Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Friday, February 23, 2018 06:11:42 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

Of poets and royal treasures:

Spoils of Russian tsars and Pushkin

The spoils of Russian tsars will take a lifetime to go through and appreciate. But, it's easier to find sustenance in the country's favourite poet, Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

The spoils of Russian tsars will take a lifetime to go through and appreciate. But, it's easier to find sustenance in the country's favourite poet, Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
photo by

Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Preeti Verma Lal :
Remember, no one smiles in Russia. Never smile at the babushkas. Do not smile at all. I had just hopped off the 1,068 ft long, 145,656 tonne Norwegian Getaway cruise liner when Alexsey, our guide, belched instructions. The St Petersburg sky wore a doleful grey and tubby raindrops fell briskly on the bus windowpane. “Wait, did you forget your sunglasses?” Alexsey hooted. Sunglasses on a day so dour? I knitted the brows. “You will need sunglasses to cut the blinding gold-glare at Catherine’s Palace. 100kg of pure gold, cupolas gilded in gold, chairs, tables and picture frames, golden carvings, chandeliers, angel figurines - everything in gold,” he quipped.
As the bus crawled through 800 bridges and 8,000 landmarks of St Petersburg towards the town of Pushkin, fellow tourists turned geeky mathematicians. Price of 100 kg of gold in 1756. Russian ruble. Dollars. Euros. They swiftly added, multiplied, divided to assess how much Catherine I spent on the 325-metre long palace. Tsars do not count cheddar, do they? I wanted to scuttle all mathematics on the bus, but my mind was beeping pentameters. A love poem. “I keep in mind that magic moment, When you appeared before my eyes, Like ghost, like fleeting apparition, Like genius of the purest grace…” Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, Russia’s greatest poet’s most famous poem. It was not a random thought - I was in the town named after Pushkin. And he was there. Sitting lazily on a bench near Catherine's Palace with yellow oak leaves gathered at his feet in tribute.
I walked past his statue to the Palace, so huge that I squinted my eyes to fit its 325-long belly into one frame - its azure and white stucco facade, the onion cupolas of the chapel and its thousands of statues. I squinted again to decipher why Empress Catherine the Great described it as ‘whipped cream’ architecture. Cream, no. It was unending gold in the rooms where once queens in velvet and kings in breeches waltzed, played cards, dined on pirozhki, vatrushka, chebureki, frikadeller and snoozed under bright chandeliers and painted walls.Catherine's Palace is so ornate that it can even tempt a hermit. But nothing is more alluring than the Amber Room, a wall panelled with precious amber currently valued at roughly 400 million dollars. The amber dazzles the eye, its ostentation a reminder of the extravagance of the Russian tsars which the Germans burnt and vandalised during World War II.
Afterwards, I drove past Tikhvin Cemetery in Alexander Nevsky Monastery, where writer Fyodor Dostoyvesky and composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky are buried. On the streets, I could hear the footsteps of Vladimir Nobokov (the creator of Lolita) who lived in St Petersburg until the age 18, and of Alexander Blok, the poet who wrote the lyrical The Twelve.
I wanted to walk to Nikolai Gogol's house, but the master was waiting in The Hermitage, perhaps the world's largest museum with three million artifacts (the numismatic collection accounts for one-third of them) displayed in nearly 400 rooms spread over three floors of six interlinked historic buildings. The Hermitage houses the former imperial collection of the tsars, which began some 300 years ago when Peter the Great started acquiring pictures and artefacts; the collection was later hugely augmented in the late 18th century by Catherine the Great.
I stood in front of van Gogh's White House at Night, an oil on canvas painting created on June 16, 1890, barely six weeks before his death. The Hermitage describes it as an expression of the “great psychological tension under which van Gogh found himself…” I looked at the red roof and bright star and tried to gauge Gogh’s anguish. I had to forego Rembrandt’s depiction of forgiveness in his 1669 painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. I had no time. If I stared at each of the three million artefacts in The Hermitage for only 30 seconds each, it would take eight years. I had to return to the ship to sail to Helsinki.
As Pushkin said: “As the years are fleeting, And however many there seem to be, We must all go under the eternal vault…” Not the eternal vault. Not yet. Just the blue of the sea. And Pushkin.

Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Front Page »

Amnesty accuses President Trump of HR violations

Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Donald Trump of "hateful" politics and of being a threat to human rights. "President Trump takes actions that violate human rights at home and abroad," the group said. Amnesty put Mr Trump in the same group as the leaders of Egypt, Russia, China, ...

Editorial »

Serving people not making money must be the motto

PHYSICIANS must provide treatment, President Abdul Hamid said to common people at affordable cost so that no one remained deprived of receiving treatment for lack of money. He made the call while addressing the third convocation of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in the city on Monday. He has also ...

Sports »

Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic celebrates after she beats Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

Entertainment »

Alicia Vikander loves `big adventure films`

Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander said she loves "independent and arthouse" cinema, but is also attracted towards the big adventure films.The actress, who will be soon seen as Lara Croft in the forthcoming film 'Tomb Raider', also shared that she found training and muscle-building exercise for the role, empowering. "My mother, ...

International »

Merkel calls for Europe to step up to global challenges

Reuters, Berlin  :The European Union must develop a response to growing global political and economic pressures and this will be the spirit of an EU summit this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.Merkel pointed to the crisis in Syria and the growing importance of Asian economies as needing ...

City »


Editorial »

Ekushey tells us to be free and fearless against injustice

THE Nation celebrates 'Amar Ekushey' today with due solemnity and colourful festivities to remember the Martyrs of the 1952 Language Movement. It is a landmark occasion and a day of awakening in the history of Bengali people that gave us the clear realization that we have our own language and ...

Cricket »

Captain of Bangladesh National Cricket (ODI) team Mashrafe Bin Mortaza handing over a crest of honour to Hafiz Yasin Arafat at the Bashundhara International Convention Centre in the city recently. Yasin Arafat became Hafiz-e-Quran in 86 days. He was a student of Tanjimul Ummah Hifz Madrasah of Cox's Bazar. Ahlul Huffaz Foundation Bangladesh arranged the reception programme.

Sports »

Medalists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating (from left) : Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, of France (silver), Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada (gold) and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States (bronze) pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Tuesday.

International »

Trump backs improved background checks on gun buys

US President Donald Trump signaled support Monday for improving background gun checks amid mounting pressure for reform in the wake of the Florida school shooting, as the accused gunman appeared in court.Nikolas Cruz, charged with killing 17 people, sat silently with his head bowed during a procedural hearing in Fort ...

International »

Nepal wants to deepen ties with China: K P Oli

PTI, Kathmandu : Nepal's new Prime Minister K P Oli has said he wants to deepen ties with China to explore more options and get more leverage in his dealings with India "in keeping with the times". Mr Oli, widely regarded as pro-China, also said he wants to "update" relations with ...

Business & Economy »

M Fakhrul Alam, Managing Director of ONE Bank Limited and Rezaul Islam, General Manager of Bangladesh Bank sign a participatory agreement regarding use of JICA assisted Foreign Direct Investment Promotion Project fund recently. Governor Fazle Kabir, Deputy Governor Abu Hena Moh. Razi Hasan, Executive Director Ahmed Jamal of Bangladesh Bank, chief representatives of JICA Bangladesh office Takatoshi Nishikata and among other were also present on the occasion.

Entertainment »

Inspired by the journey of Deepika and Anushka: Nidhhi Agerwal

Nidhhi Agerwal who hails from Bangalore and is living independently in Mumbai currently believes Deepika and Anushka's journey to the top has inspired her a lot. Just like the other two Bollywood divas, Nidhhi also went through her part of the struggle to make it to Bollywood. The young actress ...

City »

Law enforcers intercepted women leaders and activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal when they were going to visit BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia with fruits at Old Dhaka Central Jail on Tuesday.

Sports »

Medalists in the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start biathlon (from right) Belarus' Darya Domracheva (silver), Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina (gold) and Norway's Tiril Eckhoff (bronze) pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Sunday.

Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Write a comment to this news