Wednesday, June 2, 2010
St. Petersburg - The Hermitage
In preparation for our trip I read the book "The Madonnas of Leningrad" by Debra Dean. It was an unforgettable story of love and the survival of wartime, specifically the 900 day siege of Leningrad - now known as St. Petersburg. Although the main character suffers from Alzheimer's she remembers vividly the glorious ghosts of paintings in the Hermitage before they were all removed and stored for safety. She remembers the starvation and surviving the air raids and the freezing winter. As I walked the halls myself I could recall the stories of specific paintings and I felt her pride in the notion that after the war, the art was Russia's gift to the people. The Hermitage acquired authentic masterpieces by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso....just to name a few! Connected to the museum is the Winter Palace, the main residence of past Russian monarchs. "Ornate" and "grandeur" only begin to describe the interior rooms of this beautifully restored Palace.
It just happened that we were there on the day of the city's birthday celebration. The square was full of lively activity and characters - people on stilts, flag dancers, gymnasts, musicians, even people dressed in aluminum foil!