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19 February 2018 / leggypeggy

Exploring the magnificent Moscow Metro

Mosaic at Novoslobodskaya station, Moscow

One of the geometric stained-glass panels in Novoslobodskaya, the second last station we visited

Towards the end of our stay in Russia’s capital, Poor John and I spent a couple of hours exploring the beauty of the famous Moscow Metro, which is also known as the People’s Palace.

First opened in 1935, during the Stalin era, the metro has 12 lines covering 349 kilometres and stopping at a staggering 207 stations. Some of these stations are absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, they are works of art in their own right.

Before we set out, Poor John spent time online to identify some of the best stations to visit. We had a long list and knew we couldn’t visit them all, but we figured out a zigzagging route that would let us see quite a few. And we did all that for about $1 each because once you enter the metro system, you can keep travelling at no extra charge until you exit. Because we stayed underground, I don’t have any pictures from the station entrances or turnstiles. Next time.

Hall at Arbatskaya station, Moscow

The busy hall at Arbatskaya station

We started with the Arbatskaya station on line 3. It opened in 1953 and was designed by Leonid Polyakov, Valentin Pelevin and Yury Zenkevich. It was meant to double as a station and a bomb shelter, so it is large and deep. The platform is 250 metres long. The walls are decorated with glazed ceramic tiles and ceramic flower bouquets. The chandeliers are bronze.

Park Pobedy station, Moscow

Officials walk through the hall at Park Pobedy station

Mural in Park Pobedy, Moscow

A mural at one end of a hall in Park Pobedy

Next stop was Park Pobedy also on line 3. This newer station, opened in 2003, has two underground halls and was designed by N. Shurygina and N. Shumakov. I’ve read that the descent from ground-level to the southern hall has four escalators 126 meters long (the longest in Moscow). The hall decoration is dedicated to victories in the Patriotic Wars of 1812 and 1941–45. The hall pylons are faced with white and red marble.

We only saw the southern hall and I was delighted to take pictures of military/police without having my camera confiscated. Times have changed.

Minskaya station, Moscow

The modern Minskaya station where we arrived by mistake

It was too late by the time I realised we had boarded the wrong train, so we got a surprise stop at the Minskaya station that had opened only six months earlier. I can’t find more info about it, but the decoration is modern, digital and train-related.

Hall in Kievskaya station, Moscow

The art filled hall in Kievskaya station

Mural in Kievskaya station, Moscow

A mural depicting the feast in Kiev

Luckily it wasn’t hard to get back on track and we soon arrived at Kievskaya on line 5. This station opened in 1953. Its design was decided through an open competition held in Ukraine. The winners were E.I. Katonin, V.K. Skugarev and G.E. Golubev. Not surprisingly, the frescos on the pylons depict events from Ukraine’s history.

It was built under the personal supervision of General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. It is believed that the elegant decor was a way for Khrushchev to pay tribute to his Ukrainian homeland. The panel on the hall’s end wall shows the feast in Kiev that honoured the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine with Russia.

Triumphal arch at Oktyabrskaya station

The triumphal arch at Oktyabrskaya station

Platform at Oktyabrskaya station, Moscow

The platform at Oktyabrskaya station

Our next stop was Oktyabrskaya on line 5. Opened in 1950, it was designed by Leonid Polyakov, who helped design Arbatskaya, the first station we visited. The pylons have ventilation grilles that are flanked by anodized aluminum torches that give the hall a golden glow. At one end there is a miniature triumphal arch with a metallic gate that walls off a blue lit room, symbolising peace. 

Platform at Paveletskaya station

Hammers and sickles adorn Paveletskaya station

Still on line 5, we visited Paveletskaya station which opened in 1943. Designed by S.V. Lyashchenko and E.S. Demchenko. Hammers and sickles dominate the decoration. The hall is lit by bronze chandeliers. A mosaic panel represents friendship and unity between the working class and the collective farm peasantry. The station has some beautiful staircases.

