(Note: This post was written on November 9. The captions for the photos were written on November 28…and December 14. Man, this post took too long to get up.)
Hello from somewhere between St. Petersburg and Helsinki! I don’t really know where I am right now since I’m on a boat, but I think it’d be safe to say that I’m on the water. As I’m writing this, my three cabinmates are sound asleep and it’s only 9pm – it’s been an exhausting trip for sure! But I really will miss St. Petersburg. It’s been unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and I’m extremely sad that my trip is over. I don’t know how to sum up the experience, but I do have this to say: if you ever have the chance to visit St. Petersburg, go! The city is often called “The Venice of the North,” and for good reason. It’s exceptionally beautiful, and the city offers so much to see (I know it sounds cliché, but the city is simply packed with things to see). If the opportunity presents itself, please go (not for me, for you!). It’s been a very special three days, and St. Petersburg has proven itself to be a very special city. It’s been an amazing trip, one that I hope I don’t ever forget.
But…on to today! The day started early once again, and once we were checked out of our rooms, we head directly to the Hermitage Museum. I could go on and on about the Hermitage Museum, and it was truly one of the most impressive places I have ever been to in my life. To say it was unbelievable would by all means be true. But to say its size, grandeur, quality of art, and sheer number of pieces was essentially incomprehensible would be more accurate. I said in my Day 1 and 2 blog post that I doubted that I would ever see such opulence again in my life…and then I went to the Hermitage Museum and saw how wrong I was. Simply astonishing. Most museums would kill to have just one Rembrant, a Van Gogh, a Monet, a Picasso, etc. The Hermitage, however, has it all: a hall devoted just to Rembrant; dedicated rooms for Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Renoir, and many other world class artists (there are literally thousands of rooms in the Hermitage’s four buildings); entire halls for masters from the different art capitals of the world; a Da Vinci (apparently it was once said that only a Russian emperor could afford a Da Vinci, and voila!); sculptures, ancient artifacts (I saw hieroglyphs!), mosaics, and so, so, so much more (our guide said that there are over 3.5 million pieces on exhibit, and I believe it). It is said that if you spent literally all of your time actually looking at each piece, it would take you over 7 years to see everything in the museum. If you stopped for normal human breaks (e.g. eating, etc.), it would take you almost 9 years. I hope that gives you a little better of an understanding of why I said that the scale of the museum is almost incomprehensible.
I wish I could have spent years in the museum, but I only was able to stay for a few hours. A tour of the most famous cathedrals in St. Petersburg began at exactly 2:30 pm, which meant that my four hours at the museum would have to suffice (for now, at least!). First on our list of cathedrals was the Church on the Spilled Blood, the only cathedral in St. Petersburg built in the traditional Russian style. Built on the very spot where Tsar Nicholas II was assassinated, this cathedral has actually spent the majority of its lifetime as a museum (or as a warehouse during the Soviet era, if you can believe it). As is the theme in St. Petersburg, it’s lavishly decorated inside and out with gold and all sorts of precious stones. Mosaics cover all of walls and ceiling, intricate silver chandeliers hang over the guests, and marble plaster creates beautiful designs on the floors.
Our next stop was St. Issac’s Cathedral, a stunning church dedicated to Peter the Great’s patron saint, St. Isaac (and the only church to be dedicated to St. Isaac in all of Russia). Despite being one of the most visually impressive locations in St. Petersburg (in my humble opinion), the church only took 40 years to build – almost no time at all! The cathedral is simply massive. The pillars surrounding the cathedral themselves stand 51 meters tall, weigh 114 tons, took one year to polish, and are one single piece of rock (all shipped in from Finland). I don’t know how they did it, but I’m glad that they did. The inside was exceedingly beautiful (sensing a trend?), and the walls were covered with frescos (which actually have suffered from the humid weather in St. Petersburg, as humidity tends to ruin plaster). This cathedral is a museum as well, but one chapel inside was recently granted standing as an operating place of worship (and therefore, no pictures inside of the chapel). I could keep saying that the whole thing was simply unbelievable to see, but I don’t want to bore you with that sort of repetition. It was unbelievable though, to be sure. Definitely one of my favorite sights in St. Petersburg (and I have pictures of it during day and night!).
