Museums & Monstrosities

We lazily dozed through our alarms (something I am personally becoming very skilled at) we eventually arose and got out of the hostel and to the supermarket for breakfast roundabout a rather lethargic 1120.  Not the most taxing start to the day, but it was all yet to come.

Refuelled and raring to go we began the familiar commute up to The Admiralty and Winter Palace that bordered the Neva river. The aim was to cross the river and venture to the Museum of Political History. The one thing you should know about St. Petersburg is that it is bigger than one would expect – even just walking the apparently small distance across the river and finding a building on the other side took a long time. It didn’t help that the nearest metro station was shut, either. We arrived at the museum and played our favourite Russian game of Student Card Roulette. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this engaging past-time, it’s when you go to a museum in Russia and take a punt on whether they’ll give you a discount on the attraction or claim it’s a fraud and then proceed to rip you off.

Today, the gods were on our side and we got through for some paltry sum of Rubles. The exhibitions themselves were quite interesting, giving a very detailed history of specifically St. Petersburg’s governance from the time of the Tsar’s to the present day (Putin was born in the city).

After this, admittedly, quite heavy-going,museum we walked to the nearby Peter & Paul’s Fortress. Due to it getting late in the day, after a lunch of cold soup and even colder pastries we decided to forgo the fort and get to the Kunstkammer (there is an ‘s’ in there, you dirty-minded people).

This was Russia’s first museum and apparently one of ethnography, but the guide book indicates a more compelling reason to visit (we did enough ethnographical museums in 2008 to last a lifetime). Peter the Great, who started the museum, had an interest in ‘curiosities’, and the museum still houses its original collection – what can only be described as a pretty grotesque freak show.

The collection included tens of horrifically aborted foetuses preserved in a tasty cocktail of vinegar and vodka. These had afflictions ranging from no limbs to cyclops babies, even by our lewd ‘standards’ it required quite a bit of a stomach. Also included were skeletons of two-headed calves and even more baby bits (limbs, heads etc).

Overall we’d proclaim this experience as a fun day for the whole family (if you visit this place on our recommendation you may never forgive us).

Having had enough of freak shows and museums for one day we began the massive trek back to Crazy Duck. On return our wish to have something resembling nice food was destroyed by our laziness after walking many many kilometers, so Dr. Oetker pizza it was, warmed in the oven by our very own Gordon ‘F*** f*** f***’ Stylianou and Nigella Manners.

After all this excitement, we slept…

…and slept…

…and slept until…

‘Hey guys! Get up!’

It was Tamara’s birthday and she certainly wasn’t going to let us sleep. We traipsed to the common room and despite (weak) protests, our two Serbian friends promptly got everyone to do five shots of vodka (lest we be described as ‘not normal’) and that really set the tone of the night. We all eventually went and mooched around St. Petersburg and found some bars and a club that resulted in (fantastic) dancing from myself until the early hours of the morning.

Unfortunately the Cypriot contingent of our travelling duo was unable to make it so far due to feeling a bit under the weather – weak, but I wasn’t going to risk a parasite-scare. I’d just have to do the drinking for the both of us.  Despite the very late night, there’s no respite: we were to rise at 0800 the following day.

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