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Oops.

Hi folks. Things got busy towards the end of last year.

Now, where was I?

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On day three of our trip we met our guide Elena in the hotel lobby and walked the fifteen minutes to the Hermitage, one of the world’s greatest museums.

I think part of my inability to blog for four months was the enormity of having to try to complete this post on the Hermitage and do it any kind of justice. It is the most amazing place and certainly one of the highlights of the trip. In my opinion the Hermitage outshines the Louvre in Paris for its size, range of artworks and artifacts, and also its incredible beauty.

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The Hermitage comprises six buildings including the Winter Palace, which, from 1732 to 1917 was the official residence of the Russian Tsars. The Winter Palace by itself has over one thousand rooms and 117 staircases and covers an area of half a million square feet! In 1917 the storming of the Winter Palace by the Bolsheviks deposed the ruling provisional government and began the Russian Revolution. Above you can see the famous State (or Jordan, or Ambassador) Staircase designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

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It is wonderfully ornate and dates to 1762.2012-11-13 at 09-15-53

Rastrelli designed the Winter Palace and it was his greatest achievement. He also designed Catherine Palace, which will feature in the next post.2012-11-13 at 09-18-58Amazing.

2012-11-13 at 09-28-39This is the Small Throne Room or Hall of Peter the Great.

2012-11-13 at 12-21-33This is the Malachite Room. Malachite is the semi-precious green stone featured on the columns and mantelpieces – it is not solid malcahite but rather a mosaic of a single colour.

2012-11-13 at 12-40-02The Gold Drawing Room contains displays of carved gems.

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The Armorial Hall.

2012-11-13 at 13-13-34The Large Italian Skylight room.

2012-11-13 at 12-36-56The Boudoir.

2012-11-13 at 12-29-03The Library of Nicholas II.

2012-11-13 at 14-23-52The Main Staircase of the New Hermitage.

2012-11-13 at 11-49-12The Hall of Twenty Columns.

2012-11-13 at 11-58-33The Pavilion Hall.

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The Leonardo da Vinci Room.

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The Raphael Loggias are a copy of the gallery in the Vatican.

2012-11-13 at 14-27-58In each of the thirteen vaults there are paintings by Raphael’s studio depicting scenes from the Bible.

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The Small White Dining Room. It was this room that was “stormed” by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The provisional government led by Alexander Kerensky was arrested here and imprisoned, marking the beginning of a civil war that would give rise to the Soviet Union.

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The clock on the mantelpiece has been stopped at that time.

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As well as the grand architecture the Hermitage contains wonderful artworks and antiquities – over three million items. If you were to spend thirty seconds looking at each piece it would take you nine years (with no sleep) to see everything. We spent close to seven hours there and we all agreed that having a private guide meant that we saw so much more than we would have if only armed with a map. Elena was brilliant, not only in the depth of her knowledge about the Hermitage and its contents but also the fact that she knew all the shortcuts, which enabled us to make the best use of our time.

2012-11-13 at 09-58-03The Impressionist and Post Impressionist Galleries were among our first stops. Matisse.

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Renoir.

2012-11-13 at 10-19-35Kandinsky.

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Picasso.2012-11-13 at 09-54-14

Van Gogh.2012-11-13 at 09-51-05

Cezanne.

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Monet.

This is only a small part of the Hermitage collection. In addition there are Prehistoric, Classical, Oriental, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, German, French and English collections…

2012-11-13 at 13-00-01Here is Leonardo da Vinci’s Litta Madonna.

2012-11-13 at 12-57-46And da Vinci’s The Madonna with a Flower (the Benoir Madonna).

2012-11-13 at 14-12-04A room full of Rubens.

2012-11-13 at 13-23-14An entire wing of Rembrandts.

2012-11-13 at 13-09-27Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy.

2012-11-13 at 13-11-31Caravaggio’s The Lute Player.

We also had a special tour of the Hermitage’s Gold Room/Treasury, full of treasures of ancient and modern Russian civilizations, but you weren’t allowed to take photos inside.

We went to about 3pm without stopping even for a coffee let alone lunch. We then had a late lunch in the cafe and re-grouped, working out what we still needed to see. It was a while ago now but I don’t think we left until around 5pm.

2012-11-13 at 19-24-39That night we had dinner at a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel but I can’t remember what it was called! There was a cart’s wooden wheel hanging outside the door, so maybe it was called The Wheel? I was getting quite fond of blinis with red caviar as you can see above.

2012-11-13 19.43.17This was followed by a delightful chicken dish. We must have had dessert but unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it.

56432_10151239290654710_1833214063_oAfter dinner we had a little party in my room where we drank the complimentary champagne that Nicky was given by the hotel management. A fitting end to a superb day!