Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Hermitage Garden

Supporters of the Geelong Australian Rules football club may be amused by this Moscow milk carton. This link will help those sadly deprived people who do not follow Australian Rules football understand what I mean - http://www.geelongcats.com.au/

It’s quite a sunny afternoon, nice after an extended period of gloom. It doesn’t help that Moscow is in a permanent state of daylight saving, which means it still doesn’t get light until around 9.30am. Nice in the afternoons, but 5 months of getting up in the dark is difficult.

Last Sunday was also fairly pleasant, so we took a walk to the Hermitage Garden which is located on Ulitsa Karetnyy Ryad, close to where it joins the Garden Ring (which is actually a multi-laned traffic snarl of a ring road).

This small, manicured park, opened in 1894, surrounds the Hermitage Theatre. In summer the gardens are popular with wedding groups, people quietly sitting and reading, and kids running around the playground. In winter, there is a skating rink, but otherwise not much to do other than take a short stroll along the snowy paths. 

Childrens' slippery dip (slide) sculpted from ice. Photographed in the Hermitage Garden last Sunday (20 Jan)
 What I particularly like about this park is the Art Nouveau fence and entrance. Still, being currently ranked 547 out of 592 things to do in Moscow by the Lonely Planet, I doubt too many tourists will be seeing it. 

The rest of these photos I took last summer - the gardens are at their best in the summer and I need to remind myself occasionally that there is such a thing.

The wonderful Art Nouveau garden entrance and fence.
The Hermitage Theatre
One of the grand garden pergolas
Not too surprising that this park is popular with wedding groups.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Museum of Palaeontology

Happy New Year and I hope you all had a great Christmas. We spent ours in Germany, love their Christmas markets. Same grey skies as Moscow, though 10 degrees warmer (zero instead of minus 10). 

Like most young boys, as a kid I was interested in dinosaurs. Unlike most young boys my hero was not Batman or Superman, but a real guy – a palaeontologist named Roy Chapman Andrews. There is a suggestion that this chap may have provided some inspiration for the creation of Indiana Jones. Look him up. 

I let this interest influence my direction in life to an extent and ended up doing a Ph.D in geology. During my studies I realised that the fate of most palaeontologists was not digging up dinosaur bones (which is, itself, actually quite tedious), but rather to peer into a microscope looking at foraminifera for oil companies. Ho hum. So I eventually ended up spending 25 years with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. Much more exciting. 

The point to this ramble is that I never lost my interest in dinosaurs and things fossilised. If I have time I usually seek the natural history museum in the city I am visiting and check out its collection. I’ve seen a lot of them - and Moscow has the best. Even the famed American Museum of Natural History in New York doesn’t quite match it. 

An entire building is devoted to displaying this wonderful collection. It’s a little out of town – take the yellow line (6) south to Teply Stan, then walk north east about 400 metres along Profsoyuznaya until you see the building depicted in the photo below.

My only complaint is that almost all the information is in Russian. Hardly surprising, though, as I can’t imagine this museum is a must-see for the average tourist with a couple of days in Moscow. But if you are here for longer, this museum is worth a look - especially if you are stuck for something to do with the kids one snowy afternoon. 

Part of the magnificent foyer diorama
 A Tarbosaurus (an Asian tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur) checking out whether the bones on the Saurolophus (a duckbill dinosaur) are worth a gnaw

A marine reptile - Plesiosaurus (you are supposed to imagine it is swimming, not flying!)
There are several statues of various extinct critters (such as this snow-encased Mammoth) in the courtyard, which is closed for winter. 
They really do have some great stuff, including this Indricotherium, an Oligocene mammal that more than matches the dinosaurs for height