Friday, August 19, 2016

The last days in St. Petersburg

6/13/10 (continued)

After viewing the Yusupov Palace, Marilee, another person in the group, and I took a taxi to the Dostoyevsky Museum. She had talked about wanting to do it, and I told her I would go with her if she could arrange it. Her trip leader, Evgeni, made the taxi arrangements for us.
Placard on the outside of the very simple
row-house where Dostoyevsky lived

That, too, was very interesting. It was a suite of rooms that Dostoyevsky had lived in after he had already become famous, and in which he wrote Brothers Karamazov. The rooms were quite a contrast to the Yusupov Palace, as well as go the other palaces and churches we have seen. It offered a striking example of the great economic difference between a well-known, successful, middle-class writer and the nobility—or the clergy, for that matter, although we didn’t see any of their homes on this trip. I believe that many of the clergy were younger sons of noble families, and no doubt familiar with the opulent lifestyle.
Family room, Dostoyevsky's home in St. Petersburg

There was also a set of two rooms that offered a museum-style overview of his life and times. I learned many things about Dostoyevsky that I didn’t know before. He was the son of a physician in a hospital for the indigent. He was married twice, and his second wife was enormously helpful to him in his writing. He gained national attention after a stirring eulogy to Pushkin. And he traveled a great deal, to all the major countries and many of the major cities of Europe.
Dostoyevsky's writing desk

That evening, many of us went to a ballet in the Hermitage, in a small, exquisite theater that had been commissioned by Catherine II, that retained its pillars and most of the original woodwork. The ballet was Swan Lake, music by Tchaikovsky, and the choreography followed that of the original presentation. Apparently the ending was changed to appease Russian sentiment. It was quite lovely. I believe that was the first time I had seen Swan Lake from beginning to end, although I’ve seen parts of it on several occasions. The conductor of the orchestra (a lot of instruments crammed into a small pit below the front of the stage) reminded me of Arnold—his body shape, his face shape, the glasses. Arnold always wanted to conduct the music we played on the phonograph.
The palace at Tsarskoe Selo, seen through gilded gates

The final day in St. Petersburg, we visited Tsarskoe Selo (the tsar’s village) in the town of Pushkin, in which the main attraction is a huge palace begun by Elisabeth I and modified and finished by Catherine II (“The Great”). It was absolutely over-the-top opulent, with room after room covered with mirrors and gold leaf, and hung with elaborate chandeliers, and fitted with wood-inlay flooring: reception halls, and dancing halls, and music rooms, and on and on. Elisabeth began the palace in baroque style; Catherine modified it in neoclassical style.
Mannequin of Catherine the Great in a gilded room

On the grounds of Tsarskoe Selo

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