Dreams must come to an end. And now travel requires long, cold distances.
Day 152: The train leaves Cottbus at 11.20am and arrives in Krakow 7.52pm – according to the train schedules which are always on time in Germany. That way I can check into the best hotel in the center of Old Town: Hotel Wentzl.
Day 153: Not so long ago, the idea of going to Poland on holiday seemed quite alien. That was before Kraków‘s historic center – covering the Old Town and Wawel – was entered on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1978 and the Communist Government collapsed in 1989. Old Town (Stare Miasto) is bounded by a ring of parkland, known as the Planty, that used to be the city walls and moat. The Wawel is the long-fortified hill and castle at the southern end overlooks the River Vistula. In the center is the Rynek Glowny (the Main Marketplace) from which all the main streets radiate – and where the hotel is located.
This reason for being here is the Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie (National Museum of Krakow). Although looted by German soldiers after WWII, with more than 1,000 artifacts still missing, the usual home to Lavinia Fontana’s portrait of Judith is the part of the museum known as The Princes Czartoryski Museum (8 minute walk across Old Town). Also to Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine (aka Mona Lisa of Poland). But this section appears to be closed for renovation, so I will have to investigate where these two ladies are hanging out in the meantime. Might mean a 16 minute walk the other way to the main building.
Mon – closed; Tues-Sat: 10 am – 6 pm; Sun: 10 am – 4 pm
Day 154: To get to my next destination requires a plane to Warsaw and then on to Moscow. An almost 4 hour flight on Aeroflot, departing about 10 am and arriving at 4:40 pm Moscow time (with the time change). That gives me a couple of hours to find the Ritz-Carlton – and I will probably need the time. This city is HUGE – over 12 million people – and almost no one speaks English that I can understand. Probably should hire a limo in advance.
Day 155: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts is only a 10 minute walk – or I could take 10 minutes to figure out the metro. I am here in search of the Judith by Franz Xaver Palko. Along side top works by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Dufrénoy and Matisse – including the only Van Gogh painting sold in his lifetime, Le Vigne Rouge. Also noteworthy is Troy’s gold – first looted from Troy by Heinrich Schliemann and then looted from Berlin’s Pergamon Museum by the Soviet Army.
Mon – closed; Tues-Sun: 10 am – 7 pm
Once I have left the museum, on the “needs to be seen” list: Red Square – with the Lenin Mausoleum and St Basil Cathedral. Better use public transit Metro: Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii.
Day 156: I have come this far, so it seems a shame to scurry off. Might as well visit The Kremlin – with the Diamond collection in the Armory and several stunning churches that can be viewed from the gardens (Metro for tourist entrances: Biblioteka im. V.I.Lenina, Alexandrovskii Sad, Arbatskaya). And how could I leave without seeing the Bolshoi Theatre (Metro: Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii). It was also suggested that simply touring some of the Metro stations is simple and cheap and full of eye-popping architecture (Komsomolskaya, Novoslobodskaya and Kievskaya on the ring line, Kropotkinskaya on the red line, Kievskaya, Arbatskaya and Ploschad’ Revolyutsii on deep blue line, Mayakovskaya on the green line).
Day 157: To be thorough in my search for Judith, I need to take a detour to Tambov – which takes an hour by air. That is a lot of effort for one painting but (sigh) I am dedicated. The painting I am seeking is Judith by Antonio Zanchi, located in the Tambov Regional Art Gallery (*). Admittedly, the gallery contains only students of Italian masters – but does exhibit masterpieces of the Northern Renaissance (Flemish, Dutch and Netherlands) with some names I recognize. And a lot of Russian names I don’t.
Tues – closed; Wed-Mon: 10 am – 6 pm
Then back to the airport, an hour back to Moscow and 1.5 hours to St. Petersburg. I think I can make it to Pushka Inn the Moika Embankment before bedtime.
Day 158: It used to be Leningrad, now it is back to St. Petersburg – but this has remained one of the loveliest cities in Europe. There are three places in the city that have Judith depicted in art, and I plan to start with the two that are easiest to maneuver for the starting day. First stop: The Russian Museum (Metro: Nevsky Prospekt). What a treat, because here is where they keep the set design by Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov for the opera Judith. Which means they probably have other set designs and costume designs – and I will be in Russian theater heaven.
