Pushkin – Russian to the core

The Suricata Hostel is located on one of the prettiest streets in St. Petersburg. I’m not just saying that – it’s in the Lonely Planet Guide Book. But they aren’t talking about the Hostel – they are talking about #12 nab reki Moyka – just 2 doors away from our ‘palace’ at #8.

This of course is not the only museum and library dedicated to Pushkin – Russia’s National Poet – but it is the house where he died – and thus worthy of a visit. Besides – it’s so close!

I know of Pushkin not thru his poetry – but thru his dueling. He is famous in re-enacting circles for having fought and won at least 28 duels – it’s only duel #29 that did him in – and this museum is all about that last duel.

Curiously – they make no mention of the other duels – so the unknowing tourist is likely to assume that this final duel was unique. It was of course different – Pushkin died – but hardly unique in that Pushkin fancied himself an excellent dueler – and went into this one confident of victory.

The museum starts with the now traditional line, back-pack check, line. You buy your ticket in one location, check your back-pack in a 2nd, and enter the museum proper via a third line. Russians love queuing apparently. They certainly design enough of them!

The 2 floor apartment where Pushkin and his family – wife and 4 young children (the youngest was just 8 months old when he died) – lived was rented to them by one of the Princess of the Russian Court. I’m going to guess that the rent was reasonable – because how much can a poet really earn? He was known to have financial issues – and he apparently married for love as his wife was not wealthy on her own.

As in most buildings in the historical heart of St. Petersburg – you enter via a courtyard gate. The grounds within the courtyard are larger than the one at #8 – and of course better maintained. This is a museum after all. But the layout is strikingly similar – carriage entrance under the main floor of the front block, all other blocks in the building are entered from the courtyard.

To access Pushkin’s flat – you must go down the servants entrance into the ground floor. There you can see memoribilal of Pushkin – copies of letters, pages out of his notebook, and most interesting – a letter in French declaring him a member of the ‘Cockold Society”. It is this anomous letter that set off the unfortunate chain of events that brought Pushkin to the dueling grounds.

According to the audio guide – and all the historical records I could find – Pushkin’s wife was a notorious beauty – and she had 2 older sisters who could not begin to compare. Several years before the famous duel, these sisters had moved into this home with Pushkin and his wife – their pictures hang on the walls of their ‘apartment’ – a series of 2 to 3 rooms to left as you look at the building from the street – but by all accounts the dining area was shared by all. Clearly what impacted the sisters would have impacted Pushkin and his wife.

In addition to his financial woes, Pushkin was known to be sensitive about his honour – hence all the duels. Despite the fact that Natalya had just given birth to their 4th child – Pushkin apparently was convinced that she might be having an affair – and the letter pushed him over the edge.

According to the audio-guide – Pushkin was sure that the letter was written by the soon to be husband of his wife’s sister. Given that this sister was currently living with them – and that the forth coming marriage would put the gentleman in question physically in great contact with Pushkin’s wife – clearly the letter was intended to be inflamatory.

Shockingly to me – I could read the letter! It was written in French.

We then entered the main staircase to the home – it had two entrances at the time – one from the covered ‘courtyard’ entrance, and one from the street. During the 2 days Pushkin spent in this house dying, visitors came and went thru these doors – and still posted are the updates one of his friends was writing to keep the flood of well-wishers informed – and out of the house.

Dramatically – the couch in Pushkin’s study that he lay on while dying is still in situ – and DNA analysis of the blood on the couch matched the blood on the waistcoat he was known to be wearing during the duel. Also on display – his death mask and a lock of his hair.

Creepy – seriously creepy.

Enough for now – I’m going for a Latte. Anyone joining me?

Signing off – The Soup Lady and her travel buds.

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