Tuesday 19 June 2018

#8 Cruising The Baltic with #Fred Olsen’s Balmoral-St. Petersburg Hermitage

The Hermitage Museum - St. Petersburg

The Winter Palace- Hermitage Museum

My short visit to the Hermitage Museum was as impressive as the one I made to the Vatican Museums, Rome, in 2016. My Vatican Museums tour was around 5 hours so I saw a lot more there than my 3 hour tour of The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Both museums are equally grand and both show displays of obscene wealth. However, putting the origins of the funding for the construction and collection acquisition aside, since I love history, art history, and architecture, I can appreciate the glories for their stunning visual impacts and for the efforts of the artists in creating the masterpieces.

But… it’s always hard to equate the lavish budgets that were spent on acquiring the exhibits in comparison to the living conditions of the poor who were, in general, heavily taxed in some way to help pay for  them- whether they were the faithful Roman Catholic flock, or the serfs of the Czar.

My initial impression, after visiting the Vatican multiple museums, was that the best aspect of the Vatican acquiring those treasures over centuries is that they have managed to keep the treasures secure for centuries. The limited access to members of the general public for a very long time (centuries) is now widened to anyone who can stump up the entry fees. This now allows millions of visitors like me to appreciate the artistic effort that the millions of exhibits represent.

Similarly, the galleries of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are now available for people like me to view because the collections have been protected from what could have been situations of utter devastation to them. The Hermitage treasures were sent to Siberia to escape the ravages of German bombardment during WWII and the collections returned to the Winter Palace and associated buildings during safer eras.

During my guided tour, I only visited a few of the very many possible rooms and galleries available, but they clearly showed the impressive collections that monarchs like Catherine the Great had accumulated. The tour guide gave an excellent commentary via headsets that were the best I’ve ever used.

The trip was far too short but it was a very good introduction to what is a massive collection of fabulous art and architecture. Sometimes when the walls are so full of artwork it's hard to remember to look at the floors and ceilings and appreciate them because they are tremendously stunning as well. I look forward to revisiting them when i return home and make a new Pinterest board of my photos. 


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