"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
I’ve been chatting back and forth in Russian with a coworker who speaks a little bit so Russia has been on my mind lately. And recently I came across photos of my first ever trip overseas, my senior high school trip to Russia and Sweden with my school’s foreign language club. We toured so many places in a short expanse of time: the Kremlin, Red Square, the Summer Palace, and one of my favorite spots – the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
Being a naive 17 year old, I first thought from the name that The Hermitage was just that, a hermit’s retreat. Not so! The Hermitage is comparable to the Louvre in vastness and quality of displays. It could easily take 5 days to see all the displays in the museum and it spans 6 buildings, including the Winter Palace once used by Russia’s tsars. Catherine the Great founded the Hermitage in 1764.
I remember walking up to the entrance and there was a huge crowd formed in the courtyard. We asked what was going on and learned that people had gathered for a graduation ceremony of Navy cadets. There was music and marching and so much to see. But time was short we had only day to explore this massive museum, so off we went.
A sense of sheer overwhelm swept over me when we entered the Hermitage. I might as well hope to climb Everest as see everything the museum had to offer. Even the ceilings of each room captured my attention with ornate murals highlighted in gold, chandeliers the size of a car, detailed depictions of epic battles and Biblical stories. I couldn’t keep pace with all, let alone focus on the displays of Egyptian antiquities, Greek artifacts, fabulous jewels, and art by the likes of da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and El Greco, to name just a few.
There was a Knight Room with full suits of armor astride taxidermied and authentically saddled destriers. There were rooms with Baroque art, Modern art, Russian art, Impressionist art (my favorite!), and so much more. It was too much to take in, a deluge of the senses. I could barely wrap my mind around standing in a place what these artifacts, these paintings were just out of arm’s reach. History at my feet! Knights in hulking suits of armor were a reality, I could look on the expression of The Madonna and see what da Vinci had strived to project in her features, and imagine Russian tsars and tsarinas passing by in the glittering carriages.