Two Swiss in Mongolia – flight delayed

Bad weather in Mongolia?

At 3PM we try to check in to our flight to Mongolia. The information desk at Tegel frowns, cannot find the flight, and then finds out that the flight of Mongolian airlines beeb delayed to tomorrow. The reason: Bad weather in Ulanbataar

Hotel Mercur and another visit to Berlin

Close to the airport there is the Hotel Mercur. It has a shuttle bus. We settle in a room here.  Then we take the bus to Bahnhof Zoo… to visit Berlin. Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche – Ursula liked the blue modern church.  The memorial place is open and we learn that they considered to rebuild the church from 1890. S-Bahn to Hacke’scher Markt. We stroll through the Hacke’sche Höfe and we like the Freitag Shop. Then we walk to the Museumsinsel, Gendarmenmarkt and Brandenburgertor. I show once more, where the wall ended separating the two towns, as I have always done for Ernst.

Is the minister so… that he takes the whole plane?

Back at the airport we find out that a minister has taken our flight and that our plane flew to Edinburgh.  When I tell a friend about the Mongolian minister, he asks me: ” Well, does this minister need a full plane for himself?”

Well… let us hope we make it to Mongolia tomorrow, after having enjoyed our short walk through Berlin.

Saying hello to some of my favorite spots in Berlin

On Monday, I walked around Berlin, with the voice of my mum in my ears. As a Berliner, she always warned me not to underestimate the distance that I can walk. “This is not a small town like Basel”, she said, “beware of that.”

From Friedenau to Breitenbachplatz

From my cosy Literaturhotel in Friedenau I walked to Schlossstrasse and through the Treitschke Park (very nice layed back streets where must be good to live) to the Breitenbachplatz. By looking at the map, I expected a footwalk of half an hour, but Mum you are right… it was almost an hour. The Breitenbachplatz is surrounded by houses under monument protection. I met a friend here.

From Breitenbachplatz to Wittenbergplatz

Alfred Grenander was the architect of the U-Bahn or metro in Berlin. He was a very thoughtful architect. Each metro station has tiles in a different color. And at Wittenbergplatz the station is covered by a nice modern style building.


I say hello and move on to the top floor of Kadewe, which hosts one of the greatest gourmet food stores I know. It is time to eat.



I enjoy a delicious shrimp soup from Büsüm (Sylt).

Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche

I love the dark blue ambiance in the new church of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche; due to its shape the church is also called “powder box”. The original church has been left as a ruin, and now it is completely hidden behind scaffolds. Around the church are many, many souvenir and curry sausage kiosks. And the whole Ku’dam area is under construction.



Hacke’sche Höfe

I take the S-Bahn (town train) and through the window I proudly look at the Swiss embassy that stands in the middle of the German government area (there are rumors that the German government wanted to acquire the land from Switzerland, without success).

Train station “Hacke’scher Markt”. I stroll through the many courtyards of what is called Hacke’sche Höfe and buy ear rings. I love the atmosphere with restaurants, galleries, small shops for jewellery, clothing, soap, and – one of my prefered shops – the Ampelmann (the red and green man in the pedestrian crossing traffic light of Berlin). Ernst also loved this shop and we have a mouse mat from them.


Marienkirche and Neptun Fountain under Sankt Ulbricht

A short break of reflection in the quiet Marienkirche and a hello to Neptun sitting on top of his fountain. Both in the shade of Sankt Ulbricht, the TV tower. There is a cross shining on the tower restaurant, when the sun is out. The story goes that everybody called this tower “Sankt Ulbricht”, and the architect tried to convince Ulbricht that this is not a cross, but a “plus” for socialism…



Construction is going on here as well… “in Berlin wird jebuddelt”. I continue to walk.

To the Schlossplatz and Unter den Linden

What is this? A huge huge hole… it is the hole that the Palace of the Republic has left. There is an information booth called Humboldtbox. Later Antoinette tells me that they plan to rebuild the castle and are now digging out the fundaments.


