Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Hermitage, a/k/a The Winter Palace

As always, click on any image for larger view.

Girls outside Hermitage.  Some kind of uniform?
The day after Riza and Alena's wedding the foreign guests kind of went out on their own or in pairs.  We opted to visit The Hermitage with friends Frank and Barbara Gladney of S/V Destiny.  We all piled into different taxis as most of the taxis can  accommodate only 3 passengers.  Riza and Alena soon arrived at the entrance to The Hermitage and guided us through the 'privileged entrance.'  Alena had purchased tickets for everyone online and this provided us immediate entry rather than having to queue up with the hundreds of people waiting in line to purchase regular admission tickets.  By doing this, she also saved everyone a lot of money.  

The 2 on the left are from Houston.  The one on the right
is from Denver.  Started snowing 2 minutes after photo taken.
The coffee car/van.  The entire rear
was filled with fancy coffee making
equipment.  Much appreciated on
a cold snowy day!

The throne room was huge.  If I had taken the photo from the
opposite end of room, the throne would
not have been discernible.
Russia has 2 prices for many things, including admission prices for many of the historical sites.  There is the 'Russian' price and then there is the 'foreigner' price, which can be 2 to 5 times higher than the Russian price.  If that practice offends you, try looking at it in a different light.  The Russians get a discounted price and the foreigner pays the regular full price.  Not charging us more but giving locals a discount.  I have noticed the same thing in admission prices to historical sites in Italy.  Europeans get 'discounted' admission prices and we non-Europeans pay full price.  Their country: their rules.

Military complex opposite courtyard from Hermitage.
Note army guys in long coats marching across.

Thanks much to Alena for purchasing tickets for all of us to The Hermitage and also to the ballet later that evening and saving all of us some money.  Honestly, we really did not expect Riza and Alena to pay for all our entertainment and sightseeing during this trip.

Soldiers marching to military complex
We skipped past the hundreds in line for tickets and headed for the metal detectors and entrance turnstiles.  Where we noticed a sign stating that no coats or jackets or backpacks were allowed inside the museum.  My 'coat' was okay with the turnstile attendant because it was just a 
Enlarge to see elaborate statues on top
sweater poncho kind of thing.  But Bill, Frank and Barbara were forced to go check their jackets and backpacks.  We later learned that this is common rule at all the historical sites and museums when entering buildings.  No jackets or backpacks allowed inside.

Inside entrance courtyard of The Hermitage.
Barbara walking ahead of us.  Note statues on roof.

Like most Americans, we knew next-to-nothing about The Hermitage, other than it was a huge museum.  Peter the Great ordered this building to be constructed with intentions that his daughter would live here.  It was called The Winter Palace.
(Actually, I am not at all sure Peter was the one who ordered this construction.  I think that order came after his death.)

Right side of the courtyard entrance to Hermitage.
Statues on roof continue around building on all
sides for blocks.
The bus tour guide the previous day had pointed out The Hermitage several times as we wound around the area on the tour. The building occupies what would be several city blocks in an American city.  It is huge and most impressive. There are bronze statues all over the top of this museum.  In fact, there are bronze statues on the tops of many of the buildings in St. Petersburg.  They apparently like this and use it a lot.  Most of the statues appear to be Greek gods or mythical gods, but some buildings have statues of real historical people.  I do not remember seeing any military figures commemorated in this statue fashion on any building.  The style of architecture in this city is unique.  

Carving on top of a building.  Not the Hermitage.
Italian influence very obvious.
In Italy we had learned that Peter the Great had visited Italy and was so enthralled with the Italian architecture of that time period that he brought hundreds of Italian craftsmen and architects to build the city of St. Petersburg.  St. Petersburg is a relatively young city.  It was built under orders by Peter the Great and founded in 1703.  That makes it a very young city for this side of the world.  He was a sailor and wanted the city built on the Baltic Sea. 

This palace was ordered to be built for his daughter, Elizabeth, to live in.

The library.  I was impressed with this all wooden room.
Must have been voracious readers. Unusual at the time.
"The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors have been remodeled since then, particularly after 1837, when a huge fire destroyed most of the building. Today the Winter Palace, together with four more buildings arranged side by side along the river embankment, houses the extensive collections of the Hermitage. The Hermitage Museum is the largest art gallery in Russia and is among the largest and most respected art museums in the world."

