A day at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

It’s Hermitage Museum day! This has definitely been on Liz’s bucket list forever, so excitement ran high. Palace Square and the Hermitage were just a stone’s throw from our hotel, but once we arrived, we had to do a certain amount of arguing and milling around to decide which of the palaces was which. We arrived early, before all of the masses of tour groups following flag-bearing leaders arrived, grabbed our tickets and put on our protective shoe/slippers.

The Hermitage Museum is also the Winter Palace, built by the Empress Elizabeth. Construction began in 1754. Later on, Catherine the Great moved in and got down to the business of serious art-collecting.
Fast forward a few hundred years, and now the collection is massive, international, and representative of all eras of fine art. As home to the tsars for hundreds of years, the building itself is fascinating, providing a small window into how Russian royalty lived. Standing in the great halls, it’s easy enough to imagine couples dancing in the candlelight while the court musicians played. Liz’s favorite room is the library of Nicholas II, which makes one want to grab a book and plop down for a good read.

The solo exhibition of Anselm Kiefer caught our eye first, an unexpected display of massive works inspired by the poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov. According to the Hermitage Museum website, “One of Khlebnikov’s central ideas is that major pivotal naval and terrestrial battles endlessly repeat every 317 years.” Kiefer’s work is dark and brooding, and seems to suggest landscapes where the battle has recently passed.

There is so much to see at the Hermitage, we don’t think we saw much at all even though we were there for hours. Perhaps another visit in the future?

Then on to The General Staff Building

It’s oddly named, but definitely worth the visit. The General Staff Building of the Hermitage holds Russian and European decorative art, paintings and sculptures from the 19th and 20th centuries, including works by Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, and a host of other notable artists. But by then, our feet were tired and our stomachs were grumbling.

A cab to the Severyanin restaurant

Alexey is expert at choosing excellent restaurants for us, and Severyanin was no exception. As they say on the handy bookmark available on the check stand, it’s “highly recommended on Trip Advisor.” And with good reason. Located in the old center of St. Petersburg, this cozy restaurant offers current interpretations of classic recipes from the cuisine of the Russian north. The warm, intimate interior is a nod to the typical 19th century St. Petersburg apartment.

Again, back to the words on the bookmark: “There’s a play on words in its name — a Russian word “severyanin” means “a man from the North,” referring to Northern Russia cuisine traditions, and at the same time to the pen name of Igor Severyanin, a remarkable poet of the so-called Silver age of Russian culture.”

We happily ordered traditional Russian food all around. Service was perfect, the food was spectacular, and we all went home full and well-satisfied with our day.


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