I turn to the German History Museum. For 8€ I stroll through German history until 1918. Well curated. There are panels giving a brief overview of the period and next to it, there are the artefacts from the time or pictures and later fotos about it.

Destroyed diversity also has a special exhibition. I always feel ashamed for my German roots, when being reminded of what happened 80 years ago: The propaganda, the denunciation of those being perceived to be different and then the subsequent mass executions. I came across Carl Peters who had been integrated in the national propaganda, as he had founded the East African colony (though he died in 1918). The Nazis made a film about him in which the former Askari from Kenya, Bajume Mohammed bin Hussein, fought on the side of Hans Albers. Shortly afterwards he was arrested and died in the camp.

Hello Alter Fritz

I stop by at the monument of Friedrich the Great in Unter den Linden, greet him and apologize that this time I will not visit him in Potsdam and in his pretty castle Sanssouci.


A quick glance at the Brandenburgertor


… and then I take the S-Bahn back to Friedenau. My mum was always proud of the S-Bahn that proves the vision of the government of Berlin in the early 20th century… it allows to overcome the large distances in Berlin efficiently (much quicker than by walking).

Literature and destroyed diversity – 80 years ago in Berlin


The French and German Cathedral on the Gendarmenmarkt

The Gendarmenmarkt is one of my favorite spots in Berlin. Memories are tied to it. Around 1966, there were three black ruins here, and my mum (she knew the past beauty of this square) was very sad. When I came back in the 90’s, the cathedrals were beautifully restored. Ernst and I visited the museum about the Huguenots that Friedrich the Great had welcomed in Berlin. The French Cathedral was for them. Back later again… with Ernst in the Konzerthaus. And today, Antoinette takes me to the French Cathedral. Two priests are reading about the diversity in literature that has been destroyed 80 years ago (Dr. Jürgen Kaiser and Dr. Matthias Loerbroks). Here are two thoughts that I took with me.

Berlin and Babel – both striving for unity and destroying diversity

Berlin 80 years ago and Babel in the bible have similarities. Both towns longed for unity… unity of language, unity of thought, unity of the peoples, unity of art, unity of architecture (symbolized by the one tower of Babel). Yes, unity is easier to handle than diversity which is complex. But the bible condemns such unity and says that destroying diversity is sinful. Diversity is what the bible asks for… diversity is, the priests say, what God wants. But 80 years ago Berlin became a second Babel and destroyed diversity. Sorely, the priests admit that the church then supported the destruction of diversity.

Written text can be destroyed, but not the words (and thoughts)

80 years ago Berlin burnt books that did not conform to the unity of thought, not far away from the cathedral. The bible describes a similar burning of books. In Jeremias 36, God asked Jeremias to write down the history of Israel and Juda. The text was read out to Jojakim, the king of Juda. He cut the written text into pieces and burnt it. But Jojakim could only burn the written text, not the words. Jeremias wrote them on paper again. Similarly burning books in Berlin just destroyed the written text, but not the words and thoughts.

The devil in Bulgakow’s “Master and Margarita”

Master burns his book about Pontius Pilatus that had not been accepted for publication. Towards the end of this wonderful story, at the devils’ party, the devil Voland pulled Master’s book from the fire and says that his manuscripts cannot be destroyed. Did Bulgakow have Jeremias 36 in mind, when he wrote this? And, I understand, that this was a hidden hint to another ruler who tried to destroy diversity.

Dr. Kaiser invited the community into the garden of the parish hall in Taubenstrasse, where barbecue, salad, water, cake and coffee were waiting for us in the warm sun. We all sat together and chatted. Now, Dr. Kaiser will read “Master and Margarita” – his organist (from the former GDR) promised to lend him his copy and confirmed enthusiastically that it is worth reading.



