on July 7, 2006
Simply put, the Hermitage is one of world’s great art museums-- 350 rooms, 2,700,000 works of art– but itis more than that. It consists of 1, 2, 3, or 4 buildings, depending on how you want to count. The WinterPalace, now part of the Hermitage, displays art in the grand rooms of the Tsar’s official home. The decoroverwhelms the art. The Large Hermitage was built by the Tsars as an art museum. The HermitageTheater is only used for performances. Our guided tour took through the most of the major palace roomsand works of art– Da Vinci, Renoir, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Rubens- but if you want to see all thegrand palace rooms, abandon the tour.The entrance to the Hermitage is on the embankment, in the Winter Palace. Facing ahead upon entering,restrooms are in the far left corner. The entrance lobby also has a coat check, ticket booth, and café. Afterpassing through the turnstile, the museum proper is entered on the second floor at the top of the JordanStaircase, one of the few parts of the Palace untouched by later remodeling. The Jordan Staircase is one ofthe architectural highlights of the Palace. Don’t rush.At the top of the spectacular baroque Jordan Staircase, the only remaining originally decorated room in theHermitage, are the State Rooms, which make Louis XIV’s Versailles look plain. Rm 227 is a copy of The Vatican Palace’s remarkable Raphael Loggia. Since the Vatican Palace is notopen to tourists, give this a look.The State Rooms and the Tsar’s quarters of the Palace contain many works of art, as well as stunningarchitecture, and, unfortunately, crowds of tourists. Our tour guide commented on how lucky we were tohave come so early in the season as the crowds were the smallest she had ever seen. For us, it was the mostcrowded museum we had ever seen.Guided tours hit most of the grand rooms and the most famous works of art- Renoir, Monet, Rembrandt, diVinci, Michelangelo, Rubens. If you go on your own, you must have a floor plan because the museumoccupies five buildings and displays nearly 3,000,000 works (one minute per item, 7 days a week, 8 hoursa day, and you finish in 15 years). The Blue Guide has an excellent one and 20 pages of small printdescribing what’s where.If you are on a bus tour that takes the standard two hour trip through the Hermitage and you want to staylonger, as your tour director is you can stay behind and be picked up by the bus on the way back after itfinishes the rest of its itinerary. Our tour director (MS Tolstoy) did this for a number of people.The Hermitage has an excellent English language web site.
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