It's a part of the Hermitage few will ever see, but for those who venture into this maze of passageways and corridors, beware of what prowls in the darkness. This is the lair of the Hermitage cats.
In the 18th century, Empress Elizabeth fed up with vermin, sent for the best rat catchers from the land. They've been here ever since, through wars and revolutions.
Well today, more than sixty felines live here, under this, the Hermitage Palace, the proud descendants of a very, very long line of aristocrats.
Today, the cats have a full-time carer. Entrusted with keeping their traditional life, Vera Demyanchenko works in pungent conditions, tending to the felines' every need.
I am so proud that we can afford to look after the cats. It's part of our heritage. They don't just live here. They work here. You won't find a single rat.
Aboveground, few of the thousands of people who have visited the museum are even aware of the cats' existence.
Still, the animals are deemed so important the museum director's assistant doubles as their press secretary.
Now I have to ask you. Have any of the cats ever made it upstairs here into the gallery?
No, of course not, only occasionally, occasionally or by accident. For example, we had one cat we called Huwanjiack. She travelled more than one week inside the walls.
During the Renaissance era, cats were reviled as symbols of lust and evil, the darker side of human nature. But the cats of the Hermitage are nothing short of respected regal residents.
Neave Barker, Al Jazeera, St. Petersburg
Neave Barker,半島衛視, 聖彼得堡
- 「偶然地、意外地」- By Accident
No, of course not, only occasionally, occasionally or by accident.