Zum Schwiizer in Zeesen, south of Berlin

Jo dö könned mir jo gly Schwyzerdüütsch rede “Ahm, then we can speak Swiss German right away,” the charming young lady says, as she hears our first words. Antoinette and her husband had taken me into the restaurant “zum Schwiizer” in Zeesen, some 40km south of Berlin. We sit in a nice garden in the warm sun, and obviously Antoinette and I could not hide where we are from. The owner welcomed us in Swiss German. We order Läberli (liver) and Zürigschnätzlets (meat cut into strips in cream sauce) with Röschti (similar to hash browns) and e Gmüeswäie (vegetable pie). We also take Valser Wasser (mineral water from Vals in the Swiss mountains) and Rivella (is made from milk serum and is a drink invented in Switzerland in 1952).

The Swiss quiz

While we wait for our dishes, we smile about this quiz which we found on our table… it contains questions such as

  •  which of these dishes do not contain potatoes: Hääperebrägu, Rüeblitorte, Gschwellti, Härdöpfustock (it is “Rüeblitorte” that contains Rüebli or carrots, but not potatoes).
  • or translate please: Jetzt faart dä Löli uf em Troittoir, derbii schtoot e Tschugger hinterem Egge. (Now this idiot runs his bike on the pedestrians’ walk, but there is a policeman behind the corner).
  • or which of these products have not been invented in Switzerland or by a Swiss? The two stroke engine, democracy, the zip fastener, Chevrolet cars, the bicycle chain, the PC mouse, LSD, aluminium foil, the velcro fastener, the turbo charger, the spam and the LCD display? Answer: The spam – and I somehow think this is not a product, but a nuisance… or did they mean Spiced Pork And Meat – canned precooked meat?

Antoinette’s husband rolls his eyes, as also Germans have a hard time to understand the Swiss dialects. We enjoy our very Swiss experience here close to Berlin. We can recommend this restaurant & pension which is just near the regional railway station of Zeesen with a direct connection to the city center of Berlin (website The young couple running it met in Switzerland, he being from Berlin and she from the Swiss canton of Thurgau, and they decided to start their own business here.

Mongolia: Discovering the peoples from the steppes – diving into their history

Mongolia – The mysterious peoples from the steppes

Huns and Attila, Turks, Chinggis Khan and his horsemen conquering Europe and Asia, the Moguls in India, the emperors in China – to connect up the links between all these fragments of knowledge about Mongolian history, Ursula and I spend a sunny afternoon in the garden of my mountain apartment. We felt like back in our school days some 40 years ago, when ploughing through the guide books (Dumont, Lonely Planet and more) and when surfing through the Internet with Drs Google and Wikipedia. This is what we found – and we may have misinterpreted some of the complex facts while trying to make a short overview.

Three invasions by the peoples from the steppes

(1) The Huns and Attila around 400 AD left their steppes. In 450 the empire of Attila stretched from Korea to Germany.
(2) Turkish/Uighur tribes blended their nomadic life and agriculture. There are ruins of their small cities in the Orkhon valley and a monument near the Lake Ögoi reminds of Bilge Khan, their greatest leader. Their empire reached out to the Meditarranean. It existed until around 840. The Uighurs were then expeled by Kyrgyz tribes (also Turkish) and migrated to the east, where they controled part of the silk road for the next 1000 years.
(3)  In the early 13th century, Chinggis Khan unified the rival Mongolian tribes. He built an army of horsemen (9×10’000 and a personal guard of 10’000). Chinggis Khan and later his son and successor Ögodoi Khan conquered an empire from Korea to Hungary and from India to Russia. Ögodoi founded the capital Karakorum in 1241.

Around 1270, Kublai Khan divided Mongolia  into four regions called khanats. First Central Mongolia, second China (where Kublai Khan created the Yuan dynasty described by Marco Polo; Kublai’s dynasty lasted until 1368), third Russia (the Golden Hordes, later beaten by Dimitrij Donskoj in 1380), and fourth Persia (converting to the Islam and around 1500 creating the Mogul dynasty in Northern India).

In the second half of the 14th century, most of the Mongolian rulers had retreated to Mongolia, both from the West as well as from China. The now rival tribes were unified once again by Mongolia’s greatest queen, Manduhai. The Mongols revere her even today.

Adopting the Tibetan buddhism

In 1585 Altan Khan founded the monastery (khid) of Erdene Zuu, after having coverted to the yellow hat buddhism influenced by Phagpa, a Tibetan buddhist.

