St. Petersburg Part II: American Designers Visit Russia

In January, Fortuny took a group of designers on a trip to explore St. Petersburg and visit the Mariano Fortuny – “The Magician of Venice” exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. A reflection from Fortuny creative director Mickey Riad.


A little over a month since my first trip to St. Petersburg, I found myself heading back, except this time with company, and this time with a plan to see a little more than just a quick bee line through a tiny fraction of the Hermitage. (Incidentally, I learned one would require about 8 years to see everything in their vast collection. If my calculations are correct, I need about 7 years, 11 months, 29 days and 22 hours to see the rest of it.).

Our group of 16 started filtering into St. Petersburg on Sunday, with the majority of us arriving at the same time Sunday evening. After loading the bus with luggage and tired but enthusiastic travelers, we pulled out of the airport only to have the driver turn to say, “How about Trump?”. It probably should not have surprised us, but it caught us off guard, and in the midst of our group’s laughs, I had to ask, “How about Putin?” Touché, comrade. Touché. We’re all in this together, for better or worse.

After quickly checking in to our respective rooms, we made our way to Percorso, the Italian restaurant located in the Four Seasons Lion Palace, for a lovely welcome dinner where we were pleasantly surprised to find our DeMedici red & silvery gold adorning panels in the main dining room. We stayed too long, but the vodka was cold and the company was right, thwarting any attempts of going to bed on the early side. As it turns out, this would become a running theme.

Somehow the group managed to make it to breakfast on time (well, relatively on time) so that we could meet our tour guide and driver for a city tour and a tour of Catherine Palace in Pushkin, about 40 minutes south of the city. Built on a scale to rival Versailles, the grandeur was certainly impressive, and the Amber Room was most definitely unique. As inspiring as the rooms and decor may have been, however, the highlight was seeing the groups of school children learning traditional Russian dance in the oversized ballroom. A couple of members of our group couldn’t resist joining in, imagining they were competing for their next clue on the Amazing Race.

“Will they be serving vodka with lunch?”
“If you wish.”
“I wish.”
The palace visit was followed by a traditional Russian lunch of borscht, pirozhki, pelmeni, stroganoff and the best latkes I ever tasted. We then filed back into our bus to make our way back to St. Petersburg. Two members of our group decided to break off from the group to continue exploring, and as our group watched them wander off into the Pushkin forest from the bus window, we hoped it was not the last we would see of them. The rest of us continued our tour with a quick stop to see the Church of the Savoir on Spilled Blood, a cathedral as dramatic as its name suggests, and a visit to an antique shop and fur shop, as some members of our group desperately wanted the warmest hats they could find. It proved to be successful and after a short reprise at the hotel, another wonderful meal was shared at a modern Russian restaurant, BLOK, featuring ingredients all locally sourced in Russia.

Stay tuned for Day 3 – Winter Palace, State Hermitage Museum, and more vodka…

Read more about the exhibition from the State Hermitage Museum.