Lonely Planet suggests seeing the Russian Museum on the afternoon of Day 4 in St. Petersburg – after you’ve spent the morning at Catherine’s Place in Pushkin.
Are they NUTS?
This huge monster of a drop dead fabulous art museum should never be squeezed into a space on Day 4. It’s right up there with every other top museum I’ve ever seen – glorious art, and amazingly beautiful rooms that in fact once functioned as rooms. And it is huge. The collection is so massive – that there are at least 4 other Palaces used to display bits and pieces, and probably a collection twice the size of what is on view put away in storage.
To say that we found it fascinating would be an understatement. And unlike the Hermitage (aka Winter Palace) – it’s not mobbed. In fact, it’s actually a bit hard to find the entrance. It’s an understated wooden door – quite near the Church of the Spilled Blood. So it was obvious to combine the two on the same day.
We left the hostel after a light breakfast, and walked the short distance to the Church of the Spilled Blood. This church is famous for being built over the exact spot where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, for having over 7000 sq. meters of mosiacs, and for going 1 million ruples (a huge sum at the time) over budget. And it is well worth the visit.
We opted for the audio tour – which not only described the assassination in great detail, it also drew our attention to many of the intricacies of the mosaics that we would have otherwise missed.
Upon existing the church – we were quite literally at the door step of the Russian Museum – our next stop. Inside the museum and directly across from the entrance was a rather lovely cafe where we enjoyed a quick lunch before we braved the intricacies of Russian Art.
Wow – who knew that Russian Art was so amazing. I particularly loved the art from 1900 onwards – as Russia went thru it’s revolutions, wars, and hid behind the iron curtain, its artists were producing amazingly beautiful pieces of art – and who knew? The art from Russia that I saw as a child was what the then Russian government wanted me to see – but it was hardly representative of what was actually happening. Cubism and Surealism had found their way East – and quite the impression they made too.
But there was more – so much more! In addition to wonderful art, there are the rooms of the justifiably impressive Mikhailovsky Palace. We ran short of time – We had originally thought to do an English language boat tour tonight – that’s going to have to wait – but we also have reservations for a Geogian Restaurant – and that’s going to have to happen!
We quick march back to the entrance to the Russian Museum, gather our back-packs – and head out on our way to dinner. We walk past the front of the Palace – ya know, I think that might be the main entrance… – past the Mikhailosky Theatre (we’ll be back) – and to our restaurant of choice – the Aragvi. We’d ventured in the day before to check it out – tiny, cozy, priced ok – and it looked yummy.
We were welcomed graciously – and seated at a lovely table with a view over the canal. Based on my husband’s experience in Russia – I ordered a jug of Geogian Wine – and the very knowledgeable waiter proceeded to explain the menu to us. He recommended two starter dishes – a ‘fried’ chicken in a prune and spice sauce, and a dish described as dough stuffed with cheese.
Not sure about the portion sizes, we opted to have the wine and these 2 starters – and decide on the rest of dinner later.
Great plan! The 2nd dish was a huge huge pizza shaped dough stuffed with delicious cheese. By the time we’d drunk the wine and eaten the 2 starters – we were full! Stuffed even. So we opted to skip the main course and go to dessert. We shared one dessert among the 3 of us – a sampler of Georgian dry pastries that was also excellent.
Rolling out around 10:30 – meals take time in Russia apparently – we walk back home.
Nice dinner, nice day – great company. I’m begining to really like St. Petes.
Signing off – The Soup Lady and her travel buds – MP and IT
This makes me wonder the last time the Lonely Planet book/site was updated. When we did the Route 66 tour, we had the “new, updated!” THIRD EDITION of a guidebook. That was in … what? 2008, and the guidebook was copyright 2006. This is how we spent an hour trying to find a museum of coin-op, pinball and arcade games in St. Louis.
Eventually, we found out that the place had closed down. In 1994.
What I’m saying is maybe the museum was smaller/had less in it before. 🙂
Interesting thought.. but I don’t think so – the description of the Russian Museum in the guide book is very accurate – it’s just the summary page which suggests a ‘normal’ visit to St. Petersburg in 4 days that suggests doing the Russian Museum in a late afternoon.
I think the issue really is that many people just see ‘the highlights’. We’ve watched in amazement as group after group of tourists run from one headliner item to another, missing out on all the treasures they run pass.
If you just see the state rooms in the Museum, and maybe 3 pieces of art – an afternoon visit would work.
If you wanted to actually see the art – listen to descriptions of the various rooms, study the progression of art ideas from one period to another – then you could easily spend several days here. One full day – easy!
But then – I’d argue that spending 4 days in St. Petersburg is never going to be long enough. Even 10 days is cutting it tight.