If you ask me if I’ve been to the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg & the Yusupov Palace, the answer is yes and no.
On our last day in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ruth & I walked from our hotel to the Peter & Paul Fortress in cold, season-changing rain. This complex of defensive buildings, churches, and museums, St. Petersburg’s first settlement, is currently being lovingly restored with a plan to make it a major tourist attraction. It will be. The entrance to the Fortress, also called SMOHOSP (see above), is free. We walked right in and quickly discovered that it was closed on Wednesdays. It was Wednesday. We saw just enough of the place to decide there was reason to go back.
We weren’t the only tourists who hadn’t checked. In fact, several disappointed people were wandering around the warm but closed gift shop. One of them was a lady from England named Diana.
Diana, mother of 5, was in Russia by herself because her husband had Russian ancestry. He had died in her arms before having the opportunity to go there. Her journey was a tribute to him as was a 20 mile walk to raise money to combat pancreatic cancer she had completed in his honor. I admired Diana and delighted in her witty conversation.
Morning plans abandoned, Diana, Ruth & I shared a taxi to her hotel where we had drinks and shared trip experiences. Diana said that her favorite attraction had been the Yusupov Palace. Diana raved about its dazzling interiors, especially its over-the-top rococo theater.
Having considered it before deciding on the Fortress, we now had time. So, despite the worsening weather, we headed there.
Every source I read about St.Petersburg raved about Yusupov, saying it was ornate, spectacular, etc. But I was interested because the last Yusupov owner, wealthy and eccentric Prince Felix, was into cross-dressing. Any man who attended balls as a woman, I figured, would live in an interesting palace. Secondly, this was where Rasputin met his grisly end. This self-proclaimed mystic, many higher-ups feared, had too much influence on Tsarina Alexandra. Invited to Yusupov for cake, Rasputin was poisoned, shot, and drowned. He survived the first 2.
It seemed a short walk, but Ruth & I got lost. By the time we found Yusupov, we had only 1 hour left to see it and I recalled Lonely Planet‘s warning that it was overpriced for non-Russians. It would cost us 500 Rbl each, for one hour. The entry fee was 50-350 Rbl for locals. Now $15.79 each wasn’t a deal breaker, but we didn’t have 1,000 rubles. However, an ATM was inches away from the ticket office for the likes of me.
There was a virtual tour of the palace continuously running in the reception area, so Ruth & I decided to watch it before deciding. As I viewed outrageously overdone rooms rolling by, a scowling woman came over and told me not to touch the pillar I had rested my shoulder on. But then she smiled like a candidate and said, “Buy ticket and see. Is very beautiful!” We were out of there. No reason to go back.