A Swiss in Petersburg – sooo many museums

Petersburg has museums for everything, and most of them are well curated

The gems of all museums are the Ermitage and the Russian Museum. These are the first attractions for tourists. And there are many more museums – more hidden gems – like the zoological museum, the vodka museum, the museum of communication, the museum of political history, the railway museum, the museum of ethnology, and each poet from Puschkin over Dostojewsky to Achmatova has his/her museum – just to mention a few of them. Time did not suffice to visit them all. I did the Ermitage and the four exhibitions of the Russian museum, the zoological museum  and I also checked out the museums for vodka, communication and political history.

Today I plan to visit the Russian museum that is spread over four places. On Thursdays, the museum only opens at 1 PM, but for that it is open until 9PM. I plan on a long museum day starting with the central building.

The central Russian museum – in the Michailovsky palace

Enjoying the original Russian “standard ice cream” (it comes in a softish waffle), I wait in the Michailovsky garden on one of the artists’ banks (a special open exhibiton) until the Russian museum opens.

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At the entrance I buy a ticket for all four museums. My first target are the Russian icons. I say hello to Boris and Gleb (yes, Ernst, I remember that you always recognized the two martyreds that are related to the origins of the orthodox religion in the Kiewer Rus – The Russians prefered Christianity to the religion that forbids alcohol). I also look for Andrey Rublow’s Peter and Paul and for the good mother that successfully defended Novgorod against Susdal. Here are my favorites  – it is great that taking fotos is allowed in this museum.

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Then I  find some luxurios palace rooms and paintings of zars, nobles and battles as well as scenes from the Greek and Roman mythology… and my next target are the Peredwischniki that documented the social problems on mobile exhibitions in the the 19th century. Great, Ilja Repin’s Wolga trawlers area here  (they often travel).

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This museum is a maze – I hardly find the exit. I go back home for my Russian lesson at 4 PM, and after the lesson, I walk back to the Newsky Prospekt to continue my marathon through all the palaces of the Russian museum.

The Stroganov Palace

The Stroganow Palace is located where the Newsky Prospekt crosses the Moika channel. I know that pink building. But, where is the entrance to the Russian museum? In the courtyard I ask. Again this very Russian experience – the official lady at the entrance to another museum does not know! I find someone who directs me to the Moika. But then I still  oscillate back and forth, until I decide that it must be this absolutely unostentatious wooden door at the corner. Yes, right! My ticket is valid and I enter a vast and luxurious palace. The first hall is “separated” by a mirror. The mirror doubles the lustres and the columns – in reality there are only half-lustres and half-columns.

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A lady jumps at me – fotos forbidden in here. Well, the lustres are in my camera and remain there, but Stroganovs remaining rooms are no longer in my camera. This is a great palace, as is his boeuf Stroganov. I have shared this dish at many Christmas Eves with Ernst.

The Marble Palace

The next palace on my ticket for the four Russian  museums is the Marble Palace. It is in Millionaja Street, and I start to walk. And I walk and I walk – more than I expected – about half an hour. Eventually I enter a courtyard. No, what is this? Such an ugly monument? Quite a strong  man on quite a strong horse? Alexander III? Who died early and then Nicolas II , the last Zar, took over from his father?

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In my Lonely Planet I read that Nikolaus wanted to send his father to Sibiria, as he did not like this monument. Rumors then emerged that he wanted to ban his father to Sibiria… and hence the monument remained in Piteri. The sculpturer said that the he is not interested in politics and just modeled one animal on another animal.  Larissa and Tamara told me this rhyme for this monument:

Стоит коммод / на коммоде – бегемот / на ъегемоте – оъормот /  на обормоте – шапка.

There is a commode / on the commode there is a hippo / on the hippo there is a fool/ on the fool there is a cap.

Elena made it all clear to me that she thinks Alexander was a good Zar – he did not fight big wars, but tried to bring order to the country and to develop it – his time was too short, she says, and bringing peace is not valued as being “great”. Well, I think he would have deserved a more handsome monument.

From one window in the palace  I hear music. There is a concert going on in the Lapislazulli room. A young man enthusiastically sings poems, accompanied by a fortepiano and a cello. This group has no name – they might just be students from the music acadamy that also Anna graduated from.

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I walk through the luxury of this palace that also hosts exhibitions – the Ludwig museum of Cologne has displays. There is a temporary exhibition of Mihail Chemiakin, called “sidewalks of Paris“. The artist took photos of things thrown away in the streets of Paris and transformed the photos into drawings by adding colored lines with a pen that can be erased again (if I understand this right). There is also a hands-on room, where visitors can do their own drawings and erase them again, if they wish.  This is an interesting concept: Take, what you find in the street and add your phantasy to it.  I think that one of my favorite writers, Pascal Janovjak (son of a good friend of mine), would like this, as he is working at a literary project based on interviews with people in the streets of Rome.

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Michailovsy castle

This is the fourth palace that belongs to the Russian museum. From the marble palace I have to walk past the Mars field and follow the first block of the Sadowaja street to find it. Yes, my ticket is valid, And, yet another palace that does not allow to take pictures. There is an exhibition of the Romanows that 400 centuries ago took over after the turmoils with the Polish and the false Dimitrij… until 1917 (almost a hundred years ago). I am always impressed by the portraits of Peter the Great… he was a leader with a vision and at the same time he was so cruel – he killed his son.

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It is now 9 PM and the museums close. I walk back to my home and take a rest – my head is exploding from all the new impressions and my feet are tired-tired.

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