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On the Kosherica cruise to the Baltic I noticed that there is a very unusually long stay over - almost two whole days, in which the ship docks at the port of one of my personal favorite cities in Russia.  I happened to fall in love with because in the early 2000's I repeatedly played the role of Anastasia, and the Winter Palace was mentioned as the Tsar Nikolai's favorite place, where his youngest daughter's best memories were from. ?
Having visited, I was blown away by the Hermitage, one of Europe's largest museums with its treasury of art and beauty. The works in there, many of which were collected zealously by Peter the great who began the collection during his travels abroad and continued by Catherine The Great, who, with her successors expanded the collection.  She bought works from private collectors of the Western European aristocracy and monarchy. With the exception of the Louvre, no museum in the world rivals the Hermitage, both in size and the quality of the art displayed. It is estimated that the collection is so vast, it would take years to view it in full, at last count numbering over 3 million works. By the time Nikolai II ascended to the throne in 1894, he inherited the largest and greatest collection of art in Europe.
After the revolution in 1917, the museum opened to the public, and the collection was further expanded by additions from private collections.  The museum houses a strong collection of Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, with a large presence of Picasso and Matisse. There is a?Min boggling collection of works by Rembrandt, many of which have Jewish or Biblical themes. The exquisite 'Jewish Bride' is one of those, stunningly displaying the shadows and light The Master used to create an atmosphere of mystical beauty. The antiquities of Ancient Greek and Roman art, compounded with exhibits of Siberian and Central Asian art at it's best, makes the place somewhat overwhelming for one visit. Unless there is enough time for the visitor, I would advise a bit of preparation, before coming to the museum.
The content of the the collection and the artists involved can be found here easily and it would be wise to prepare a list of works one is especially interested in seeing.  The array of works will appeal to appreciators of art, including children and history buffs, since it hosts exquisite treasures from Paleolithic to the most contemporary.  Detailed information about each piece is given, with the histories of the civilizations that created them.  The website will detail the categories of artifacts, beginning with prehistoric art and running the gamut of masterpieces up to the present time.
It seems that these days the Hermitage is undergoing a major renovation, with some of the pieces being made available for traveling exhibits for the first time in history.  The reorganization will mention if your preference is presently on display or is decorating the walls of a foreign museum temporarily.
One more thing to mention is the Winter Palace which houses the Hermitage, is the most famous building of imperial st Petersburg. It was built in 1762 under the helm of architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli and commissioned by Empress Elizabeth.  It has a baroque facade, two hundred meters long, and is fed orated with bays, pilasters and statuary.  It's a stunning building, with enough interesting features, (like the Malachite room, commissioned by Alexandra, the last Tsarina, and later used as the meeting place for Kerensky's provisional government) to suffice for any lover of architecture and history.
Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.
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