Woolly Mammoth and Deformed Human Specimens

My favorite childhood Sunday activities were visits to the Zoological Museum and the Museum of Ethnography.
We followed in my childhood footsteps, and after an obligatory stop at the pyshki shop, took a trolley bus over the Neva to the biggest of the islands upon which St. Petersburg stands.
Vasilievsky Island was the first island to be settled when the city was founded. Three-hundred-year-old buildings still stand here, which gives the island an old charm. In between the stately buildings, streetcars still run along wide avenues, adding to the charm.
We got off at the split, called “the Arrow” here, with its Rostral columns, and gazed at the Winter Palace across the river. We then walked to the Zoological Museum to look at the woolly mammoth – the first and, I believe, the only fully preserved grown mammoth in the world.
The museum had not changed one little bit since my childhood visits. Foreign tourists don’t come here, thus there is no reason to update the interior – no foreigners to impressed. We walked into the 1950’s, a true science museum with no frills, with stuffed animals exhibited in glass cages. They were getting old, poor dear friends of my childhood, aging and crumbling, but despite of that (or because of that) presenting an amazing collection! We actually spent a good hour or two studying them.
From the Zoological Museum, we walked a few steps to the Ethnographic Museum, which did not fare as well as the Zoo Museum. Its exhibits appeared more dated. Still, it was fascinating to see politically incorrect displays of various American Indian tribes. However, we came here with a purpose. We came to see the Kunstkamera, Peter’s collection of deformed newborns and fetuses. In the Kunstkamera, I encountered another rude babushka – one of those who furiously guard exhibit halls in Russian museums from, apparently, bloodthirsty visitors.
After visiting the museums, we took a walk along the water, passed St. Petersburg State University and crossed the island. The walk was rather pleasant – old buildings were grand and well-preserved.
We then hopped on a trolley bus to go back to the mainland, over the Palace Bridge, emerged onto Nevsky, and got off there to visit St. Isaac’s, the grandest church in St. Petersburg. I decided to save on the admission fee, stayed behind, and rested in the shadow of the columns while the kids explored the innards of the grand church. I did climb along with them up to the colonnade, for a bird’s eye view of the city.
We then grabbed a fast meal at “Fasol na Gorohovoy” – a clever moniker, translated as “The bean on the Pea street” and rushed off to catch a train to Moscow. Actually, Lisa and Adam were catching a train, and Anna and I were going to stay in St. Petersburg for one more night. We put them on an overnight train at the Moscow Station to arrive in Moscow at the Leningrad Station. Only two cities matter in Russia, as you can see, Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg).


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