No visit to St. Petersburg, Russia is complete without a self-guided tour of the Hermitage Museum.
I have been to the Louvre in Paris. I would say there is a comparison in terms of the huge size of both art museums. Both have 3 floors. The Louvre, however, is considered the largest museum in the world.
But let’s get to talking about The Hermitage Museum. What did I see, feel, hear? Is it worth the 1 hour wait in line outside to get in? (That’s without a ticket in advance) I would say most definitely it’s worth a wait in a long line to get in on any day. Because once you’re in, you are transported to the elegance and refinery of the Russian Noble Era.
This Museum started with several art pieces as donated by Empress Catherine of Russia in the 17th century. Do you want to see the paintings that captivated Russian Royalty? Both in portrait and in spirit.
The Hermitage Museum, built in 1764, contains everything from pre-historic art and Egyptian antiquities, to Italian Renaissance, modern art and nine centuries of Russian art. It simply is breathtaking in its scope of objects spanning a good chunk of history.
I went through it in about 7 hours with a stop for lunch at their snack café. And I didn’t even finish viewing all the wings. I paid extra to get a private tour of the early Rus people. That intrigued me due to my Russian heritage. I wanted to get a feel for what these people were like. They were certainly not village peasants but rather had a system of organized hierarchy, including a Queen and King. I mention that because in this private room, there was lots of gold jewelry and ornaments. I didn’t expect 9th century people to be so good at crafting objects of art and adornment.
It really becomes a marathon session to take in the Hermitage. Just like the Louvre, you can’t run through it in even half-a-day let alone a whole day. It’s just too exhausting because you are pushing up against throngs of people all vying and trying to view the same important works of art.
I made it a point to move around a lot when it got too crowded so that I could relish things more quietly and on my own time. I like to be contemplative when in the presence of these relics so that I can let my mind wander freely. I can’t do that when people in 10 different languages are shouting in my ear.
The views of the Neva River from the windows also added to the ambience of antiquity. It gave a sense of grandeur and spaciousness. From that same area, was a room where Russian and European Royalty and Governmental Officials would gather in their soirees. I got the vibe their ghosts still haunted the scenery.
As I was leaving the Hermitage, trying to make my way down the grand marble staircase with red carpet, I heard some laughing between a boy and a man. The boy was running ahead of the man, fast down the stairs. The man, as he flew by me, stood out because he was wearing an old-fashioned peasant type Russian shirt in green. He had a beard. He was pale. It turns out his son (I’m assuming his son) was making a bee line to the rest room downstairs. But this man wasn’t dressed in modern clothing. I heard him speaking Russian to the boy as they disappeared into the toilets downstairs. That whoosh as they went by woke me up a bit, enough to finish getting myself to the exit of the museum.
Once outside, don’t forget to take photos of the Palace Square that surrounds the Hermitage. The Alexander Column sits right in the middle of the square – you can’t miss it at 155 feet tall. Statues of the 2-headed Eagle adorn the iron gate that envelops the statue. Step right up close to view the artwork.
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