Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Эрмитаж: Art Overload
Today we had the day off, so my friends Robert, Dustin, and I decided to take a little excursion of our own. After a bit of late start, we managed to assemble at Palace Square and head over to the Hermitage. Luckily, unlike the first three times I was at Palace Square, I had a working camera with batteries, and managed to take some pictures. The Hermitage museum is right on the square, in the former Winter Palace of the Russian Tsars. Usually the museum was quite crowded, and even today it was surprisingly crowded for a Wednesday afternoon. Luckily however, our wait in line was rather short, and we got into the galleries (for free!) pretty quickly. I think we probably should have gone in with a very exact plan of what we wanted to see, because the Hermitage is HUGE, overwhelmingly huge. You read that it's big, but it isn't until you get there and see room after room (400 total) of art and lavish opulence that the true scale of it hits you. Needless to say I think we all went into art shock/overload pretty quickly. There is simply so much art and so many beautiful rooms, that it is impossible to take in all at once. I pretty much ended up walking through rooms in a daze, there is just too much stuff to stand and look at much of anything for too much time. Almost three hours later and we were pretty much all exhausted, and we had really only looked at one floor! Obviously more visits will be required in the future, but I think I saw the pieces I was most interested in. The palace interiors were all stunning, and I made my obligatory trip to the arms and armor, Renaissance art, and Classical collections; but I have to say my favorite part was the War of 1812 room. The gallery is a long hallway with beautiful skylights and ornate ceiling, whose walls are lined with the portraits of all the various generals who fought in the war against Napoleon, Russian, Austrian, Prussian, and English.
After our Hermitage trip, we walked across the Neva to Petrogradsky Island, and then to the Peter and Paul Fortress. The fortress contains three museums, one of which is a church in which all of the Tsars are interred. For some reason a lot of things seemed to be closed on Wednesdays (why? Who knows...) and the fortress museums appeared to be no exception. In the end I was almost glad. I think we were all museumed out, and I think the fortress is worth a whole day's trip. We did get to see a little bit though, including a rather odd statue of Peter the Great. The statue claims to be the most accurate depiction of what the Tsar actually looked like. If the statue is to be believed, Peter was a giant (he was, standing at over 7'0") with an unbelievably small head, and giant arms, fingers, and legs. Everyone we saw was taking pictures sitting in Peter's lap, so I figured I would do the same. I drew quite a crowd however, I think only women are supposed to sit in Peter's lap. I figure Peter wouldn't really mind.
My excursion ended with a rather failed attempt at gift buying. I went to the multi-story mall near my apartment block and ended up having a rather awkward walk through womens' clothing and lingerie stores. Needless to say they didn't have the Зенить soccer team t-shirt I was looking for, or anything that would be acceptable to give to one's mother/sisters. Hopefully in the future I will be more successful...
So that about does it from here. I'm home now and will probably spend the evening relaxing and watching tv/chatting with my family. I have a bunch more pictures, so hopefully soon I will have the motivation to start uploading them onto Facebook or something.