Tues – closed; Wed-Sun: 10 am – 5 pm; Mon, day before holiday: 10 am – 4 pm
Second stop: National Library of Russia. Around the corner, a 10 minute walk from the museum. I am not sure how this works, but I am looking for a book – Book of Hours of Louis de Laval by Jean Colombe – with illumination that portrays the story of Judith. If I promise I won’t eat chocolate or drink Orange Crush or nosh on greasy fries while reading, do you think they will let me check it out overnight?
Manuscripts – Mon,Wed,Fri: 1pm – 9pm; Tues,Thurs: 9am – 9pm; Sat-Sun: 11am – 7pm
Prints – Mon,Wed,Fri: 1pm – 9pm; Tues,Thurs: 9am – 9pm; Sat: 11am – 7pm; Sun – closed
Rare Books – Mon-Fri: 9am – 5pm; Sat-Sun – closed
Day 159: The day starts with either a 25 minute walk or taking Bus 46 from the Summer Gardens to Palace Square, depending on the weather and my mood. I was saving my energy for today – the day I enter the State Hermitage Museum. Because it is IMMENSE. The Hermitage contains 3 million works of art and artifacts of world culture, spread over six historic buildings – the largest collection of paintings in the world. Four buildings are opened: the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage. The first floor rooms of the Old Hermitage feature works of Italian Renaissance artists, including Titian, Veronese, as well as Benois Madonna and Madonna Litta attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The Italian master that brings me here is Giorgione and his lovely Judith – arrayed in pink with her foot on Holofernes’ severed head.
No matter when I arrive, there will never be enough time to see a fraction of what is here. On a weekday, the museum is only open for 7 hours! For 11 galleries?? It will take me weeks just to figure out what I want to see and where it is.
Mon – closed; Tues-Sat: 10.30 am – 6 pm; Sundays: 10.30 am – 5 pm
Suddenly, I am feeling homesick.
Day 160: To Stockholm, a ferry is too slow and a train is too long, so once again I am boarding a plane for a 1 and 1/2 hour flight. To land in a city that spans 14 islands on the south-central east coast of Sweden – sometimes referred to as Venice of the North. Once I land, I will need the Arlanda Express Train, which leaves from the lower level of each terminal (Arlanda South/Södra and Arlanda North/Norra), and gets me to the Central Station in 20 minutes. My respite: Hotel Skeppsholmen is just Bus 65 across a bridge on a small island.
Back over the bridge by a 10 minute stroll on Svensksundsvägen, the Nationalmuseum (Nationalmuseet) is my destination in order to view two Judith’s (i hope): one by Grammatica and another by Cavallino. The museum also has unique collections of the Peredvizhniki group (Russian realists under the Tsarist regime) and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I also have a penchant for Carl Larsson, native son of Stockholm, whose watercolors of family life are enchanting.
Mon – closed; Tues,Thurs 11 am – 8 pm; Wed, Fri-Sun 11 am – 5 pm
Day 161: I need a relaxing day before I hurtle myself towards home. Trying to stop myself from missing something as my homesickness compels me forward. The perfect antidote: Under the bridges of Stockholm cruise for 2 hours, departing from Strömkajen opposite the Royal Castle (T Kungsträdgården). This tour on both the sea and on lake Mälaren passes under 15 bridges and through two locks. That then gives me reason to walk through Gamla Stan (the old town) and visit the the biggest castle in world that is still in use by a king, Karl XVI, before returning to my own palatial accommodations.
Day 162: It is time for a 5 hour trip by train to Oslo Central Station. From the station, it is a short walk to Rica Hotel G20 where I can leave my bags and then proceed to the Nasjonalmuseet where I am searching for the last painting of my trip: Judith by Orazio Gentileshi. An additional “must see” is Edvard Munchs The Scream. Although I will always wonder: could I have painted that?
Mon – closed; Tues,Wed, Fri: 10 am – 6 pm; Thurs: 10 am – 7 pm; Sat-Sun: 11 am – 5 pm
Day 163: Board that Big Bird and head for home.
Day 164: And end where I began. By visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum to see two portrayals of Judith in my own backyard. Here I can relax to view a Botticeli painting of Judith and her Maidservant and an armless bust of Judith by Moses Ezekiel.
Mon – closed; Tues-Sun: 11 am to 5 pm