Sculpture at Ploschad Revolyutsii station, Moscow

One of 76 sculptures at Ploschad Revolyutsii station

Then we were back to line 3 to see Ploschad Revolyutsii, one of the metro’s most famous stations. It’s named after Revolution Square, under which it is located. Designed by Alexey Dushkin and opened in 1938, the station is known for it’s statues. Each arch is flanked by a pair of bronze sculptures by Matvey Manizer. These pieces depict the people of the Soviet Union, including soldiers, farmers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers and schoolchildren. There are 76 sculptures in the station.

Mayakovskaya station, Moscow

The vast hall and platform at Mayakovskaya station

Ceiling mosaic at Mayakovskaya station, Moscow

One of the ceiling mosaics

Dushkin also designed Mayakovskaya, which opened in 1938 and is situated on line 2. The station name as well as the design is a reference to futurism and its prominent Russian exponent, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Considered to be one of the most beautiful in the system, Mayakovskaya is a fine example of pre-World War II Stalinist architecture and one of the most famous metro stations in the world. It is most well known for its 34 ceiling mosaics depicting ’24 Hours in the Land of the Soviets’. I only got a pic of one. During World War II, the station was used as a command post for Moscow’s anti-aircraft regiment.

Hope I’m not wearing you out. We only have two stations to go.

Mosaic at Novoslobodskaya station, Moscow

Musician mosaic

Mosaic Peace Throughout the World, Novoslobodskaya station

‘Peace Throughout the World’ mosaic by Korin

It’s obvious that Dushkin was a popular architect for the metro. He and Alexander Strelkov designed the beautiful Novoslobodskaya station on line 5. Dushkin had long wished to decorate a metro station with stained glass. As a result, this station is best known for its 32 stained-glass panels, which were designed by the famous Soviet artist, Pavel Korin. The panels were made in Latvia because Russia did not have a tradition of working with stained glass or any masters of the craft. Six of the stained-glass panels depict people from different professions including a musician, an agronomist and, of course, an architect. The remaining panels have intricate geometric patterns and stars. The station opened in 1952.

Komsomolskaya station, Moscow

More officials at the Komsomolskaya station

And at long last we arrived at the stunning Komsomolskaya on line 5. It’s considered a Gateway to Moscow and is one of the busiest station in the whole system because it is under three railway terminals. Alexey Shchusev was the lead architect, but after his death, the work was finished by Viktor Kokorin, A. Zabolotnaya, V. Varvarin and O. Velikoretsky and the artist, Korin, who created the eight ceiling mosaics. In 1951, both Korin and Shchusev (posthumously) were awarded the Stalin Prize for their work on the station, which opened the following year. Six years later, the station was awarded the Grand Prix title of Expo ’58 in Brussels.

I so wish we’d had time to explore more stations. If you want to look at more, here’s a link to a 2011 list of an architect’s favourite stations. Do you have a favourite station or a favourite artwork?

An interesting bit of history
In the 1930s, Soviet workers did the labor and art work for the early metro stations, but the main engineering designs, routes and construction plans were handled by specialists recruited from the London Underground, the oldest metro system in the world.

Ceiling at Komsomolskaya station, Moscow

Magnificent ceiling at Komsomolskaya station

9 February 2018 / leggypeggy

Tracking the Seven Sisters


1. Minyipuru (Seven Sisters) 2007


2. The Seven Sisters 2003–04 by Tjanpi Desert Weavers. Their pursuer is on the right


3. Seven Sisters Songline 1994 by Josephine Mick

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is one of the most remarkable and moving exhibitions ever shown at the National Museum of Australia.

As the exhibit says ‘At first glance, the Seven Sisters songline is the story of an ancestral shape-shifter and the women he pursues. It is also a tale of survival, resilience and endurance arising from the endless drama of flight and pursuit, and the ability of women to overcome the threats and dangers that face them.’

Clearly, the #MeToo phenomenon has been around for centuries, and the Seven Sisters were among the first ‘victims’.

Minyipuru Pangkalpa by Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman, 2015

4. Minyipuru Pangkalpa 2015 by Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman

Or were they? This exhibit makes the point that the sisters usually managed to stay one step ahead of their pursuer.

Now, first off, you need to know that much of Aboriginal history is based on Dreamtime stories that have been handed down through the centuries. The stories explain landmarks, water features, plants, the sky, people, personalities and so much more.

