Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bigger is Better

Day 496
I was up early and was pretty tired, but the show must go on so I showered and ate before heading out.The Hermitage is one of the largest museums in the world. The Smithsonian in Washington is the biggest even though it is really several different museums it's considered to all be one collection. So maybe the Hermitage this largest under one roof? I was told by a history professor in college that if you took 3 seconds to look at each item in the collection that it would take you 100 years to see it all. There was a sign at the beginning with the number of pieces the museum held. I did the math and it would actually take about 54 days. As you can imagine is one of the big to do's here.

I got in line just after 9 am, the museum opened at 10:30. I had a book to pass the time but it was really cold so it seemed to take forever. Inside of the museum I was only about 10 people back but it took forever. Every ticket seemed to require a lengthy conversation. The man behind me kept pushing me too, as if that would make things move faster! Behind me someone was asking why it was taking so long, I replied that it was rocket science. But really, why so slow? I showed my fake ISIC card and had a free ticket in minutes. I didn't by a photo pass, but decided to just see if anyone stopped me. Once in the doors I picked up a map and sat down with some tea to figure out my plan of attack. There were 400 rooms to see and I would need to highlight as I went to make sure that I didn't miss anything.

I took my first picture at ten minutes to 11, I had 7 hours to get this thing done in. Catherine the Great layed the foundation for the museum when she acquired a very large number of European paintings in 1764. The museum itself opened in 1952. The building is a former palace.

I started with the Egyptian area and then moved into sculptures. Once upstairs I got into the best part, the European art. The place was packed and there were a lot of tours, really annoying tours. Sometimes it was almost impossible to even get through the smallish rooms. I don't know if it was the high quality of the paintings or the sheer number the made the place so overwhelming, maybe it was both. I took well over 200 pictures. All the masters were there, Michelangelo, Renoir, Moet, Rubens, Picasso, Van Gogh, the list goes on on. Even the staircases were lined with delicate marble sculptures. Some rooms were a bit boring with just tableware and vases, I passed quickly through those. Others captivated me for some time. I was disappointed to find that a large number of rooms were closed. I don't know why. Some of the rooms were decorated as they would have been when the palace was used as a home.

Around 2pm I finished the second floor and took a half hour lunch break. The internet here was cheaper than anywhere I had been before so I passed my time checking my email.

After lunch I went to the 3rd floor for the 20th century art. Then came world art, Japanese, SE Asian and Islamic. I had seen most of it recently so it wasn't overly fascinating. Most of the rooms were closed anyway. The second half of the first floor was also closed. It was a bit hard to get to this section and it was empty so I think that most people didn't even bother. Finally some peace. This section was on early man and archeology from the Caucuses.

At this point I had been in the museum for 5 hours. I was footsore and exhausted. I was almost happy that about 80 of the rooms had been closed. It would have taken me another hour and a half to see them and I don't think that I had it in me. The Hermitage was amazing. I can't believe that I got to see it. It was worth the wait and fighting the crowds.

After some dinner I spent some time online organizing my pictures and chatting to friends. Back at the hostel I had a few drinks with the other people hanging around, but I was pretty tired so I called it an early night.

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