The last two cathedrals were both dedicated to St. Nicholas. Both were operating places of worship and significantly smaller in size than the other cathedrals (which isn’t really saying much though). They had their own charm and unique histories though. One of the cathedrals was one of the only freely operating cathedrals during the Soviet era due to its connections to the Russian navy (many of the soldiers prayed at that church in particular). The other is operated by a slightly altered branch of Russian Orthodoxy, one that survived a centuries-long war with the main Russian Orthodox religion. Each was beautiful by its own right.
And with these two cathedrals, the tour came to an end (as did my time in St. Petersburg). If I had to choose one word to describe my time, I probably couldn’t. ‘Unforgettable’ doesn’t really do it justice, but it sums up what I’m trying to get at nicely. I honestly think it was one of the best experiences of my life, and St. Petersburg will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t stress enough how much you should go if you have the opportunity. I didn’t know what to expect when going to Russia, but I know that this experience went above and beyond any expectations I ever could have had. It was a truly amazing time in an amazing place.
Click on the pictures for a larger view:
The Hermitage Museum. This is just the Winter Palace portion of it, though. There are another three buildings that make up the museum.
A pillar outside of the Winter Palace
I don’t know what this is! It was on the other side of the Winter Palace
Me looking awkward in the main hallway of the Winter Palace
Just a window.
A small look at the second story of the main hallway. Spare no expense, right?
A large painting covering the ceiling of the main hallway.
Just one wall (!) of the main hallway room-thing.
A look at the upstairs pillars
Cover up, geez.
Where did they even get all of this gold?
To think I’ve lived my entire life just using standard light fixtures.
Just a room. Don’t remember what it is exactly. Too many extravagant rooms.
A bit more ceiling in this picture.
There’s the double headed eagle that I talked about in my first St. Petersburg post. The double-headed eagle has historically been the symbol of Russia.
The portrait hall. Each painting is of a Russian general. The green spaces with no portrait are reserved for those who died before they had their portrait made. That specific green was the color of the general’s ceremonial uniforms.
Portrait hall selfie
The Throne Room
A view of most of the throne room
Look at that pattern on the ceiling…
…and look at it mirrored in the hardwood floor!
Jarett Hartman, Russian tsar
Nice chandelier, I guess…
Just in case you wanted to see the chandelier again.
I’m writing these captions about three weeks after I was in Russia, so I don’t really know what this is.
The Vatican wouldn’t let the Hermitage Museum have this particular piece of their flooring, so they just made an exact replica instead.
The Peacock Clock! It’s all mechanical and it all still works. It’s not particularly accurate, but, as our guide told us, time wasn’t as precise back then either. Though it is still fully operational, the museum has chosen to stop winding it up regularly, so it just sits still most of the time. But when it’s active, it has a whole array of moving parts. There’s a short one minute clip of it in action on a tv screen right beside the display.
This is a mosaic of really small, layered pieces of glass. You wouldn’t be able to tell unless you look really close.
There were a few of these tables. I can’t remember the name of the technique, but it’s essentially a mosaic…with precious stones.
There were lots of tapestries in the palace/museum. To be expected, surely.
That’s a Da Vinci! I don’t generally photograph art (though it was allowed), but I bent my own rules for this one.
I don’t think I’ve taken as many pictures of doors or doorways in my life.
This is just a copy of a famous ceiling in Rome…
What’s up with all this ceiling work? Who even looks at a ceiling?
This staircase was used in a famous Russian film called October, I believe. They used it to showcase the Bolshevik takeover of the Winter Palace, though that’s not what happened in real life.
