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The Hermitage no self-respecting hermit would contemplate

Saint Petersburg, Russia


Tuesday 27th October
Up and out fairly early to see the bronze horseman near to St Isaac's Cathedral, then on through Admiralty Gardens to be at the Hermitage shortly after opening.

After a short queue to get in, another to get our tickets and a final one to deposit our coats and bags (which is obligatory), we started on our journey – and what a journey. The initial impressions as you go up the Grand staircase are of opulence. Built as a museum rather than a palace, you might have expected rather more utilitarianism. But you would be underestimating the desire to make a statement. It seems that the creators of St Petersburg, Russia's new capital, wanted to at least match the ostentation of the best courts of Europe – which really meant France. There are shades of Versailles all over the Hermitage and we later discovered, Peterhof. The complex is huge and very disorientating and the maps supplied are less than very helpful in allowing you to get your bearings, particularly starting the tour at the top of the grand staircase with no view of the Neva. Most of the rooms have numbers over the doors, which helps considerably, once you have worked this out. But there are still occasions when a route you had planned is blocked at some point and you have to re-orientate and replan. With many rooms, you just have to keep a track of where you are because you have no external view that gives you a point of reference. Once you have the hang of it though, wandering the building is quite wonderful. However, it would be easy to spend several days here and not see everything, so you need to decide what is important to you before your go and then plan your route accordingly.

We had decided to see how time went but not to try to see any of the paintings, concentrating on the architecture and decoration of the main rooms. We paid 200 rubles to be allowed to photograph inside and it was refreshing to be able take as many as we wanted in most of the rooms. It was forbidden in a few and it was not always well signed that this was the case, which meant I had a tap on my shoulder at one point!

We took a break after a few hours to go down to the Cafe area to relieve ourselves and to have some refreshment. The water we had was quite pricey but what was described as pizza was very reasonable. Looking like a slim pasty with cheese on top, this was warmed through before being given you. It was delicious, filled with a meat mixture and a pastry outer somewhere between bread and pastry. Thus replenished we set about completing the tour we had planned. The space available can't do it justice but the highlights were the exquisite St George's Hall, the Peacock clock and Pavilion Hall, the Malachite Room, the Gold room (a masterpiece of OTT), the Raphael loggias, the small throne room, and of course, the sumptuous diamond room which was in a strongroom (by guided tour only) and contained fabulous ornaments and jewel encrusted items.

We were in there for about 6 hours and could have spent many more.

After getting back to the hotel and having a short rest, we decided to go to a restaurant listed as being nearby for dinner. It took us some time to discover that it is in the middle of a re-development! We then walked around for a little while, trying to find a suitable alternative. It took some time and we ended up at a place called Literary Cafe, from where Alexander Pushkin left for his fateful duel. The meal was both good and reasonable, so honour was satisfied, as far as I was concerned.

12 kilometres today! 4 looking for dinner!

permalink written by  rickandsuejohnson on October 28, 2009 from Saint Petersburg, Russia
from the travel blog: Venice of the North - St Petersburg
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Sounds like you're really clocking up some mileage! Glad to hear that you're enjoying yourselves and that the Ruskies are treating you well!
Lots of love, the Canadian contingent.


permalink written by  Ollie on October 28, 2009

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