As the Olympics were aired on television last month, I got to enjoy perhaps my favorite part of the games. Not the competition or the incredible athletics but the cultural pieces that the networks air. NBC aired pieces about Russian nesting dolls and about the wonderful friendship between American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut. But while we watched the activities in Sochi, I couldn’t help thinking about St. Petersburg and especially the State Hermitage Museum.
The State Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. In 1765, Catherine the Great founded the museum but it wasn’t opened to the public until 1852. It has over three thousand items in its archives but only a fraction are actually on display at any given time. The museum also houses the largest collection of paintings in the world! The Hermitage is housed in several buildings. One of those buildings, the Winter Palace has such spectacular architecture and detailing that there’s as much to admire on display as there is around you. There are museums that you can get lost in and there are museums you can really get lost in and the State Hermitage Museum is certainly in the latter.
One of the things I did learn during the Olympic coverage is that the basement of the Hermitage is full of cats! Countless cats rescued from the streets patrol the depths of the museum to ensure that the buildings are rodent-free.
If you’re in the same boat as me, a trip to Russia isn’t really in the near future. But, thanks to technology you can explore the museum’s large collection. The museum’s website allows for virtual viewings and, of course, there’s an app for that. If, of course, you are planning a trip then Wikivoyage has some smart tips for seeing the museum.
The State Hermitage Museum
2, Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Dvortsovaya Square)
St. Petersburg, Russia