Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kunstkamera: I'd Like My Mutants Pickled Please...

Once again, sorry for the lack of posting, seems just have a tendency to crop up and unfortunately eating, sleeping, and going to school all come before blogging on my list of priorities. The past week has been an up and down one, sickness mixed with some fun mixed with some interesting adventures. It would take too long to write everything here so I'll give you the Reader's Digest version. Wednesday's excursion to the Baltika beer brewing factory was a lot of fun. Beer brewing is really fascinating to learn about, and being the biggest brewery in Europe, the factory tour was quite impressive. The tour ended in the sampling room, a huge table lined with multiple bottles of the 30+ beverages Baltika brews, plus some rather odd tasting (white mushroom flavor anyone?), yet extremely tasty chips. While much fun, my attempts to sample all thirty beverages ended in delightful failure, and the rest of the day was spent rather blissfully lying in the sun at the park. The rest of the week was quiet, the most interesting point probably being my failed attempt to purchase a copy of Cosmo in Russian. The woman behind the counter first stared at me, and then refused to sell me the magazine on the grounds that I am a man, and only women can read Cosmo. My assertions to the contrary were disregarded and rebutted, and I went home cosmo-less.
Today my friend Kelsey and I ventured to Kunstkamera, Peter's first public museum. Founded by the ever-busy Peter the Great, the museum was meant to dispel Russian notions that illness and child deformities were caused by such things as the evil eye and curses, but rather were caused by "internal damage as well as fear and the beliefs of the mother during pregnancy", only a slightly more enlightened interpretation, but a step in the right direction none-the-less. Regardless of its good intentions, I think both of us would agree that the museum is more gross than anything. In a few short words, imagine cases full of deformed fetuses (two-headed, cyclopses, and multiple limbed fetuses just to name a few), babies, decapitated heads of children, and random amputated limbs and organs, all nicely pickled in varying sized jars. Next to these rather morose displays, were rather gross (though informative) explanations of what was in the cases, how they were prepared, and how Peter came to acquire them. Apparently, in addition to his various other obsessions, Peter came to be rather engrossed in human anatomy and dissections during his time in the Netherlands. The collections were acquired from two Dutch (their names are far too garbled and Dutch to be memorable) men, one of whom apparently became rather famous for his life-like "jarrings". Basically, the man injected brandy mixed with pepper into the veins and tissue of his 'masterpieces' (the museum's words, not mine) to make them appear more life-like. His most famous works include various 'studies' (my words, not the museum's) in human intestine, and a preserved head of a child with glass eyes. Needless to say the museum is not for those who are weak in the stomach, have just eaten lunch, or plan on eating any time in the next week or so.
After the museum we sat in a park near the Admirality and the famous Bronze Horseman and recovered for a while. By a while I mean a few hours, in which every time I saw a small child or baby all I could imagine was them sitting in a pickle jar for 240 years. Now I'm going to try and eat dinner, a venture that may very well end in failure, wish me luck!

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