From Russia with Love: #5 Must Never Miss Museums in St Petersburg

I spent a week in Russia and I fell in love with the country and its people. They remind me of the misunderstood big kid in class and I want to take my time sharing about my experience traveling there solo. I will be posting up a few short write ups about specific incidences and my thoughts about them and my understanding of the culture and the people. Post #5 Must Never Miss Museums in St Petersburg

I visited the Hermitage and Winter Palace TWICE, because it was ginormous and had a ton of things to see. Also, students get in for free (my NUS card was the best thing I ever invested in) so why not?

Hermitage museum and the General Staff's Building
Winter Palace and the General Staff Building
General Staff's Building
The General Staff building houses tons of paintings from Monet to Van Gogh to Picasso.

Opposite the Hermitage and Winter Palace was the General Staff Building which was home to many stunning paintings including some by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Munch. I waved my student card once again and got to go in for free. So. Much. Win. The building itself was a maze and the signs weren’t very helpful. I had to go through room after room after room of uninteresting stuff (like old soldier’s outfits, dining tables with ridiculous silverware, more dresses and coins) before I got to these beauties.

Another museum I checked out was Erarta, a contemporary art museum that showcases Russian painters from all over Russia. Getting to the museum was a little bit of a headache because the closest metro station was under renovation, which meant that I had to get on a trolleybus. I got on knowing which direction I had to head to but that was it. Silly me forgot to check for the name of the stop on Google which meant that I couldn’t tell the ticket lady where I was heading. I had taken a few screenshots of the instructions to get to the museum (curtesy of Erarta’s website), which I showed her, but she just stared at me blankly. Before spiralling into a mini panic attack, a random stranger asked if I spoke English. I said yes and he proceeded to translate everything I said to the confused ticket lady. Everyone on the trolleybus began chipping in on the conversation that was happening. After sorting all that out, I found a seat and tried to stop myself from laughing at the awkwardness of the situation. Before he got off the bus, I gave him a very grateful nod and mouthed “Thank you”. Then,  an old lady spoke to him and he turned to me to say “She’ll walk you to the museum.” Even the young boy sitting next to me said “You going to Erarta? I’ll show you where to go.” Which they both did. The old Russian lady even walked me to the entrance of the museum.

At Erarta, I fell in love. This place had art literature that accompanied some of the paintings which really helped me understand a lot more about the art work and the artists’ intentions. I also watched a physical theatre performance in Erarta called Ketzal.  I have previously watched and understood and even enjoyed other shows of this genre but this was a whole new level of artsy fartsy. It had to do with a myth about a bird with a snake head.

Dance bird, DANCE!
You mean this?

Instead, there were a bunch of bald people in nothing but their underwear jumping and wriggling about.

The closing scene
No I will not be posting pictures of naked people on this blog. You can click on the link for that.

All in all, I think Russia has been a whirlwind experience. It was eye opening, friendly, intimidating, scary, confusing and great. I really hope to return to this place one day, armed with a better comprehension of the Russian language.

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From Russia with Love: #4 Strolling about in St Petersburg

I spent a week in Russia and I fell in love with the country and its people. They remind me of the misunderstood big kid in class and I want to take my time sharing about my experience traveling there solo. I will be posting up a few short write ups about specific incidences and my thoughts about them and my understanding of the culture and the people. Post #4: Strolling about in St Petersburg.

I took the sleeper train from Moscow to St Petersburg and it was different from the previous one I had taken from Prague to Poland. I had reserved a bed in a wagon (as it’s called in Russia) filled with at least 50 other people. Thank you ear plug inventors. I’m debating if I should get an eye mask too, but I don’t want to look like a posh yuppity yup, if you know what I mean.

I arrived way too early and sat in the station for a couple of hours typing up a few posts while waiting for the sun to rise. I’ve become really good at finding places that will allow you to just sit there for hours having only ordered a cup of coffee. When it was time to move my butt, I headed for Apple Hostel, where I would spend my next 5 days. This was the first time in a long time that I had spent more than two and a half days in one place and it was such a treat to be able to take my time. I walked through countless parks on my first day out, enjoyed getting lost again, went into restaurants without prior research, it was great.

I enjoyed eating out as well because it was so much more affordable compared to Moscow. I had dumplings in Pelmenya, borsche and fancy dessert at Taste to Eat, veal with rice and more cake at the Market Place, and burgers and ice cream at Burger King, beef straganoff and brynzas in Brynza (where the alarm went off the moment we finished lunch) just to name a few. I ate, no I feasted like a queen. It was amazing.

I visited a few cathedrals as well. The two that really stood out to me were Kazan Cathedral and the Saviour on the Spilled Blood (great name). I loved Kazan Cathedral although I’m ashamed to say I didn’t take any pictures of it. In my defence, more than half of it was under renovation so the pictures would have been 70% scaffolding and 30% sky. It struck me how such a modern and urban city like St Petersburg had an Orthodox church right in its heart. The place was busy too. No, it wasn’t filled with tourists, but with locals, old and young. It was such a peaceful place too, completely silent, the sort of silence that feels like you’re being wrapped in a warm blanket. Not too far away, the cathedral called the Saviour on the Spilled Blood, was definitely a tourist attraction. I took pictures of this one because it was so beautiful but didn’t go in because I had to pay (I’d rather eat than look at the interiors of cathedrals, priorities, am I right?)

The one cathedral I did pay to go in was the first ever cathedral built in Saint Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, in the Peter and Paul fortress, where Saint Petersburg was founded. I was, like the other buildings made for kings and queens, dripping in gold.

On my last night there, I decided to take one last stroll around the city, in all the bright lights. The view from the bridges were beautiful.

IMG_5292

I also stumbled across a group of fire breathers and fire throwers and fire tossers. Anything you could possibly do with fire without dying, they did. I told myself  I’d stay for 15 minutes and ended up staying for over an hour. I love watching performers who have fun performing. It was a very supportive community too, the fire people. It was a great end to my stay there.