There’s a touch of Macabre in St. Petersburg that’s hard to ignore

I don’t know about you – but having a wax figure made of your husband 3 days after he died, using his own hair – that’s weird! And then carefully saving it for over 400 years. Really? Well – that’s the basic idea behind the Wax Persona – a life-sized model of Peter the Great, carefully ordered by his wife, and positioned on his throne for all eternity.

Want to see it for yourself? It’s in Peter’s Winter Palace – and the fee is included with your ticket to the Hermitage – so do check it out.

But that Macabre streak doesn’t end there – We went to the Staff building to see the Hermitage’s collection of Impressionist paintings in their brand new home. Awesome paintings – but no audio guide and precious little english signage. They don’t even have a floor plan yet. What they do have – beside a bit more reasonable lighting – are clear glass walkways 2 stories and more above the ground. Spooky walking let me tell you.

Great art – weirdly renovated space. Worth visiting for both – and again – included with your Hermitage ticket – which doesn’t explain the distinct lack of visitors. I’m guessing it’s just not on the tour bus circuit yet.

Which probably explains the pricing in the cafeteria as well. Least expensive food we’ve seen – anywhere. Tea for 15 ruples – that’s 35 cents. And unlimited quantity. Most places in St. Petersburg charge upwards of 200 ruples – that’s over $4.50 – for tea. Anyway – the cafeteria in the Staff building is clearly the go-to option – and it’s pretty popular – with the staff of the museums. Nary a tourist to be seen.

We wear ourselves out between the Hermitage (we did the Diamond Room tour and checked out the rather wasted 3rd floor) and the Staff building – which in addition to it’s vast collection of Monet’s and Pissaro’s has an entire wing devoted to Life Under the Eagle – Russia from 1790 to 1820. I take a ton of pictures here, it’s the period of Napoleon, and highly relevant to re-enacting. Eventually we need something to eat – and something positive and uplifting.

Dinner at the FreshMarket fit the bill – and then a visit to the Faberge Museum is the perfect antidote to too much Hermitage. Another brand new museum, this collection includes 18 Faberge Easter Eggs – the largest single collection in the world. And they are outstanding. While over-the-top decor was the norm during this period – from 1800 to 1917 – these Eggs were deliberately designed to impress a woman who had everything.

The first one – simple white egg shell on the outside, a gold egg yolk inside, and inside that a gold chicken. Inside the chicken – tada – a pearl necklace. I mean – why not?

Another one I thought was completely cool – A green tree with leaves and birds – and when you turned a key at the top – a rooster appeared, with real feathers. The rooster crowed too. Perfect toy for the bored but incredibly rich.

Still wondering about that macabre streak? Consider the Church of Spilled Blood – inside there’s a canopy (very elaborate, very expensive) built over the exact spot where Peter the Great was felled by a bomb thrown by a dissident. Gorey.

Another example – the highly touted tour to the top of the Colonnade at St. Issacs. There’s an open staircase to naviagate – with signs at the ticket office warning of strong winds. We opt to avoid that trip.

Some more examples – the room where Rasputin was reportedly murdered is now a highly visited tour option. As mentioned previously – we couldn’t even get tickets. There’s the prison at the Fort of Peter and Paul, there’s wax museums a plenty – and there’s winter. Food for the marcarbe soul – you don’t even need zombies.

Need more proof – our landlady showed us a drawer in her bedroom that is a memorial shrine to her husband – dozens of tiny icons, each one with a wallet sized picture of her husband in the corner. I didn’t dare ask if she had the ashes in there too – that would defiitely have been TMI (Too much Information).

Our desire to look at things we could never afford and your interest in the macabre side of St. Petersburg sated, we head home for bed. But bed is not on the menu.

Our new friends have found out that there might be fireworks tonight – although there is some disagreement about whether they are going to happen at 10:00 PM or 11:00 PM. Since it won’t be dark at either time – I’m guessing it might even be midnight – but they decide to go check it out at 11:00 PM – and of course I must go too. No fireworks are happening – so we head back home disappointed. Oh well – I did see a poster advertising fireworks on June 24th – so maybe we’re just way way way too early!

Signing Off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveler.

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