Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

A Q&A with Expert Janetta Rebold Benton

Q. What kinds of insights do you feel art history themes will bring to our travelers? 

A. In addition to an appreciation and enjoyment of the beauty of the art and architecture we will see, I hope people will approach art history as historical documentation of our past. Works of art are irrefutable records of social structure, economics, religious beliefs, politics, and more. The visual arts reveal the inspiration and ideas, the inventions and accomplishments of creative individuals through the centuries—shared today with Smithsonian Journeys travelers. 

Q.  What do you feel Smithsonian Journeys travelers will enjoy most on our new tour, St. Petersburg and the Baltics?

A. This outstanding itinerary features wonders of the Baltics and Russia that may be unfamiliar even to experienced travelers. In Lithuania, 15th-century Trakai Castle, on its own island, contrasts to the Baroque exuberance of the capital, Vilnius. In Latvia, the Palace of Rundale, designed by Rastrelli, will prepare you for his extravagant Hermitage in St. Petersburg, while the medieval Old Town areas of Riga and Estonia’s Tallinn take you back in time. In St. Petersburg we will stay in my favorite hotel, the Grand Hotel Europe, the ultimate in elegance and ideally located to walk almost everywhere. St. Petersburg—with pastel-colored palaces, domed churches, and a grid of canals—is unlike any other city. The Hermitage, founded by Catherine the Great, displays one of the great art collections of the world while the Peterhof palace and gardens reflect the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the Romanovs. 

Q. What do you enjoy most about accompanying Smithsonian Journeys travelers? 

A. I love the people and my interactions with them! They are extremely varied in their careers, interests, lifestyles, and past experiences. Guests are assured of traveling with compatible people, which I have found result repeatedly in genuine lasting friendships based on a shared journey.