The Hermitage: doubtlessly the cherry on the top of the sundae that is St Petersburg, cultural and canal capital of Russia. The Winter Palace, as it is also known, attracts millions of visitors a year, and is one of the world’s largest museums; it’s said that it would take a person twenty years to get round the whole thing.
Sure, it’s pretty good.
The Summer Palace is located in the Summer Gardens, a stone’s throw from the morbidly-named but surprisingly jolly Church on Spilled Blood. Legend says that Great Peter, father of Petersburg, built the palace with his bare hands, once again teaching us that he was as rugged as they come. The architecture is Dutch, the furnishings are French, but you couldn’t find anything more emblematically Russian.
I’ve been in Petersburg since February, and although Spring has technically started, clearly no one’s told the weather. It’s still snowing and every time the temperature reaches the dizzy heights of 0°C, I celebrate by prancing around the city without a hat and wearing only one pair of trousers.
For that reason, I still basically think Russia’s gripped in winter’s icy fist, and I’ve been doggedly visiting the appropriate palace accordingly. Every week for the last couple of months, I’ve stuck my nose outside, sniffed the air, and once I’m confident that, yeah, it’s still pretty much winter here, skipped off to the Winter Palace to soak up some culture.
I can hardly wait for the snow to melt: I don’t know where the Spring Palace is, or even what’s inside it, but the buildup has been so intense that I’m pretty sure it must be the best thing ever.
Sadly, on questioning my Russian friends about this magical place, I’ve been met with nothing but bemusement. “The Spring Palace?” They say. “Don’t you mean the Summer or Winter Palace?”
It’s a sad fact of the Russian climate that the Spring and indeed Autumn Palaces are so neglected.
For now, I sit by the window, watching the snow stubbornly falling, and dream about a new seasonal palace.