret at night, and we made grandiose plans to go see the cabaret that we never followed through on because we were so tired from touring. Instead, we went shopping so we had food for breakfast and could try Russian sparkling wine in the coziness of our hotel room, with our poor sore feet raised!
My second day in St Petersburg, I spent most of the day in the Hermitage Museum, using the first day of my two day pass. My goal: to check out the Italian Renaissance and Spanish paintings, alongside some of the State Rooms, so that when I went back the next day with my friend Aasa, we could go to the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist floor.
You enter the Hermitage through a central staircase (also called the Jordan or Ambassador Staircase), which is simply magnificent. It’s all white and gold paint. I then proceeded through a number of State Rooms, including the small throne room (for those intimate occasions) and the large throne room (when one wants to impress). I took a brief detour through some Russian culture rooms, which include Nicholas II’s library. I decided I want that room – it’s fantastic.
On my way to the Italian gallery, I passed through my favorite room in the palace: the Pavilion room, which currently houses the Peacock Clock. It’s another white and gold room, with a Moorish theme, so there are balconies and arches. It’s absolutely breathtaking – I could get used to living in a room like that!
I’m not going to describe all the museum galleries. Suffice it to say, the Hermitage (as you no doubt know already) is one of the greats like the Met or the Louvre. They have a room of Titians that is great, and a big, grand room full of Spanish art (primarily de Ribera and Murillo) that is breathtaking.
I thought I was covering a lot of ground when I made it through the State Rooms pretty quickly. Of course, the State Rooms mostly don’t have art in them and only make up a quarter of the second floor. It took me considerably longer to get through the Italian gallery! Before I knew it, it was mid-afternoon and I started thinking about heading back to the hotel to meet up with my friend.
But before I did so, I stopped in an adjacent Hermitage exhibit called the Winter Palace of Peter I. This building doesn’t really exist anymore as Catherine the Great built a theater over it, but they have rebuilt several rooms amongst the archeological remains and furnished them as they would have looked in Peter’s time. More impressively (as in impressive-creepy), they have a life-size wax figure of Peter the Great made from death wax casts of his face and hands and using his actual hair. I think he would have been very disapproving of my insane desire to giggle when I saw it (him?).
I wended my weary way home, where my friend Aasa had arrived. I’m very lucky to have her able to join me for my stay in St Petersburg. We’ve known each other for a long time and always seem to pick up our friendship where we left off, despite living on different continents.