Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Walking Around St. Petersburg

We left the Hermitage in the mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon and evening walking around the city.  We found:

Ten hunky, semi-naked giant men:

A warning sign with an expressive face:

A street artist on a canal:

A souvenir market in an excellent setting:

A man playing a saw:

A Seurat-like park scene:

An ominous owl:

A church for St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors:

A slow sunset around midnight:

And a wedding party releasing balloons on a bridge:

including a heart-shaped paper lantern:

Ah, St. Petersburg!  So romantically picturesque, even when soon-to-be giant flaming debris is about to fall mid-traffic.

Dinner at Elki Palki

During our tour Monday Boris pointed out this restaurant off Nevsky Prospect as "a good place to get traditional Russian food,", so we headed here for dinner post-shopping.

I saw they had Fanta on the menu and while I don't touch the stuff in the States, I find that the European version's flavor and bubbles are much to my liking.  When the waitress came to take our order, I asked for "Fanta limon."

"Limon?" she asked, skeptically.

"Da, limon," I replied.  The menu hadn't listed flavor options, so I wasn't sure if her question was because they didn't offer that variety or because she didn't understand my pseudo-Russian.  She moved on to Dad's order though ("Kvass!"), so I assumed all was fine and patted myself on the back for my communication skills.

...Until she brought the drinks.  A Pepsi Light for Mom, a Kvass for Dad, and this for me:


I flagged her down when she brought the appetizers and tried again, this time with greater success:

It tasted American.

Dad, meanwhile, enjoyed his Kvass, posing with an appropriate face:

On to the food pictures!

Various Pirogi (bread filled with meat, cabbage, or mushroom)
This one was mushroom

Meat Jell-O with horseradish and mustard.
Mom and Dad liked it.
I prefer my meat less jiggly.
My main course - a meat and potato stew cooked in a clay pot with bread on top

Dumplings with Sour Cream

Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream

This was the best dessert we ate - a cake with layers of carmel, chocolate, and peanut butter mousse.

Carrot Cake

The Hermitage - Art

Since it is an art museum, I should probably point out some of the art.  Here are my favorite finds:

We headed for the Greek section first and found this mosaic:

made of really tiny tiles:

(with Dad's finger for scale)

Another great mosaic

Even zoomed in, you can barely make out the tiles!

Nearby was a room of friezes from a Greek theater.  They were dramatically lit against a dark red backdrop, which just made them all the better.

Mental note:  Bring pet griffin and his pet owl to next play
(The edges are not as bumpy as they appear here -
I shot this one as a walking panoramic, and those bumps mark my disruptive steps)

Mental note #2:  Always feed eagles naked.
(Jenn, do you concur?)

I've never seen a Greek frieze with a faux door before!

Creepy Man Baby scaring his friends with a theater mask

This mosaic floor is in the glitzy gold Baroque room I showed you before.
I like the 3D effect on the Greek key border and the expression on the sea creature's face.

This cabinet might not seem too remarkable until you realize that those aren't paintings on the front:

They're pictures made from inlaid stones!
Can you guess what this is?

It's an engraving copier!

As always, though, my favorite pieces are the marble sculptures.

Giant Zeus

Psyche (note her butterfly-like wings rather than your typical angel fare)

Cupid and Psyche
Not quite as good as my favorite one (at the Louvre), but still lovely

Hades kidnapping Persephone
Made from ivory and wood, this piece is only about the height of my forearm.

Who doesn't want a pair of sphinxes modeled after yourself to flank your fireplace?

One of the most famous pieces in their collection is their statue of Voltaire.  What I didn't realize is that the Hermitage has three Voltaires by two different artists.  They're all in the same room and were done at different times in his life,  so it was interesting to compare them and see him age in marble:

#1 by Marie-Ann Collot
#2 by Jean-Antoine Houdon

#3, also by Houdon

#2 is the most famous of the bunch, and I admired Houdon's ability to show a sense of humor in the face as well as the detail he could render in stone:

However, my favorite piece of the day was this one:

It didn't seem like much at first - another statue of a pretty girl. I noticed that she seemed to be covering flowers with her robe which seemed a bit strange.  Is she Persephone?  I checked out the placard to see if it offered any insight:

Artist: Falconet
Title: Winter

It's Winter!  Oh, that's wonderful.  Now I really liked the piece.  What made me love it was discovering this behind her:

It's a bowl of water that has frozen and cracked.  How fantastic is that?  Not to mention the ice detail on her throne.

I love finding new pieces to love each time I go to a good museum.  It's so satisfying!

Plus, Bonus Knowledge:  Falconet was a French Rococo sculpture whose patron was Madame de Pompadour (who we care about because she's the Girl in the Fireplace).  He was invited to St. Petersburg by Catherine the Great, where he sculpted the large Bronze Horseman monument to Peter the Great.  And, to top it all off, his pupil/step-daughter was Marie-Ann Collot - the woman who sculpted Voltaire #1 as seen above.

Coincidence?  You decide!