Under Manchurian/Chinese rule

The Mongols supported their neighbors, the Manchus, to conquer China and establish the dynasty of the Quing. Nevertheless the Mongols became a people colonised and oppressed by the Chinese. The Quing were overthrown in 1911. They were the last dynasty of Chinese emperors.

Revolutions and Sowjet rule

Until 1990, Mongolia was mostly a Sowjet state. Their prime minister Gender bravely opposed Stalin and defended the monasteries, but he was executed and his successor then destroyed them. Mongolia used the cyrillic alphabet.

Transition and democracy

In 1990, Mongolia (“outer” Mongolia) became independent and successfully established democratic rules. The former president has just been confirmed in the elections of July 2013 – he belongs to the democratic party.

On the road again – via Berlin to Mongolia

At the airport in Basel

Friday 23rd of August. I am waiting for my Easyjet flight to Berlin. The plan: A few days in the town of my mother, Berlin. I love this town and I will meet Antoinette. Next week, Ursula will join us… and with her I will leave for Mongolia.  We are all friends from the school days that we completed some 40 years ago. It is good to be with friends.

A full month on the road again. I hope to find some Internet Connections to blog about the two Swiss traveling in Mongolia.

Leaving life at home behind me
Life has been breathtaking since I came back from Petersburg. Renovation in my house… I lived amidst piles of books, carpets and folders in the living room, while the first floor is empty to be overhauled. I did some consulting work for a few days… I enjoyed this change to my retirement and I plan to do more of this later.Then a person very close to me left this world… I am very sad.

Now, I leave life at home behind me, with one more friend in my heart.

Ahead of me is Mongolia

Mongolia has always been a mysterious spot in this world for me. I came across the peoples from Mongolia, when learning about the Huns that invaded Europe (I once sat on the chair of Attila in Italy), about the Turks that invaded Anatolia (the ruins of the Byzantine cities were one example that told me about them). Then Chinggis Khan – he became a pop star in the 1980’s. I came across them in Russia as the “Golden Hordes”, in India as the Moguls (Sha Jahan’s Tadj Mahal shows how powerful they were). And China feared them, built the Great Wall, and could not prevent being invaded; the Mongols became even emperors of China.

The mysterious peoples from the steppes. I look forward to discovering them and to understanding why I came across them in so many corners of this world.

A Swiss in Petersburg – more Russian grammar

The aspects –  I keep on confusing them and my Russian partners

Oh yes, I have been working at controling the aspects for many years, but I keep on confusing them, despite the fact that they are so crucial to understanding Russian. Here are some samples:

  • With Larissa I attended the opera “the flying Dutchmen”. I liked the opera, and I later said to Tatjana, my Russian teacher, that I liked it very much: “спектакль “Летучий Голландец” мне нравилась.” Tatjana rises her eye brows: “oh… so  what happened? You do no longer like it?” – Hm, no-no, I liked it and I still like it. “Well, she says, so… you have to say:  спектакль понравилась. Otherwise every Russian would think that you do no longer like it.”  Okay, I understand, I have used the imperfect aspect and should have used the perfect aspect to make it all clear that I still like it and that the result has not been “canceled”.
  • Tatjana and I sit at the table at home and practice the aspects. The door bell rings. I open the door. The neighbor looks for Elena, but as Elena is not at home, she leaves. Shortly afterwards Elena comes home. “Elena”, I say, “your neighbor came and looked for you…  соседка пришла и искала тебя”‘. Tatjana frowns. “Where is the neighbor? Is she waiting in the kitchen?” – Hm, no-no, she is no longer here, she went away  – она ушла. Conclusion: Result canceled, she left again, hence I have to say  “она приходила”. Will I ever get this right?
  • Tatjana and I practice the words “dress” and “put on”. Another trap here. I put on my trousers in the imperfect aspect means a scandal, if I left the house now. Because “надевала брюки” means that I put them on and then took them off again. I have to say “надела брюки”  in the perfect aspect to express that I put them on and I am still wearing them. Did I make this clear? I think you have to be a native slawic speaker to understand this.

