We set out on an adventure across London to showcase two exhibitions about Russia and some Russian cuisine to prove that Russia’s relationship with London runs far deeper than Andrey Arshavin and Novichok.
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace: Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs
The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855
We started off in the amazing annex to Buckingham Palace, at the Queen’s Gallery, for two exhibitions. After some airport style security, you’re treated to a free cloakroom and free audio guide. It’s already starting off well.
When you head up the fittingly grandiose staircase, you have the choice over which gallery to go to first. We actually made our way to the end of the exhibition to hear a free talk about the painting of Queen Victoria with all of her family in – they didn’t all sit for the painting, and there were strict instructions to the artist of who could be placed where, as to who was talking to whom (or not). Sounds like a 21st century drama, right?!
The rest of the Russia Royalty exhibition showcased the connection between Russia and the rest of Europe. The size and scale of the portraits, and more importantly the gifts that were exchanged between the countries was impressive. There is very little explaining what is what around the exhibition, but the audio guides detailed everything from the people that painted it, to stories behind the gifts and the people in the pictures. It had historians inputs and opinions, and helped tie everything together.
The other exhibition, the Roger Fenton photographs of the Crimea, showed a different side to the dominance of Russia as a world power at that time. Tim found this exhibition more interesting, not only learning more about a war he knew not so much about, but the humanising of the people involved and the futility of war. Again, the audio guide was a fantastic asset to the exhibition, with interesting facts about the photographs, historians input on the people and the war, comparisons to the modern day, and people like Prince Harry giving their two pence about soldier life and royalty. Open until 28th April 2019, you can book online or turn up on the day for tickets.
Mari Vanna London
Our next stop was for some well earned lunch, and we headed to Mari Vanna London in Knightsbridge. There are plenty of other restaurants in London with Russian cuisine, but we wanted to try this one for two reasons. 1. It looks AMAZING and 2. it’s brilliantly located for a nice (long) walk between our two destinations of the day.
Set up like Baboushka’s living room, complete with doilies, patterned wallpaper and ornaments on display in old cabinets, it’s incredible. Seriously, your grandma would be proud to call this place hers. From the entrance, to the maitre d’, it’s all completely decorated. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that you’d walked into someone’s (extremely big, very expensive) house. That said, book ahead, as it is very popular, and even as a party of two you may not get at seat, and they have no bar to sit at and wait.
It is expensive, but it is also in Knightsbridge, pretty much opposite Harrods. It is very Russian. The food is typically like grandma’s and served to match. There are some cheaper items, and things you could share on the menu to make it more affordable too, but realistically you are paying for the experience, and that is what you get.
The Science Museum: The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution
Our final stop was at the Science Museum, for their upstairs exhibition on Russia, all about the Tsar before the Russian Revolution, and the medicine, medical care and blood disorders. We couldn’t take any photos in the exhibition so all of these have come from the Science Museum themselves. The exhibition is free, but as they restrict the number of people inside you have to queue for your free tickets, or you can book them in advance too.
One of our favourite exhibitions ever was the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum, and if it wasn’t for that exhibition, this one would not be happening, as in doing the research, the curator for the Last Tsar, the curator found albums of photographs that she was desperate to ensure had their own time in the limelight. This exhibition is about the treatment of Alexei (the Tsar and Tsarina’s son), with the ‘royal disease’ haemophilia B, passed down from Queen Victoria.
The Russian royals kept Alexei’s condition a secret, and the exhibition shows the controversial measures taken, such as employing Rasputin, that eventually led to the downfall of their dynasty. Alongside the treatments for Alexei, the exhibition showcases medical firsts for the time, treatments for mental illnesses and war wounds, as well as blueprints for hospitals, and artifacts that have not been seen before. For an exhibition that is as diverse as it is informative, this is the one. From Faberge eggs, to photographs of Rasputin, the Tsarina’s dress to Victoria Cross medals, it’s impressive, and open until 24th March 2019.
Have you been to any of these? What did you think of them? Is there somewhere we missed from our Russia date day that we must try out? Let us know in the comments! Like this? Follow on Bloglovin to get new posts delivered straight to your inbox! https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/four-thousand-weeks-1915228