This entry, Part Two of Two, is after my visit to the Hermitage, a world-class art museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
After walking around the heart of St. Petersburg, I felt bad for a former imperial city that was being trounced on by people that weren’t meant for it. My perspective changed greatly after going to the Hermitage.
The State Hermitage is a massive museum that was started as Catherine the Great’s art collection. It’s along the lines of the Louvre and the Vatican Museums. Pieces from all over the world, from pretty much any era.
But the artwork is only part of the experience. The art is displayed within massive palaces. And the walls of the castle and the architecture therein are just as much works of art as what is tacked up.
All of it came into perspective. My feelings from before about feeling bad for the city went away and became disgust. I have a personal antipathy to excess. And that’s what The Hermitage is. Excess within excess. The city quickly became loathsome to me.
My first impression of the city was that it was entitled to respect and admiration. The Hermitage made me see the stuck-up nature of all of this. The empress looking down at the little people.
Everything became instantly clear: of course this city isn’t for its current residents. It’s a royal city and there isn’t any royalty left. But beyond that, the history of the Russian Revolution became clear, too. You have a group of people that lives as grand a life as possible while the masses live outside of this world, with no power of their own.
The center of St. Petersburg is a town of ghosts. The royalty gave way to the communists, the communists gave way to by-name democrats. And unless a czar comes back to Russia, St. Petersburg will never find anyone worthy enough to inhabit it. So feel free to go and gawk, but just know, none of this was meant for you.
All pictures taken by Roni Weiss and available at flickr.com/roniweiss.
Part One, “I Pity St. Petersburg”, can be found here.