The “canceled result”

Tatjana calls this concept “the canceled result” or “аннилурованный результат”. For Russians this is all easy, they just ask themselves: делал или сделал? (perhaps to translate like this: Did he process this or did he complete it”), but for me, this is still not straightforward. Larissa and my Russian friends are always puzzled, when I hesitate about using the correct aspect. Larissa remembers that she heard about the aspects at school a long time ago… and now corrects me as well.

Another challenge – how to form the aspects?

When I have decided which aspect to use, there is the next challenge… how is it formed? Often the verb is “stronger” in the perfect aspect, e.g. the conjugation is irregular and it is more regular in the imperfect aspect:

  • плавать – плыть, понимать – понять, давать – дать, начинать – начать

Often I can just add  the prefixes “по” or “с” to derive the perfect aspect:

  • просить -попросить, делать – сделать, желать – пожелать, петь – спеть

but then there is покупать – купить which I always confuse. Then there are many irregular verbs in the perfect aspect and often the Russians use two totally different verbs:

  • брать – взять, ловить – поймать, сказать – говорить

To remember that брать is incomplete I needed a ladder… My brother is not perfect. I do not have a brother and hence I am not offending anyone.

Well, I try hard to get these aspects under better control, and I hope that my Russian friends forgive me and understand nevertheless, what I am trying to say.

A Swiss in Petersburg – visiting some more museums

Yes, sooo many museums

So many museums in Petersburg, and so far I have only talked about three of them: The two “musts” which are the Ermitage and the Russian museum and then the enticing zoology museum – an eldorado for biology teachers and families on Vasiliyevsky Island. I visited three more museums that are not the main target of tourists: The Vodka Museum, the Museum of Communication and the Museum of Political History.

The Vodka Museum (Музей русской водки)

The Vodka Museum is a very Russian institution and it is only a ten minutes’ walk away from Raskolnikow’s house. It is close to the Admiralty. The Lonely Planet promises to me that “this private museum tells the story of Russia’s national tipple in an interesting and fun way from the first production of “bread wine” to the phenomen of the modern international wodka industry…”

Whether I want a vodka tasting, I am asked at the entrance, this would cost another 300 Rubles. I am not so sure, what a “vodka tasting” is… it must be somewhat different from a wine tasting, and I decide not to buy the tasting.

I follow the vitrines from how bread wine is brewed at home, then learn that the vodka we now know of has been invented in the middle of the 19th century (not such an old tradition) where they normed the alcohol content. Vodka became cult with small Vodka glasses (стопки) and pretty bottles.



The museum also documents, how government and social organizations tried to fight the alcohol problems and how vodka was present in the Sowjet times.

There is a vitrine where visitors can buy a t-shirt (футболка) with the Russian proverb “водка без пиво – бросишь денги на ветер” or “vodka without beer- you throw money into the wind” (Larissa, I hope I got this proverb right this time. When I heard it the first time, I got it all wrong, something like “beer without vodka, you through money out of the window”, and this must sound so strange to Russian ears that you and your friends laughed to tears at our rybalka (рыбалка) in Finland).

While I am smiling to myself about the t-shirt, a dynamic lady directs her way to the bar for the vodka tastings and shouts at the waitor: “we have no time, we have no time, where are the glasses and the snacks”. Then she shouts at her group of four men in English: “Come here, no time, no time, this is your vodka tasting… clink your glasses… no,no… all together in the middle… then exhalate, then drink the shot, then take a snack – and now again… no time, no time… clink your glasses, exhalate, drink, eat… come on, we have to leave, no time, no time…” And off they rush and it is quiet in this room.