That’s a big coffin
Me and some Roman dude (I think it might have been Jupiter)
Those are all seals. You carve into the outside, place a thin piece of metal through, and roll on wet or malleable clay — and voila! You have a receipt for a transaction, an important declaration, or some other piece of information that may or may not need to be disseminated to the masses or used over and over again.
Don’t know what this is, but I’m sure it was expensive to create.
Again, I don’t like taking pictures of art, but here’s Picasso’s “The Two Sisters.” I didn’t take the photo for the painting really, but rather for the thick glass covering it. Look at that! I believe this was in the second of the two rooms dedicated to Picasso.
The front of the Cathedral on the Spilled Blood. The cathedral is situated on the spot of Tsar Nicholas II’s assassination. It wasn’t the easiest job being a Russian tsar. I chose not to be one because of some of the dangers associated with the title.
That’s all mosaic! They learned that frescos simply wouldn’t cut it in St. Petersburg’s humid climate. Unfortunately, not all cathedrals in St. Petersburg learned that same lesson…
It’s all covered!
One of the many mosaics in the cathedral. I mean, the entire place was covered in them!
Part of the amazing floorwork in the cathedral. This part was roped off as a result of conservation efforts. While those designs cover the entire floor, most are protected by floor mats so that the general public can view the inside of the church.
One of my initial attempts to try to photograph a larger area of the cathedral. There’s just no way to get more than a sliver of the church in a photograph. It’s all massive!
The main alter of the Cathedral on the Spilled Blood. In Russian Orthodox churches, the first image seen on the right is Jesus Christ. Next to that image is always the saint to whom the church is dedicated.
One small part of the ceiling in the Church on the Spilled Blood…
…and another part of the ceiling. How do you even get up there, much less create entire mosaics up there.
One final picture with the cathedral. After this, I bought a hot dog.
One of the pillars outside of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. That’s one solid piece of rock! A fine Finnish import, if I do say so myself.
That’s a door!
A (relatively futile) attempt to photograph a larger portion of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. I can’t emphasize just how huge the cathedral.
Alex and I in the lobby of St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
The models for the original visions of the St. Isaac Cathedral
The ceiling in one part of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Look at that!
One of the portraits where people place candles and pray. Many people go up to these portraits and kiss the surface.
That’s St. Isaac in the middle. He’s a relatively obscure saint in Russian Orthodoxy, but he shared a birthday with Peter the Great. And now his cathedral is the largest in St. Petersburg.
Jesus Christ is always the central figure in Russian Orthodox churches.
Don’t really know what I was going for here.
Frescos don’t fare too well in humid weather. There was an effort to make mosaics of many of the frescos in the cathedral, but I believe it was never a completed project.
One of the original frescoes in the cathedral.
Average ceiling work. Eh.
A good look at one of the back walls of the cathedral
Just another picture of a ceiling…
Another example of one of the mosaics.
I believe this location is called The Seven Bridges, because you can see seven bridges from this point…This isn’t rocket science people.
The first of the St. Nicholas Cathedrals I visited.
Here you go, dad. I’m in the picture.
Here’s me again. Same cathedral, same Jarett.
The entrance of St. Nicholas Cathedral.
A view of St. Nicholas Cathedral from afar.
The second of the St. Nicholas Cathedrals. The space for prayer inside was much more limited than the first St. Nicholas Cathedral.
And the end of the journey! Time to go home to Helsinki.
(This final part of the post was written on December 14.)
Well, that took too long to put up. I really hate that I didn’t put it up earlier, but I’m glad it’s done now. I’m afraid that some of my trips will be written about after I am back. I don’t know if that defeats the purpose or not, but I’m going to do it anyways! So take that. I have lots of time in airports over the next week, so I’m going to try to do a lot of writing. I still have so much stuff to put up. These last few weeks have been a blast, but they’ve been filled to the brim with something, whether that be travelling or exams…or just trying to catch a breath once in a while. The problem isn’t forcing myself to write, but rather forcing myself to find the time to write. What I’m trying to get at is…just stay tuned, I guess!