Friday, May 11, 2007

Tombs, Tsars, & Pickled Babies

At breakfast in the hostel, we met some new guests: a mother and her four daughters visiting from the Yukon (one of whom is here studying), and a retired fellow from Seattle who is traveling around Eastern Europe. They were very friendly.
After breakfast we found a ticket office and booked our train tickets to Tallinn, Estonia (first class, of course). The woman at the counter did not speak any English so i had to rely on my rudimentary Russian (so at least i HOPE i purchased tickets for Estonia). The trains had only recently started running to Estonia again, but will stop later this month due to certain political tensions between the two countries. We leave at 7am on Monday and arrive around 2pm.
We then walked across one of the many bridges spanning the Neva River (i am pleased to report that the weather today has been outstanding) and visited the Kunstkammer - Saint Petersburg's first museum, established by Peter the Great to display his collection of objects from cultures around the world. The reason i was so keen to go, however, was to see his collection of oddities and "monsters" - mostly this was jars of pickled and deformed babies. Some had two heads, others enormous tumors, deformed bits and pieces, that sort of thing. There were also stuffed rare animals and a fine display of teeth extracted by Peter the Great himself - along side his many interests (and the running of the Empire) he was also an amateur dentist! Betty Lou was not as enthralled as i with this grotesque miscellany, but i think she enjoyed herself a little bit. (Dawn: i think you would have loved it.)
picked babies at the Kunstkammer

picked head at the Kunstkammer

We then walked over another small bridge (there are 300 bridges in the city) to the Peter & Paul Fortress, through the "Death Gate" (many political prisoners were housed and executed there). There was visited the cathedral by the same name where most of the tsars are entombed. Most interestingly, was the small chapel built to house the remains of the Romanovs (who were, of course, slaughtered in 1918).
We had a lovely lunch at an Austrian Cafe (former home of the Russian writer Gorky) before walking back across yet another bridge back downtown. A leisurely coffee and cigar on Nevisky prospect and a bit of shopping has brought us here, to the internet cafe where we wind down from our daily adventures.
Tomorrow we shall head out of the city to visit Peterhof, the Palace of Peter the Great.
That concludes our daily post. Thanks for checking is on us.
Dale & Betty Lou

Dale at the Hermitage

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