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The Hermitage

semi-overcast 10 °C

If anyone needs a reason to brave the weather in one of the world's most northerly cities it is to visit Empress Elizabeth's (d. 1761) Winter Palace in St. Petersburg - home to the Hermitage Museum. Since 1852 the museum has showcased a major collection of art amassed by Catherine the Great and her heirs. Today the museum houses nearly 2 million artifacts, including a large number of European old masters, and draws visitors from around the Globe - but where on earth were they? Here's Sheila climbing the fabulously ornate Jordan staircase alone...
We could have walked off with this massive Malachite vase unnoticed...
We strolled through the Golden Dining Room un-accosted...
There was no one in the brilliantly gilded Crimson Study...
And the capacious foyer of Catherine's Theatre was deserted...
Perhaps, most surprisingly, not even Catherine's ghost could be found in her Italianate Gallery...
Had we accidentally slipped in when the place was closed? Where were the throngs we were warned about? In the end we found Ludmilla, a retired art teacher turned docent who told us with a crack in her voice and a tear in her eye that she missed the 'good old days' of Communism and the USSR before pointing us in the direction of the mob.
And here they are, cameras at the ready, waiting to witness the magical event of the famous golden peacock lifting his tail as the clock strikes one...
As the hour approached the crowd rose on tiptoe and hovered motionless in total silence. Then the clock struck. A cheer went up as the flash of a hundred cameras lit the scene ... and absolutely nothing happened. The crowd slowly deflated and began wandering aimlessly away, like hockey fans after a major defeat. But then, just as we turned to go, an horologist cum ornithologist jumped into the cage and gave the bird a swift kick. He lifted his tail and sweetly sang...
And a good time was had by all.

Posted by Hawkson 10:40 Archived in Russia

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Sheila & Jim, I look forward to and enjoy your travel postings! Thanks for taking me, and your followers, along. Already, I've learned much about what was unknown to me. "I write to know what I understand," Arthur Miller once said. Your writing is delightful and informative.

by Kirsten Zola

Wow! Obviously the right time year to visit St-Petersburg. By the way, your arrival account had my colleagues in stitches.

by Abigail Gossage

Lovely pictures and interesting commentry.
There must be many fascinating stories from the past of peoples lives who have enjoyed the experience of living among such extravagance and wealth. Thank you for depicting it so well for our enjoyment.

by David Henderson

Rog and I saw a great exhibition in Edinburgh on Catherine The Great. We marvelled at the treasures she surrounded herself with but never imagined opulence on such a scale.

by Jenny

Wow, this is breath-taking.

by Janet

How blessed I feel to have not only such adventurous travellers as friends, but such excellent writers! Takes me along with you. And the photos are superb.

by Sharron

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