Friday, 10 April 2009

Storming the Winter Palace...

Playing the tourist again today, I finally made my way to the Winter Palace. The scope of the place is huge, somewhere you could quickly lose days in if you're at all interested in having what feels like almost intimate access with a wealth of artistic works and cultural heritage.

Maybe it was the time of year to be there - I've heard summer can see queues stretching into the palace square - or that I was exploring solo again, still the mere fact that I felt free to move from room to room, photograph freely* and find the setting as much a treat for the senses as the works themselves, meant this was a unique gallery experience for me.

The first surprise was to find entrance free for students! I must emphasise to anyone coming to the city with identification even vaguely approaching a student card, start using it. Show it on entry, try a few words of Russian indicating you're a student and you'll potentially save a surprising amount of money during your stay. At various tourist stops around the city and even a quick trip to Subway for food I've been pleasantly surprised at the reward this simple act has produced.

Back to the tour and my focus for the few hours I had to see all the treasures of the palace - and more specifically the attached Hermitage galleries - was concentrated on viewing its collection of Italian Renaissance works. Making good use of my 'Rough Guide' travel book I managed to remain roughly on track, though the place really is a maze. Plan ahead, choose what you want to see and give yourself plenty of time. I'm sure I'll be back at some point next week to do the place more justice...

*PHOTO PASS: One element of Russian tourism that seems to be a potential money-spinner with foreign visitors is the need to buy permits to photograph in many museums and galleries around the city. My experiences inside the Winter Palace suggest this is not a stringently monitored system once inside and there seems little point in paying the fee. That said this was in a quiet period of the season and I'd hate to think I was responsible for a wave of tourists having confiscated camera equipment come the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Malc,
    Love the posts. Just to let you know there are a few of us here in a very wet Grimsby following your journey. It is not that easy for us old 'uns to work out how to post a comment. I hope we will be seeing some of the photos of the Winter Palace. Do the Russians celebrate Easter with Fabergie Eggs? Happy Easter from all at Grimsby.