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Earlier posts on Saint Petersburg:
1. The one about cats
2. The drawbridges and other sights
3. Saint Petersburg 1

I have absolutely no memory of the lunch we had on our first day in Saint Petersburg. What did we eat? Did we eat at all? Nothing comes to mind. This is rather frustrating considering that I am depending on these very write-ups to refresh my memory when I am really, really old, and have no idea whatsoever of visiting Russia or any place at all. Anyways…

Post lunch found us at the doorstep of the second-largest art museum in the world. The State Hermitage Museum’s collection runs to an impressive three million items, only part of which is on display. Founded by Empress Catherine the Great in 1764, the original collection was confined to the building called ‘Small Hermitage’. Today though it is spread across many buildings on the Palace Embankment and its neighborhoods.

Just like during our Kremlin visit, our group was divided into two and we followed our respective flag-bearers into the magnificent interiors of the museum via the entrance located in the Winter Palace (which is also a part of the museum).

One of the problems of having a bad back (I have T score of -3) is that slow-walking and frequent stops to stand and stare at pictures and artifacts while their story is being told, takes its toll on you. By the time we had covered almost half of the displays, I could no longer bear the pain. I simply HAD to sit somewhere. There were too many people around and the occasional seats here and there were all occupied. So, to my misfortune, I was forced to cut short my tour of the museum, walk back to the front foyer to find a seat to rest my aching back and wait for the others to finish.

If I had all he time I have spent seeing other museums, I’d gladly exchange it for seeing this one museum. Prerana, our tour manager had been spot on when she told us that the State Hermitage Museum was a worthy visit. I’ll definitely have to go back and complete my unfinished tour some day. Yeah, some day. Sigh.

An hour later, the two gangs were back and we were soon back in the coach being driven through Saint Petersburg, looking at other sights. We saw rows of apartment blocks built after the revolution. According to our guide, they were compact, with less facilities. She lived in one of them. The newer ones though were bigger and had better basic amenities. We drove past the bridges we had seen the previous night and heard more about the history of some of the buildings. It was now time for dinner, an early one…. don’t hold your breath for what follows, ..at an Indian restaurant. Again.

Now, some pictures. I tried taking the pictures in the museum over the head of the many visitors thronging the place. So most of them are missing important details. For a thorough look at the Hermitage Museum, do visit this excellent page. Not only are the pictures superb, you’ll find detailed descriptions as well.

We walked up the Jordan Staircase (originally the Ambassadorial Staircase), so called because the Imperial family used it to descend to the Neva River for the annual January celebration of Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan. Above can be seen part of the swirling, cloud-bedecked ceiling painting by Diziano Gasparo.
Magnificent interiors of the Hermitage Museum. It was the Winter Palace of the Romanoffs in the past.
adorned roof and chandelier
The throne in the Small Throne Room of the Winter Palace, also known as the Peter the Great Memorial Hall. Following a fire in 1837, in which most of the palace was destroyed, the room was recreated exactly as it had been before by the architect Vasily Stasov.
Peacock Clock, one of the main attractions for the tourists, features various moving wildlife including a dragonfly, owl, squirrel, and a self-confident peacock perched in an oak tree who, at the appropriate time spreads its voluminous feathers, rotates 360 degrees, and makes a stately bow, after which the nearby rooster crows. Commissioned in mid-eighteenth century, works like clock-work still!
This garden was made on top of the stables according to Catherine the Great’s instructions. She supposedly walked here with her lover(s)
Another view of Catherine the Great’s garden built on top of the stables
The earliest battleship which is now a museum
St Isaac’s Cathedral was originally built as a cathedral but was turned into a museum by the Soviet government in 1931 and is one still.
A Russian sunset. To the left is the Indian restaurant where we had watery dal, mixed veggies, chicken and other insipid dishes. The pickle was excellent though.

The sky looked beautiful as we walked out of the restaurant, tired, but happy. There was sleep to catch up on from the previous night’s wanderings. And this had been a long and full day as well. What would we dream of tonight? Would it be of living in a long gone era in the Winter Palace of the Romanoffs with the ingenious queen who, when she found she couldn’t wear her crown in the chapel (‘No one wears one in the house of God!’) circumvented the whole thing by building a canopy above her seat and putting the crown on top of it? Would we sit in the throne room fascinated, watching the King and his courtiers conduct the business of running an empire? May be we’d walk up the Ambassadorial Staircase with foreign envoys to attended official ceremonies? Or… The possibilities were endless. We only had to fall asleep to find out!

© Shail Mohan 2020