After lunch, we walked to the Hermitage, which was just a couple of blocks away. The Hermitage is a huge palace built in 1764 originally as the winter palace for Catherine the Great, who died before it was finished. It was occupied by her successor, Elizabeth. There is a very large square in front of the palace with auxiliary buildings opposite the palace, surrounding the square. These auxiliary buildings, also quite ornate, housed various departments of the government. On the opposite side The Hermitage fronts on the canal.
The Hermitage and the Square.
Normally the Hermitage is closed on Mondays but apparently Princess made a deal to allow a few of their tours to go through – our guide said the crowds were about 1/10th the size of a normal day. The next day our bus drove by and we saw huge lines stretching around the block just to get in – we were very lucky.
The entrance to the square, flanked by the “administrative office” of the Tsars.
As you might imagine there was a serious security check as we entered, and then we were greeted by these stairways and entry ways.
The Hermitage is basically an art museum, but it is seldom that you see a museum where the art work competes for attention with the museum furnishings which are spectacular. This is not surprising considering the museum’s origins as a palace for the rulers of Russia before the revolution.
One of the several throne rooms.
One of the large galleries is dedicated to the Generals who have served Russia, including this portrait of the Duke of Wellington for his defeat of Napolean. Our guide, Tatanya, is in the foreground.
As beautiful as the hallways and furnishings are, they tend to overshadow the incredible art collection, numbering some 3 million pieces, including the works of Rembrandt, DaVinci, Titian, Dega, Goya, and Rafaello.
On days they are closed the museum allows art students in to work on copies of the masterpieces.
This is an ancient Roman piece of tile floor work from 200-300 BC, which was brought intact to this palace in the 1800s.
As we finished our tour of the Hermitage and headed exhausted back to the ship, we thought of the couple we met at lunch who had booked another tour after this one to go to the Russian Ballet. As much as Sally would have liked to attend, she was grateful we were headed to the ship to rest. Quite a day!