Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Anybody who happened to catch the innovative, jaw-dropping opus that was 2002 film Russian Ark will attest to the magnificence of St. Petersburg's spectacular Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace, ancestral compound of the Romanov dynasty and Peter the Great's historical residence houses a spectacular collection of paintings, sculpture and artifacts plus an eye-popping array of interiors exquisite enough to put any royal family to shame.

The Hermitage takes a solid seven hours to waltz through - and it pays to prioritise certain wings of the extensive complex as theres no way to get the full monty in one day. Initially we wandered gingerly through the opulent rooms, each one more awesome than the last, until we were almost yawning - desensitised to the overwhelming razzamattazz of it all. Richly gilded ornamentation, delicate plaster detailing, luxurious drapery and spectacular chandeliers created a visual cacophony, a veritable Wonka factory for the interior aesthetics nerd. It felt impossible not to let our imaginations get carried away within these incredible spaces and get a sense of meaning behind the eventual revolt against such a decadent monarchy.

With a collection spanning over three millions works, we a beat a retreat for the Russian and western European art sections after ogling those magnificent interiors. Featuring works from the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, the exhibits were extensive...though I suspected the creme of the Western European crop had already been snapped up by the French and Italian national galleries.

The Hermitage felt more like an overall experience, than a museum and its rich combination of royal history, architecture, interiors and art enabled a real insight into the very heart the Eastern European cultural landscape. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012


No I don't mean thick set, intimidating, bald Soviet men, I'm referring of course to the Russian capital's skyline, many of it's finest churches decorated with iconic onion domes of all styles. Predominantly shimmering gold or often tiled (below), domes also appear painted in striking matt green and blue colours. Moscow's churches create a dramatic aesthetic, your eye inevitably drawn towards towards God as you squint blindly, muttering about crow's feet as you try to absorb the curvaceous harmony of a dome's structure.

Often the thick-walled church interiors proved to be small and austere in design, far outweighed by the immense scale of the exterior domes. St. Basil's (below) was an exception according to my travelling amigo, who returned awe-inspired after viewing the interior while I haggled again with crazy old poster man back at Izmailovsky market to replace our lost wares. These beautiful orthodox buildings were often tucked away in tiny Muscovite alleyways, their vibrant pastel colour schemes appearing oasis-like amidst chaotic modern scaffolding - only after we had taken several bum steers and almost given up hope of ever deciphering the local street signs.

The dome shape is said to resemble a burning candle, its religious symbolism obvious, though there are many theories as to the significance, if any of the design. The onion dome is synonymous of course with traditional Russian architecture and the aesthetic charm of many of Moscow's finest certainly put the dour interiors of a lot of poor old (and now bankrupt) England's churches in the shade.    

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Bonjour mes amies, tis your humble correspondent back from the dead...arrrggghh just want to put Russia to bed now since this one's been a long time coming...have been otherwise engaged with all manner of psychodrama...will roll out the domes domes domes imminently but first heres my fave piece from the Hermitage...this delectable lady in black (apologies for the dreaded reflection) :)