Not a Hermit in the Hermitage

We had been looking forward to this day as a potential high point of the trip (besides seeing Sekita and Frits of course). We were not disappointed. We went off on our own in the morning to get a good look at the Impressionists collection in a separate building. The easiest way to get there was via subway. That in itself was an experience. The nearest stop to our hotel was across the river, so we had to drop down via a series of escalators and people movers that were even longer than any we’ve experienced in either NYC or DC.

The journey just to the train seemed endless, but considering one had to descend over 100 meters below the water to reach the station, quite an experience.

Some of the art in the subway foretold what was in store.

Before getting to the Hermitage for it’s 10:30 opening we had planned to stop by the spectacular Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. A main spire had scaffolding, but this is one of the few examples of the familiar “onion” turret design (that you expect in Moscow) in St. Petersburg.

The outside of the church is almost diminished by the mosaics, semi-precious stones and varieties of Italian marble inside.

The stories told and the unique story leading to the church’s center we’ll leave for later discussion for those who want to know.

Very, very interesting T-shirt by one of the vendors outside the church. Putin’s popularity was dipping slightly while we were there, but the shirt is telling. Next to Putin was a t-shirt touting the 2018 World Cup. Remnants are everywhere. We still saw banners and signs hanging, and passed by the beautiful new stadium built for the Cup in St. Petersburg.


Now it was time to wander toward the magnificent (inside and out) Hermitage.

As we walked along past the front entrance the entry line stretched over two long blocks, mostly of Chinese tours and cruise ship groups. Our guide knew not to plan on entering the main buildings in the morning.

The building we entered is more an administrative facility that’s been somewhat modernized recently as you can see by the staircase. We worked our way to the fourth floor where we were knocked out by room after room of previously unseen works (by us) of the great impressionists, some lesser know painters and a number of outstanding Russian artists.

Room after room after room, each topping the next. A surprising and unusual van Gogh.

A huge Kandinsky.

Of course a couple of rooms of Matisse to help keep Marsha going.

Including a mind-blowing Matisse WITH flamingos….

Finally satiated, or maybe just a bit blessedly overwhelmed, we rested for a lunch break in the cafe to ready for our visit to the main body of the Hermitage.

We toured mostly the Winter Palace for the entire afternoon – just a smattering of what’s available to be seen in the entire museum. We were told it would take almost a full week to just look at everything that’s out in the collection. It’s as much a look at the royal life, furniture and furnishings as it is seeing the vast collection of works by the Masters.

One example is this unique Mary, Joseph and infant, not in a manger, but in a palatial room, dressed richly, with Mary apparently just having an expensive coiffure at an exclusive shop and Joseph; older and beardless. Rafael allowed himself, or his patrons, a little artistic license.

One of our favorite paintings…by Caravaggio.

The grand staircase, finally without an endless stream of tourist.

Exquisite unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo.

One incredible room after another. We had the most wonderful tour guide, Valerii who was an encyclopedia of knowledge and presented it with an appropriate wit.

Our minds bursting with new insites, it was time to get our bodies into the coach, get back to the hotel and head off to our “special” Russian folksie show. It turned out to be a real trip, treating us to shots of vodka and wine before being seated, then the show of good singers, dancers and actors. At intermission everyone filed out for tea sandwiches, sweets and more vodka and/or wine. The second act was pretty much a repeat, but some really enthusiastic Russian dancing (the gezotchka – original Russian breakdancing really got my blood boiling…for those of you who may remember me at weddings and bar mitzvahs. We left smiling. Tomorrow a day of palaces; The Peterhof in the morning and Catherine’s Palace in the afternoon. So get some rest.

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3 Responses to Not a Hermit in the Hermitage

  1. Pauline says:

    Thank you so much for posting photos of a few of the paintings. So great to see these pieces.

  2. Larry says:

    Wait! I don’t remember seeing you dance at any weddings or bar mitzvahs. What have I missed?

    • jfdowshen says:

      Well, you guys missed plenty! Didn’t know your old pal was an original “break dancer”. Guess we never went to the same Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I could (emphasis “could”) “get down” with the best of ‘em!

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