I can’t pretend to know much about any of this, so instead of trying to rewrite explanations about this exhibit, I will often use the words posted with the displays.

So here goes.

5. Yarrakalpa (Hunting Ground) 2013 by eight artists

5. Yarrakalpa (Hunting Ground) 2013 by eight artists

A multimedia clip of the artists working on Yarrakalpa

A multimedia clip of the artists working on this piece, Yarrakalpa

A sketch explaining the various elements of Yarrakalpa

A sketch explaining the various elements of Yarrakalpa

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters is a journey along the Ancestral routes of the sisters as they flee across deserts, pursued relentlessly by a sorcerer. This is an epic tale of tragedy and comedy, obsession and trickery, obsession and loss, solidarity and sorrow—a universal drama played out in the night sky by Orion and the Pleiades, and a terrestrial creation story in which the land has a starring role.

‘The Seven Sisters story is a saga of mythological dimensions and meanings. It is of a kind with Greek legends of gods transforming themselves into swans and bulls and showers of gold in order to seduce the women they desire. But the Australian desert story has a more ribald, raunchy element.

‘In retelling the Seven Sisters story here, the museum becomes the three deserts of the Martu, the Ngaanyatjarra and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjnatjara peoples, the paintings become portals to place, and the films and audio pieces replicate the inma, or the song and dance that embody the story.

Baskets by Martumili artists

Baskets by Martumili artists Ngamaru Bidu, Kanu Nancy Taylor and Mantararr Rosie Williams, 2013

Piti (bowls) Australian Aboriginal art

Piti (bowls) made by Margaret Dagg, Tospy Tjulyata and Nyurpaya Kaika Burton between 1997 and 2003

In 2017, Inawinytji Williamson wrote about the display and the Tjukurpa behind it. If you’re interested click through to more detail about what Tjukurpa means. Williamson said, ’The Seven Sisters Tjukurpa—our Dreaming creation law—is very important to us, we hold it strongly and teach it to the generations that come after us.

‘This Tjukurpa travels through many people’s country: the Martu, Ngaanyatjarra, Pithjantjatjara and Yankunytjnatjara lands. This really big Tjukurpa belongs to many people in the north, east, south, west and centre. Many people tell this story in different languages.

Wati Nyiru by Judy Trigger in 2013

Wati Nyiru by Judy Trigger in 2013. Judy shows Wati Nyiru camouflaging himself as a tree (on the left) while he spies on the sisters.

‘We have brought the song, story and paintings full of Tjukurpa—the creation spirit of the Seven Sisters—to put in our Canberra exhibition. We want to show this major creation story here so many other people can look, learn and increase their understanding. And it’s for teaching all our children, our granddaughters and grandsons—to keep the culture strong. That is why we are making this exhibition so everyone can see and understand that our Tjukurpa law stands strong today.’

Today there are about 500 different Aboriginal peoples spread across Australia, each with their own language and territory and usually made up of a large number of separate clans.

The Seven Sisters cross virtually all these clans. In the west, the sisters are collectively called Minyipuru and their male pursuer is Yurla. As they travel eastward, the sisters are known as Kungkarrangkalpa (also Kungkarangkalpa), and the lovestruck man (sorcerer) is Wati Nyiru.

As the display explains ‘the sisters are not simply victims in their own story. At times flustered and flighty, they can be as tricky and clever as the sorcerer who transforms into multiple guises to trick the sisters he attempts to possess.

‘When the sorcerer’s lust overcomes his reason, and a part of him cuts loose in the form or kuniya the carpet snake, the sisters capture and wrestle it out of their country, flinging it away and watching it flicker and gleam with the colours of the rainbow, while the shape-shifter chases it over the western horizon. 

Kungkarangkalpa Atila 2014 by Tjunkaya Tapaya

Kungkarangkalpa Atila 2014 by Tjunkaya Tapaya, Ernabella Arts centre. The Songlines are in yellow

‘The Seven Sisters story is more than a moral narrative of actions and their consequences. It reflects a world in which necessity drives behaviour, power is negotiable and flexible, and resilience is the quality that ensures survival.’

