Top of the list
We couldn’t believe our luck when we looked outside this morning! Another bright, clear day to look forward to.
Today, I remembered to look the other way from our terrace as well. I hadn’t realised we could see St Isaacs so clearly from here.
We had only a short walk to the first place on our list: The Hermitage. I couldn’t resist stopping in the middle of the pedestrian crossing to snap a picture of the Admiralty, shining in the sunshine though.
Just a couple of hundred yards further and we were in Palace Square. The Winter Palace looks super in the sunshine and hopefully, if we got it right, we should be there before the crowds.
Opening hours here are clearly posted. How long will our stamina last? (not till 8pm, I’m sure of that!)
We bought tickets from the machine – a bargain, really, at just R600 or about £8.50 each for all the Hermitage museums combined.
Pretty ticket, too
First stop the cloakroom. If this is the small one though, how many does the large one take!?
No sooner were we through the turnstile than we were there – at the foot of the grand staircase, just as magnificent as we’d remembered from our previous visits. We stood a while and took it all in.
We did need to know where we were going though, to decide what we wanted to see and how best to get there.
Still, we can’t go wrong if we start by walking along the corridor with the paintings of the Russian Royals, can we? I love those hats/crowns/whatever; conical with a fur band!
Each room we visited had some breathtaking feature, be it a chandelier
a beautiful floor
or just an interesting door handle. (Before the advent of plastic/acrylic, what do you suppose that great “jewel” in the claw might have been made of?)
From time to time we gazed out over the River Neva through the rather dusty windows.
Some rooms were just too much and not to our taste at all.
Others looked like they had been brought from another part of the world altogether.
From time to time, we spotted something rather covetable. Do you think any of the elderly women who stand guard in these rooms would miss the polar bear vase if I stuffed it under my coat?
So we went on, room after room, each one as stunning as the last, if not more so.
And as you’ll gather, we had the whole place to ourselves!
Well, not really. Whilst standing in front of the throne to take the classic front forward shot, I was elbowed out of the way by a visitor of oriental origin; a member of a large group who were just ahead of us through this set of rooms. Rather than stand and wait for every Mei, Wang and Lai to stand in front of it for their photograph, I just went around the side and took mine.
Further patience was required when we reached the Peacock Clock in the Pavilion room.
This is how it really was…
so we looked around the rest of the beautiful room and admired the decor and the chandeliers for a couple of minutes.
After which, we had the bird to ourselves. Shame I didn’t compose a better picture, considering that, isn’t it!?
But you knew we’d catch up with them again, didn’t you? In the room with a couple of major works by Leonardo da Vinci, a little more patience was needed. Actually, taking pictures of these masterpieces wasn’t easy anyway, for the lights reflected in the glass and the end result would hardly do the work justice.
On a little further then, past a couple of storyboards with photographs and descriptions of the days leading to the Revolution. Obvious really, but it had escaped my notice until now, that this year is the centenary of those events.
By now, we were used to waiting till the crowds had moved on before we looked around. This corridor was especially beautiful – known as the Raphael Loggias.
It led to a kind of armoury, where a couple of exhibits stood out from the rest. This one looked a little shiny and new.
This one just looked weird – and was causing a stir amongst that group who were a few steps ahead of us. They were both part of an exhibition
Jan Fabre’s “Knights of Despair, Warriors of Beauty” was to be seen here and there throughout the whole museum, though in this particular area, it seemed to be particularly noticeable. The two suits of armour were amongst the most palatable exhibits, the rest of which ranged from body parts made from beetle-wings to art involving stuffed animals, some of which were a little disturbing.
We moved right along from those, suddenly feeling rather overwhelmed by what we’d seen so far and ready for a break.
Having explored the offerings at the snack bar, it was time to move on to a different building. First though, there was the small business of the staircase. Heaven knows how anyone with mobility issues manages here!
Anyway, over and out from this part of the Hermitage…
through the courtyard with the snazzy bollards…
and past the poster with a reminder to the dear guests, not to forget the “other building”.
Guess where we were headed?
Though first, I just had to take a look back and capture that glorious golden dome on top of the Winter Palace.
Now, the General Staff Building had served all kinds of purposes during its life. Today, we were hoping to see some great art in there!
Behind the original facade of the former office building, there’s a new extension and exhibition space. Lavish architecture with many interesting details – but no public lift! Thankfully, a member of the security staff noticed us looking at those stairs (with no consistent handrail) and offered the use of a staff lift. He waved over to a colleague who accompanied us to Floor 2.
Actually, we’d intended to go straight to floor 4 and work our way down, but floor 2 was all that was offered. We got out and walked through the large, modern space – not quite what we’d come to see, but interesting nevertheless.
The main exhibit in this first room was a cloth full of scribbles.
Yes, really. A cloth at least 6m long and 3m high, fully covered with ballpoint pen scribbles. Opposite was a similar technique on a large wooden cupboard.
We moved into the next room where there was an extension of the Jan Fabre exhibit, including what appeared to be stuffed cats and dogs. Not our kind of thing at all (and we are not alone it seems). We moved right along returning to our original aim of getting to floor 4.
We walked through what seemed like miles of featureless corridors like this one, doing our best to follow our map but somehow failing!
Eventually, thank goodness, we came upon the Faberge rooms and this glorious miniature copy of the Imperial Regalia, beautifully displayed on exquisite little cushions and remarkably well lit too.
From here, having now found our bearings, it was straightforward to find our way to the rooms containing the most incredible collection of Impressionist paintings we’ve seen. A room full of Van Gogh’s work, including the one above which was my favourite.
A similar collection of work by Cezanne, including this tree (and a few hillsides).
And there, amongst the Bonnards, the Pisarros, the Monets and the Manets was one of my favourite pictures by Renoir. Sorry about the strange angle, taken to avoid the reflections, but I included it simply to remind myself how pretty it looked in a small corner of a room full of treasure.
Sure, there were Gauguins a plenty, there were works by Degas and just about every other Impressionist painter you can think of (with the possible exception of Berthe Morisot!?) I think we could have possibly spent a whole day in these few rooms alone…
But oh my, were our feet complaining? Mine certainly were! And however many great things there are to see, there’s only so much we can take in one mouthful. so, we bade the Hermitage farewell for this time and returned to the hotel with pictures of golden rooms, malachite pillars, wonderful paintings and the sheer extravagance of it all turning around in our heads.
Just the kind of weariness that calls for an hour in the most luxurious and relaxing spa!
What a wonderful day.