Ignorance truly is bliss. I didn’t know anything about The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. I like museums. So why has my head been stuck in the sand when it comes to this one? I had no idea what I was in store for. I spent an entire day, from open to close, exploring the many visual riches The Russian Winter Palace holds.
As with many places in Russia, if you’re going to any government controlled area bring your passport so they can check your visa. Your ID gets linked to your ticket. Tickets can be confusing, take time to read the board. Its $18 dollars for access and that includes a fee if you want to take photos? Ok… You can also pay extra to access the other exhibits. A day was not enough for everything. If I had planned more time I would have paid to see them. I would suggest two solidly packed days or to fully take in everything, a more casual three days. There is that much to see and read about. Audio guides are available though I didn’t opt for one since the signs are all in English. There is a little place to have lunch, bring cash so you don’t have to leave to eat. It only gets more crowded as the day goes on. The first Thursday of the month, entrance is free. Almost three million people visit the museum every year. If you’re a cyber-tourist there is The State Hermitage virtual tour. Though, it’s not like being there. There’s also The State Hermitage app available in the App Store & Google Play. And, if there is a luxury traveler that accidently found their way here. You can say at The State Hermitage Museum Official Hotel. For the latest information, check out their website: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/02/hm2_0.html
Before becoming a museum, the Hermitage was the Winter Palace, home to Russian emperors. Commissioned by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in 1754 it was a home to all Russia royalty up until 1917. Read about the February Revolution were Nicolas the II relinquished his rule and the proceeding October Revolution which installed the socialist state and well, the rest you should know.
After entering, shuffle with the crowd to the main staircase called the Jordan Staircase. As you can see, it’s not just a staircase. Find a spot to take in all 360 degrees. It was made to welcome royal visitors, ambassadors, foreign dignitaries… and me.
There we’re three main highlights for me.
The State Hermitage Museum Arsenal:
I like weapons. So naturally, my favorite part was the arsenal. I hadn’t seen horse armor in person until now and wow. Talk about a prehistoric version of the tank. The exhibit speaks about the evolution of Russian craftsmanship from sword to firearm. Even the priming flask (used to hold the powder) was decorated well. It was a bright room, so don’t mind the glare on the glass.
Landscape with the Legend of St Christopher by Mandijn Jan
I was completely engrossed with this morbid painting: Landscape with the Legend of St Christopher by Mandijn Jan. A Dutch painter from the early 1500s, he has another interesting painting called The Temptation of St. Anthony. I’m not an art guy. Especially what some pass off as “modern art” but when I see paintings and sculptures from certain points in history, especially points in history that I recognize, I get in to it. This painting did that for me. WARNING: It’s not for the faint of heart.
Michelangelo’s The Crouching Boy
The biggest surprise while touring through the sculpture collection, Michelangelo’s The Crouching Boy. What a work of art. Also from the early 1500s, to me, it’s not meant to be ultra-refined to the last detail. It symbolizes the organic growth of youth. They’re not quite whole yet. Much learning needs to take place before their traits are defined. Really, I’m not an art guy.
Other acmes include the malachite room, various Samaritan artifacts and The Treasure Gallery. I also missed out on The State Hermitage Museum cats, Google image search to see some. Not to compare apples to oranges but I enjoyed The State Hermitage Museum more than The Louvre. In The State Hermitage Museum it feels more like you’re in history than you are just viewing it. This place truly is a piece of world history. A posh bastion previously reserved for royal eyes, now open to the public. After I win the lottery I may consider buying it as my new winter palace. Here are a few more pictures too, enjoy!