It was a good time to be there, in that the trees were all changing color. As I walked around I saw various people raking leaves, and smelled a few piles of burning leaves here and there. The scent added something to the day.
The most dramatic structures were windmills, which were usually placed up on hills, but which would have towered over everything else even if they had been on the same level.
I loved the curve of the roof on this house.
And I also loved the dramatic slope of this chapel roof.
Moss grew thickly on almost all of the roofs. Apple trees were casting their apples to the ground, big palely glowing globes shining against the dark leaves. And mushrooms popped up here and there, like these tiny white ones, or a big red capped, white stemmed one I saw later (sadly, after my camera battery had died).
Now I'm back in St. Petersburg, with one week to go. On Friday, one archive was closed, and I had no documents waiting at the other one I sometimes go to. I could have gone to the library, but since it was beautiful and cold out, I decided to do something different. And so, I went here.
That's the Hermitage, seen from under the arch of the Glavnyi Shtab building across the square.
I had a realization--the last time I actually went into the Hermitage was in June 1998, when a friend (hey, RH) came to visit me. It seemed time to rectify that situation.
The thing about the Hermitage is that the museum itself nearly overshadows the art contained within it. The museum is located in a series of buildings. There's the Winter Palace of the tsars itself, which is mostly left as state rooms still in all their imperial opulence and glory. One of them, though, had a special exhibit that was enough to overshadow all that imperial opulence--gems of the Mughal empire. You have never seen so many emeralds and pearls in one place.
But then, even a fair bit of the part that was built to be a museum is intensely ornamented. Like, uh, this.
Or this "loggia," which is so fancy that they don't even bother to put art in to compete with it. The only rooms that are plain are those on the third floor that contain the late 19th early 20th century French art (i.e., room after room of Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, just about all from the collections of two men, Morozov and Shchukin [huh, interesting]) and a strange set of rooms off a passageway on the second floor. They're not marked on the map of the museum. There are no signs pointing you to them. But they, too, contain late 19th and early 20th century mostly French art, in this case art "removed from Germany after the war." Or, "hidden treasures revealed."
The other thing about being in the Hermitage is that even in the plain rooms, the windows can be distracting, because the site of the museum is so amazing.
Look out one side, and you gaze over the giant palace square, with the curve of the General Staff building, and the monument to victory over Napoleon.
Look out the other, and you see the Neva river, and the spire of the Peter Paul fortress.
Even better, stay there long enough and enjoy the brilliant colors of sunset behind the Kazan' cathedral as you walk home.