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Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Artful Traveler: St. Petersberg's New Faberge Museum

Faberge eggs are having a moment just now.

This might not have come as a surprise to Tsar Alexander III who in 1885 commissioned the first ornately bejeweled egg as an Easter present for his wife. It became an annual tradition over the next 30 years, with prized specimens going not only to the tsaritza, but also to other matriarchs in Alexander's family.

(Yes, the wife of the Tsar is properly called tsaritza, not tsarina, which, though commonly used in some places is woefully incorrect. Trust me on this. But I digress.)

Forty-two eggs still exist. If you can get your hands on one – good luck! – it will set you back $8 - $10 million, perhaps more. 

Even if you cannot buy one to put on the mantle next to your Oscar, it is possible to see a good many of them this season.

Four will be on display at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum from February 18 to May 18.

You must travel to Russia to view two larger collections.

Moscow's Kremlin Armoury museum has ten eggs on display. Nine are to be found, along with another 1,000 pieces of jewelry and objects crafted by the Faberge workshops, in the much anticipated Faberge Museum set to open in St. Petersburg this winter.

The museum is owned by Viktor Vekselberg, purported to be the fourth richest man in Russia, and housed in the elaborately renovated Shuvalovsky Palace, described by The Telegraph as "a fabulous riot of 18th-century rococo."

As this is a privately owned institution,  admission is limited to just 15 people per hour, and then on only certain days of the week – after the museum finally opens, that is. While the museum held a gala society and press  event in November, it has yet to announce the date the public will be welcome.

Reports in the Financial Times, The Telegraph and other British papers indicate that it could be quite difficult to get in. (Would you expect anything less from Russia's fourth richest oligarch?)

Advance planning will be necessary, and it might be best to leave the arrangements to the several Russia travel specialists based in London who can guarantee admission to this and other coveted sites, whisk you through customs on our arrival, and arrange luxury accommodations for your trip.

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