The artworks accompanying Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters have been produced by artists from across Australia. Some pieces have been created by as many as eight artists working together.

The exhibition is loaded with special elements. Three items that helped to bring the artworks to life were an overhead video (visitors lie on beds to view), a collection of life-sized sisters hung from the ceiling and a re-creation of an Aboriginal art centre.

Aboriginal art studio re-creation

Aboriginal-owned art centres (this isn’t a real one) are dotted across the Central and Western deserts of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

Songlines were recognised as Indigenous law and given legal authority in the Australian Federal Court during the Ngaanyatjarra people’s successful claim, in 2005, to more than 180,000 square kilometres of land. 

Below are captions for the photographs that are numbered. This blog theme plays havoc with long captions and I really wanted to include the artists’ names and other detail.

By the way, Songlines is on show until 25 February. There is a symposium about the exhibit on 23 February.

P.S. Do you have a favourite artwork? I have too many.

Kungkarangkalpa 2014

6. Kungkarangkalpa 2015 by five sisters, all from the Tjala Arts centre


1. Minyipuru is a collaborative work by three sisters—Muni Rita Simpson, Mantararr Rosie Williams and Jugarda Dulcie Gibbs. They show the seven sisters ‘following’ survival lines to travel across from waterhole to waterhole. Many of these waterholes are now wells on the Canning Stock Route, which is shown as the thick red line through the middle of the painting.

2. Six women weavers—Kanytjupayi Benson, Ivy Laidlaw Hopkins, Nalda Searles, Jean Inyalanka Burke, Thisbe Purich and Elaine Warnatjura Lane—worked on this life-sized version of The Seven Sisters. Their pursuer sits off to the right. This is the first artwork you see on entering the exhibition.

Kungkarrangkalpa 2014 by Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell

Kungkarrangkalpa 2014 by Angilyiya Tjapiti Mitchell. This shows the sisters at Minyma Ngampi. The blue circles are holes they dug and the carpet snake, kuniya, is in the middle.

3. In the Seven Sisters Songline, Josephine Mick shows the sisters paths of travel from the west near Roebourne to the east north of Sydney. The larger black circles represent major cities and the lands of the Kamilaroi and the Bundjalung peoples. The work is now incomplete because a separate piece, of Tasmania, went missing following an international exhibition.

4. In Minyipuru Pangkalpa, Nancy Nyanjilpayi Chapman shows the seven sisters teasing Yurla, their pursuer. The peach oval in the middle is the sisters camping. Other groups of seven shapes represent the sisters dancing, sleeping, sitting and painting themselves.

'The Wobblies' by residents from Wanarn Aged Care Facility

‘The Wobblies’ by residents from Wanarn Aged Care Facility. These works were produced when aged-care nurses gave residents paints and cardboard.

5. Yarrakalpa is encyclopaedic, containing a knowledge of plants and animals, of seasons and fire, of permanent and temporary water sources. It also describes the landscape. The Martumili artists are Kumpaya Girgirba, Yikartu Bumba, Kanu Nancy Taylor, Ngamaru Bidu, Yuwali Janice Nixon, Reena Rogers, Themla Judson and Ngalangka Nola Taylor.

6. Kungkarangkalpa was painted by artists from the Tjala Arts centre. Tjungkara Ken, the youngest of five sisters, dreamt they would paint on a round canvas. This is the result. The other sisters are Yaritji Young, Maringka Tunkin, Freda Brady and Sandra Ken. The painting tracks across 600 kilometres of the Northern Territory and South Australia, and conveys knowledge of bush medicines, bush food and water sources.

Yinunmara 1997 by Tjapartji Kanytjuri Bates

Yinunmara 1997 by Tjapartji Kanytjuri Bates. I have to finish off with this one. Based on the caption posted at the museum, Poor John noticed the painting was hung upside down. He reported it.


27 January 2018 / leggypeggy

A wonderful look at Aboriginal art

The Aboriginal Memorial

The Aboriginal Memorial

Close-up of a hollow-log coffin

Close-up of a hollow-log coffin

Yesterday, 26 January, was Australia Day. It commemorates the day the First Fleet sailed into Port Jackson in 1788, and marks the beginning of British settlement.