Again I smile for myself: I am happy that I am not part of this group. The waitor had prepared very nice plates with snacks and would have deserved more attention. Vodka drinking needs more time, as I experienced last year with Juri on our bike tour and this year at the Rybalka with Larissa’s friends, enjoying the vodka with white-white bacon and some dark bread – and everyone accepted that I drank the vodka the Swiss way – sipping it – because I am Swiss and not Russian. I find that this white bacon and the vodka are a good match and the bacon reminds me of my father who prefered white-white bacon to the bacon with meat strips in it. Enjoying vodka somewhat less in a hurry makes a good time with friends.

Popov’s museum of communication (Музей связи Попова)

I am always astonished, how well the Russians succeed to hide away their excellent museums, and how inventive the potential visitors are in finding them… I knew the address of the museum of communication is in Potschamtsky pereulok 4 (Почтамтский переулок. I see number 6… then I stand at the end of this pereulok, I walk back to number 6, again to the end of this pereulok, again towards number 6… ah, what is this? I saw someone disappear behind this wooden door with the transparent signboards and the blue letters. Yes! This IS the Popov museum of communication, named after the inventor of the radio in Russia. Well, so far this has looked like another office building to me.


The museum starts with mail being delivered by coaches and sledges, and it ends with mobile communication. This must be an eldorado for teachers of physics, as there are many interactive hands-on experiments to understand electricity, the propagation of waves, telegraphy, radio (first samples, transistor radios etc), telephony (from old switching systems to mobile phones) … impressive also how communication  worked in the war and during the long blockade of Leningrad. A nice toy is the tube post: Grand-pa and his grand-son love to send the entrance ticket back and forth through the transparent tubes. I regret that I did not spend more time at school or later to study physics. Yes, Ernst, you are right, a few Latin lessons less and a few physics lessons more would have been useful.

Unfortunately, fotos are not allowed in this wonderful museum. I say hello to the civil communications satellite LUCH 15 in the large atrium and leave this wonderful place to tackle another Russian lesson.

The museum of political history (Музей политической истории России)

The museum of Russian politicial history is in the beautiful modern style Kshensinskaja palace not far from the Peter and Paul Fortress. My Lonely Planet tells me that Lenin gave speeches from the balcony of this palace. I agree with my guidebook – this museum is well curated and tells history from the Zars over the revolution, the Soviet times and the disintegration of the Soviet Union up to  Jelzin, proving an objective attitude. I read about the Zars, watch Lenin’s revolution, then follow Stalin, study the five year plans and the advertisement of a kolchos (proudly announcing that they have electricity and radio – with huge loud speakers), the second world war, then Chruschtschow with the thawing period, followed by Breschnew (the Russians called him the Eyebrow Carrier or Бровеносиц). The museum also shows, how the people lived in the kommunalkas (коммуналки) – here is a sample of a kitchen shared by several families.


Also the singers and poets have a place… I find my favorites, Boulat Okudjava and Vladimir Vissotsky. Whenever I am on one of those long long escalators to the metro, I have to think of Okudjava’s song: Stay on the right, walk on the left… this is like in real life (in Soviet times). And in the fitness center I think of Vissotsky: What a great thing is the morning sports, all are moving and no one stays behind.


On the top flloor, I find the late 80’s and the 90’s. I am impressed, how the collapse of the Soviet Union is illustrated. There are caricatures and samples of Western newspapers like the Spiegel or the Economist, describing the events with critical headlines such as “a man without a country” or Jelzin at the chasm (Abgrund). And I find the allusion to Ilja Repin’s Wolga trawlers: Союз нерушимый or the union that cannot be broken.






Back at the entrance, I buy a small brochure about the exhibition “the collapse of the USSR: historical inevitability or criminal conspiracy?” This is an excerpt of their analysis: “As long as the Communist Party which served as the ideological and politcal backbone of the Soviet Union, had absolute power, the nationalities problems were subdued and depressed… also by the use of force or threats to use it… In the context of glasnost and democratization initiated in 1985…, the accumulated controversies grew into open conflicts.” The brochure tells the events in August 1991 where the State Committee of the State of Emergency tried to save the Union, but were perceived as a coup d’etat by the democratic forces. The Communist party was then dissolved, and as these were the ties that cemented the Soviet Union, the Union also collapsed… this is the basic reasoning of this brochure.

