A Swiss in Petersburg – Ermitage or Эрмитаж

The overwhelming palace and museum

Eventually I decide to visit the Ermitage again; I have been there with Ernst eleven years ago, and I was not convinced whether I would like to see it. Too many memories.

I dive into the palace around eleven, climb the superbe Jordan staircase, receive some guidance from Ludmilla and take the detailed Lonely Planet map under my arm. It is so easy to get lost in this maze! I always make sure that I know, where I am and where I want to navigate to next. And I plough my way through all these tourist groups that follow a guide; the most inventive guide was a young and tall man who just holds his arm full of tattoos into the air. He was easy to spot.

The first floor with hidden and unhidden treasures

I first stopped by at the hidden treasures. These are impressionists that the red army took back from private collections in Germany. No fotos allowed in here.



I then admire the handsome Potemkin, one of the lovers of Catherine the Great, and stroll through the luxurious Great Hall and Malachite Hall.



I enjoy the hanging garden and the mosaik in the Pavillon Hall.


Now the density of tourists and groups is getting higher and higher. They all admire Rembrandt’s pictures in the room reserved for him. Interesting that in the war, the Russians had evacuated this collection and just left the frames here. The flamish artists, the Italian artists, and again a high density if tourists; I am now in Leonardo da Vinci’s room. Two Madonna pictures are here, and I am again astonished, how small they are.


The next point of high tourist density is in front of Michelangelo’s statue – no foto from here. I admire the architect who set up the rooms in this palace… curtains and wall paintings are always a perfect match, and each room has a different color. Here is the yellow room.


A short break on the first floor

The Ermitage is missing out on a great business opportunity which is to sell food and drinks to the tourists that spend long hours here and surely are getting hungry. There is a cafeteria on the first floor with a short queue and a very small selection of rubber sandwiches and snacks like Mars or Bunty. I eat a salami-cheese sandwich that is a bad match to all the luxury and pieces of art in this palace. I eat it sitting at the base of a column, as there are no chairs available.

After my break, I visit the Egyptian department with the mummies and sarcophags. I miss out on the treasure gallery.


Now to the third floor with the impressionists

It already astonished me eleven years ago that the Ermitage hides away these gems, the impressionists and Picasso, and how well the tourists find them nevertheless, climbing some small and ugly stairs to the sober third floor. The gems are displayed in plain rooms with a low ceiling, and they are just great, Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Manet and also Picasso. I sadly stand in front of the dancers of Matisse remembering, how much Ernst enjoyed them, and now he is  with me in my heart.


I stroll up and down these rooms several times and then move to the exhibitions of Japanese, Chinese and more Asian pieces of art, in particular along the silk road that some Russian travellers and scientists explored. I will be at some places of the silk road later this year, in Mongolia.


Back on the second floor admiring the luxury of the zars

I round off the visit by walking through the royal rooms admiring the elicit furniture and decoration. Yes, Nikolai II did not like this luxury so much and prefered his  smaller and more cosy palace in Zarskoe Selo.


Now my legs feel like “Weggli” which means literally like “rolls” (in Russian: дереянные ноги). When we Swiss say “Wegglifiess”, we mean that we can no longer walk two more steps. No wonder, I have walked through the Ermitage for four hours now. Nevertheless there is another 15 minutes’ walk ahead of me, before I will tackle my next Russian lesson.