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.

Split – Museums and The Bright Nights

In between cutting my feet and eating, we managed to visit two museums. The Split City Museum wasn’t too bad and we got in for free as we had the Split Card. As we entered, I heard music playing from the distance. As we gradually made our way up to the second floor, we found a mini 10-piece orchestra rehearsing. It felt like we were walking through a magical kingdom with an amazing soundtrack.

The second was by far my favourite. It was the Split Modern Art Gallery or Galerija: Umjetnina. We got in at a discounted rate with our student cards (always ask for a student discount because you save so much money). Tickets are priced at different rates, where one ticket includes entry to the temporary exhibit and the other only to the permanent show. The works in there were breathtaking, especially the temporary exhibit titled Phlogiston.

At night, Split never sleeps, very much like its older and more cultured sibling, Zagreb. Walking around at 10pm, the streets are still filled with music from street performers and free concerts. The clubs don’t even fill up till 12am, when the night really starts.

On our last night in Split, before jumping on a 7 hour night bus, we walked through the busiest evening yet. Many locals were out and about that night as there was a football match happening between the local Split FC called Hajduk (pronounced Haidook) and Prague’s FC. The atmosphere was joyous as always, with many people half drunk by 7pm. Drivers honked as passengers stuck their bodies out of the windows and waved Hajduk flags around town. A short person attempting to take a picture of a large crowd.

A Lost Student’s Guide To Exeter

So I’ve left Exeter for good. I’m probably never going back, unless I somehow inherit a ton of money and decide to fly across the world. Before leaving, I spent my last few days wandering around alone, trying to take in as much as I can, forcing my neurons to retain all the sights, sounds and smells. So as a final tribute to this wonderful place I called home for three years, I decided to put together a list of places to eat and visit for people to truly enjoy Exeter.

To do:

Quay – Canal – Double Locks – I love going for a run/jog/walk/cycle by the Quay. If you follow the Exeter Canal (not the main river), you’ll came across the famous Double Locks. Keep going and you’ll find yourself halfway to Topsham. It’s meant to be a route for cyclists and you can actually make your way to Dawlish in a few hours, or take a ferry to Topsham. Why go? Because it’s stunning. Even under a cloudy sky, it’s just beautiful. 

The Exeter Phoenix – For days when I feel like checking out some pretty interesting art exhibits. I never understand what’s up on the walls but it’s a great place to discover someone’s interpretation of life. They’ve also got live performances and bands and stuff. I signed on to their mailing list and often got invites to talks the by the artists who’s work was being showcased (there’s probably a proper term for this, let me know if there is!).

The Bike Shed Theatre – For budget plays and a relaxed place to catch live performances. Loads of acting companies use the space to test out their “works in progress” that end up in interesting debates and discussions. I rarely contribute but it’s always great to hear what other people got from watching the same thing I did.

We also have a museum, The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and the always stunning Exeter Cathedral. I once attended an Evensong and was pleasantly surprised to see the head of Flexible Combined Honours (my “school”) singing in the choir.

To eat:

The Glorious Art House – The prettiest place out of the lot, this places serves pretty good food and coffee. I usually get a soup or a stew or curry when I’m there. I love the paper straws they use too. Go up to the 2nd floor and there’s a really pretty clock. Carry on to the 3rd floor and you’ll find a small gallery showcasing work from local artists. It’s a really unique place. AND they have Wifi!

Devon Coffee – A cosy and tiny place squashed between some watch shop and Cafe Nero on Queen Street. I loved revising for exams in there. There was no wifi so it forced me to focus on my work, whilst enjoying their awesome playlist and the smell of coffee in the air.

The Exploding Bakery – They make amazing pour overs (I am appalled at my level of coffee snobbery) and quesadillas. I usually slap on some mustard or Sirarcha and it’s perfection. Another thing to try is their brownies. It’s absolutely moist (I hate that word) and doesn’t feel too heavy (or jelak for Malaysians), the way brownies can tend to morph into after the first few bites.

Boston Tea Party – For more substantial food, or just really yummy pancakes, I usually go to The Boston Tea Party, which is where I’m wrote the first draft of this post (fun fact for you there!). I love their high ceiling and giant windows. Equipped with Wifi, this place is usually swarmed with very hipster looking people in the middle of hipster meetings or typing away on their Macs. I try my best to blend in. #noshame

Coffee #1 – For a place with more couches and no Wifi, ideal for reading or eavesdropping on conversations, I go to Coffee #1 just behind Princesshay. The baristas there are incredibly friendly. It’s the perfect place for a 3pm coffee break, which I’ve been taking quite often these days.

The Old Firehouse – An oldie but a goodie. They serve awesome drinks and giant pizzas (even-a-6ft-rugby-player-would-struggle-to-finish-this, sort of ginormous) after 8pm every night at ridiculously cheap prices. I love their Pulled Pork Pizza, it’s a great mix of pork and jalapeños and barbecue sauce. Head over on Sunday evenings to catch live gigs by uni students. 

I hope this is helps anyone visiting or heading over this September to start a new term. I’m going to miss this place so much, and no I am not sorry for going on and on about it.

Till my next post, ta!

This guy gets a new outfit every weekend.