I now take the metro to Sennaja Ploschtschadj, buy some cherries (черешню) and tackle my next Russian lesson, sharing the cherries with Tatjana.

A Swiss in Petersburg – sooo many museums

Petersburg has museums for everything, and most of them are well curated

The gems of all museums are the Ermitage and the Russian Museum. These are the first attractions for tourists. And there are many more museums – more hidden gems – like the zoological museum, the vodka museum, the museum of communication, the museum of political history, the railway museum, the museum of ethnology, and each poet from Puschkin over Dostojewsky to Achmatova has his/her museum – just to mention a few of them. Time did not suffice to visit them all. I did the Ermitage and the four exhibitions of the Russian museum, the zoological museum  and I also checked out the museums for vodka, communication and political history.

Today I plan to visit the Russian museum that is spread over four places. On Thursdays, the museum only opens at 1 PM, but for that it is open until 9PM. I plan on a long museum day starting with the central building.

The central Russian museum – in the Michailovsky palace

Enjoying the original Russian “standard ice cream” (it comes in a softish waffle), I wait in the Michailovsky garden on one of the artists’ banks (a special open exhibiton) until the Russian museum opens.


At the entrance I buy a ticket for all four museums. My first target are the Russian icons. I say hello to Boris and Gleb (yes, Ernst, I remember that you always recognized the two martyreds that are related to the origins of the orthodox religion in the Kiewer Rus – The Russians prefered Christianity to the religion that forbids alcohol). I also look for Andrey Rublow’s Peter and Paul and for the good mother that successfully defended Novgorod against Susdal. Here are my favorites  – it is great that taking fotos is allowed in this museum.




Then I  find some luxurios palace rooms and paintings of zars, nobles and battles as well as scenes from the Greek and Roman mythology… and my next target are the Peredwischniki that documented the social problems on mobile exhibitions in the the 19th century. Great, Ilja Repin’s Wolga trawlers area here  (they often travel).


This museum is a maze – I hardly find the exit. I go back home for my Russian lesson at 4 PM, and after the lesson, I walk back to the Newsky Prospekt to continue my marathon through all the palaces of the Russian museum.

The Stroganov Palace

The Stroganow Palace is located where the Newsky Prospekt crosses the Moika channel. I know that pink building. But, where is the entrance to the Russian museum? In the courtyard I ask. Again this very Russian experience – the official lady at the entrance to another museum does not know! I find someone who directs me to the Moika. But then I still  oscillate back and forth, until I decide that it must be this absolutely unostentatious wooden door at the corner. Yes, right! My ticket is valid and I enter a vast and luxurious palace. The first hall is “separated” by a mirror. The mirror doubles the lustres and the columns – in reality there are only half-lustres and half-columns.


A lady jumps at me – fotos forbidden in here. Well, the lustres are in my camera and remain there, but Stroganovs remaining rooms are no longer in my camera. This is a great palace, as is his boeuf Stroganov. I have shared this dish at many Christmas Eves with Ernst.

The Marble Palace

The next palace on my ticket for the four Russian  museums is the Marble Palace. It is in Millionaja Street, and I start to walk. And I walk and I walk – more than I expected – about half an hour. Eventually I enter a courtyard. No, what is this? Such an ugly monument? Quite a strong  man on quite a strong horse? Alexander III? Who died early and then Nicolas II , the last Zar, took over from his father?


In my Lonely Planet I read that Nikolaus wanted to send his father to Sibiria, as he did not like this monument. Rumors then emerged that he wanted to ban his father to Sibiria… and hence the monument remained in Piteri. The sculpturer said that the he is not interested in politics and just modeled one animal on another animal.  Larissa and Tamara told me this rhyme for this monument:

Стоит коммод / на коммоде – бегемот / на ъегемоте – оъормот /  на обормоте – шапка.

There is a commode / on the commode there is a hippo / on the hippo there is a fool/ on the fool there is a cap.