A ladies sitting room.  So much gold!

Learn more at this link:

(Here is another link to check out many of the sites we visited:  )

One of dozens of very fancy ceilings.  Each room and hallway
had beautifully detailed ceilings.

Bill, Frank, Barbara and I wandered throughout this huge museum all day. 
Wooden floor.  Gorgeous marquetry.
Bill said we were walking on art.

One of dozens of hallways.  All equally elaborate.

One could spend a week in there and still not see everything.  It is overwhelming.  It is incomprehensible that anyone or any family could live in such lavishness.  No wonder the peasants wanted to kill the entire royal family.  As we wandered around in amazement we wondered how many millions of peasants died starving so that this structure could be built and the contents accumulated.  

Typically sized room.  An audience room; not formal
throne room.

I think the royal family must have lived in such a bubble that they had no understanding as to how the regular peasants survived day to day.  I must tell myself that because I cannot understand how anyone could live in this lavish style while knowing that most of the regular people in the kingdom were living in pigsty starvation conditions.  I cannot believe that anyone could be that self-indulged.  So I will continue to convince myself that the royal family simply lived in this bubble and did not know how their subjects lived.

2nd floor stair landing.
Enlarge to see detail of another
beautiful ceiling

Riza's mom and dad, his younger brother and cousin, and another 2 Turkish couples were also visiting The Hermitage the same time as us.  But the place is so enormous that we made no attempt to remain together.  It was enough just to keep Bill, Frank, Barbara and me together.

Enlarge for detail.  Really pretty.

Example of gold dishes and tea sets.
There were dozens.  And a gadjillion
silver serving pieces, some huge.
While we were on the second floor we looked out the old very thickly glassed windows and saw snow falling on the river beyond and the courtyards nearby.  It was a beautiful view and made us glad to be inside on this snowy and very cold day.

Did I mention there was lots of gold!

Painting from 1324 A.D.
In remarkable condition.
On the rear side of The Hermitage, opposite from the river side, stands a very large building that houses military.  We watched men in the Russian Army in long coats march in the snow across the large stone yard separating the 2 complexes.  A scene from Dr. Zhivago in mind's eye.

The Egyptian Room.
Had a real mummy.

One odd thing I noticed is that the windows were constructed in double sets, with a varying dead air space between the sets of windows.  The windows on the prevailing windward side (facing the river) had space of several feet between the interior and exterior windows.  On the opposite side (facing the military complex), which would be the leeward side from the prevailing wind from the Baltic Sea across the river, the dead air space between the interior and exterior sets of windows was only about 6-inches.  I admired the very thick glass of the old windows.  That thick glass had a wavering appearance; not the same as today's clear glass used to make windows.  Yeah; I know; I notice strange things.

1964 Impressionist painting
Loved this room in particular.  Ostentatious enough?
A woman in our marina had told me to be sure and look at the Impressionist section of this museum.  It had been on the top floor when she had visited here many years past.  We walked every level of this museum including the top floor and never found any Impressionist section.  In fact, this is the only Impressionist painting we found in the entire Hermitage.  Maybe the other Impressionist paintings and sculptures have been moved to another museum.

Bill in the room I liked.  It had the most natural light from
windows than any other room in the huge building.
Mosaic floor.  Enlarge to see.

Detailed view of mosaic floor.

Detailed marble carving/statues.

Eventually we had had enough of museum wandering for one day.  We retrieved coats and backpacks and searched out taxis back to the hotel.  Bill and I found one and took off.  Frank and Barbara soon found another one.  The others also found 2 more and shared.  Once back at the hotel bar we all compared pricing for the return taxis.  The taxis from the hotel to The Hermitage had cost 300 Ruples each.  The taxis from The Hermitage back to the hotel cost 1500 Ruples each!  Guess that was another example of the local Russian price (Alena and Riza spoke to the first taxi drivers) and the foreigner price (we English and Turkish people spoke to the second taxi drivers).  And we all paid 5 times the regular local price.

Bill in courtyard of Hermitage as we fled the snow.

Beer for Bill to recover from the cold snowy day.
A pot of hot tea for me.

The snow had turned into freezing rain.  And now it was almost time to head to the evening's entertainment -- the ballet.

1 comment:

  1. Exciting photographs. Excellent sharing of the customers and history along with the links to learn more.

    I like the first picture and the comment about the snow.

    Thanks, Bill.


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