Elena made it all clear to me that she thinks Alexander was a good Zar – he did not fight big wars, but tried to bring order to the country and to develop it – his time was too short, she says, and bringing peace is not valued as being “great”. Well, I think he would have deserved a more handsome monument.

From one window in the palace  I hear music. There is a concert going on in the Lapislazulli room. A young man enthusiastically sings poems, accompanied by a fortepiano and a cello. This group has no name – they might just be students from the music acadamy that also Anna graduated from.


I walk through the luxury of this palace that also hosts exhibitions – the Ludwig museum of Cologne has displays. There is a temporary exhibition of Mihail Chemiakin, called “sidewalks of Paris“. The artist took photos of things thrown away in the streets of Paris and transformed the photos into drawings by adding colored lines with a pen that can be erased again (if I understand this right). There is also a hands-on room, where visitors can do their own drawings and erase them again, if they wish.  This is an interesting concept: Take, what you find in the street and add your phantasy to it.  I think that one of my favorite writers, Pascal Janovjak (son of a good friend of mine), would like this, as he is working at a literary project based on interviews with people in the streets of Rome.


Michailovsy castle

This is the fourth palace that belongs to the Russian museum. From the marble palace I have to walk past the Mars field and follow the first block of the Sadowaja street to find it. Yes, my ticket is valid, And, yet another palace that does not allow to take pictures. There is an exhibition of the Romanows that 400 centuries ago took over after the turmoils with the Polish and the false Dimitrij… until 1917 (almost a hundred years ago). I am always impressed by the portraits of Peter the Great… he was a leader with a vision and at the same time he was so cruel – he killed his son.


It is now 9 PM and the museums close. I walk back to my home and take a rest – my head is exploding from all the new impressions and my feet are tired-tired.

A Swiss in Petersburg – with Anna in my heart

My Russian teacher and friend for many, many years

Anna is in my heart. She also is no longer with me. She was my Russian teacher for many, many years, and she became a wonderful friend. She completed her education in Leningrad, lived in Switzerland teaching Russian to a small group of enthusiasts that stayed together for more than 30 years, and she told us about her roots in Leningrad – now renamed to Sankt Petersburg:

  • Her grand-father was an artist specializing in tiles and ceramic. Anna told me that he made the blue tiles on the mosque, when the mosque was built in the beginning of the 20th century. Under Stalin he then could no longer work as an artist and earned his living by making the ceramic isolation bells for the electricity power lines. (Later I find the German journal “DU” from Dec 1998 and it confirms that it was the workshop of P. K. Vaulin that made the ceramic decoration of the portals and of the cupola, and – yes, Vaulin is the grand father of my friend Anna Vaulina).
  • Her brother in law was the composer Andrej Petrov. She participated in the festivities for his 70th birthday. The Russians built a small violin park for him.

I visited the mosque and the violin park with Anna in my heart.

Visiting the mosque – for ladies, only when wearing a scarf and skirt

The elegant cupola and towers of the mosque with its blue tiles are a landmark that can be seen from far in Petersburg. When there are no prayers, the door is open to non muslims, and ladies have to wear a skirt and a scarf. Trousers are not allowed, and hats are also not suitable for ladies. At my first attempt to enter the mosque, I only had a hat and I was wearing trousers and was not allowed to go in. So I acquired a small scarf to cover my head and a large scarf to cover my trousers (which also counts as a skirt), and gave it a second try later. I liked the interior with only few ornaments and kneeled down on the carpet, keeping myself to the back of the mosque, as I did not want to disturb the men praying peacefully in here.


The violin park of Andrej Petrov

My wishes guidebook tells me that near Kamenoostrovsky prospekt 26/28 there is the small park with violins devoted to the oeuvre of the composer Andrej Petrov. The violins take the form of a swan, a woman, a high heal shoe, a sphynx etc and visitors can get inspiration for music. I find the small park – no tourists here, just children on the integrated playground and some Russians taking a rest next to the violins. My favorite violin is the slipper – скрипка на каблуках. Not being a musician, I just enjoy it and do not expect any inspiration.



I am not sure, Anna, whether you have still seen this park, but I know that you would be proud of it.