Not surprisingly, it is considered Invasion Day by the indigenous people whose lives were permanently and, often cruelly, changed by the arrival of these 11 ships and their cargo of about 1400 people, more than half of them transported convicts.

In recent years, there’s been growing controversy as to whether 26 January is a suitable date to celebrate an occasion that adversely affected so many.

A variety of dates have been mentioned as a possible alternative, but I doubt there will be widespread change any time soon. Some communities have decided to celebrate other days.

Hollow log ceremonial coffins

Poor John and nephew, Tom, explore the ‘field’ of hollow-log coffins

In support of our indigenous population, Triple J, a popular national radio station, has changed the day they release their annual Hottest 100 album. The tracks, chosen by public vote, used to be aired on the 26th, but this year Triple J is playing the winning 100 tracks on the 27th. In fact, I’m listening to the countdown now. It’s on song 40, True Lovers by Holy Holy.

So I thought I’d mark today (the 27th) by sharing some of the amazing Indigenous artworks in our National Gallery. Almost 10 years ago, the building was renovated to create a new entrance and to significantly increase display space, particularly for the collection of Australian Indigenous art. It is said to be the largest such collection in the world.

Let’s start with the first exhibit (shown at the top) you see when you enter by the not-so-new entrance on the ground floor—The Aboriginal Memorial, an installation of 200 hollow log ceremonial coffins from Central Arnhem Land. The work was created for the gallery to mark the Bicentenary of Australia, which marked 200 years of European settlement—hence 200 hollow log coffins.

The work was conceived by two Aboriginal people and created by 43 Aboriginal artists. It was commissioned by the gallery and initially shown at the Biennale of Sydney in 1988. It was then moved to Canberra for permanent display.

An explanation card at the gallery says ‘The Aboriginal Memorial marks an important time in the history of Australian society. While it is intended as a war memorial, it is also a historical statement, a testimony to the resilience of the Aboriginal people and culture in the face of great odds, and a legacy for future generations of Australians.’ Another card lists all the participating artists.

Mt Hermannsburg by Elton Wirri

Mt Hermannsburg by Elton Wirri

Then it’s time to head upstairs to see the varied collections.

One of the first items is the fish trap. The gallery also commissioned this 12-metre-long piece. It’s a contemporary representation of a fish trap from the Maningrida Aboriginal community.

Then come the pieces from early Western Desert (1971–74). These cover textiles, paintings and ceramics.

Fish Trap

Fish Trap fabricated by Urban Art Projects, Queensland

Seven sisters by Ken Tjungkara

Seven sisters by Ken Tjungkara

A small gallery is devoted almost entirely to works by Albert Namatjira and his fellow artists from Hermannsburg. Namatjira’s  landscapes highlighted the rugged geological features of the land in the background, and the distinctive Australian flora in the foreground with very old, stately and majestic white gum trees surrounded by twisted scrub.

His colours were similar to the ochres that his ancestors had used to depict the same landscape, but his style was appreciated by Europeans because it met the aesthetics of western art.

Then it’s on to a couple of other rooms with an array of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works. As I look back through the gallery pics I took during 2017, I find that some of my favourite pieces were photographed in earlier years and are on a different computer, so I’ll do another post on them. Maybe next year on 27 January.

In the meantime, I hope you like these images. I have lots more to share. I’ll finish off today with two images that reflect how our Aboriginal citizens have been treated. As you can see, they were featured in countless ashtrays.

Close up of Ash on Me

Close up of Ash on Me

Ash on Me by Tony Albert

Ash on Me by Tony Albert



22 January 2018 / leggypeggy

Sculpture in the snow and a magnificent church

Sculpture by Ásmundur Sveinsson

I missed getting the name of this Sveinsson sculpture but two friends have helped out. Siggi in Iceland and Sy in New York say this is called Tröllkonan or The Troll Woman

Washing the floor by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Washing the floor by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Siggi, one of our wonderful hosts in Iceland, surprised us when he suggested that we visit a couple of Reykjavik’s outdoor sculpture gardens. It was cold, grey, windy, icy and had been snowing, but what the heck. Let’s go!

I’m so glad we did.

The first garden introduced us to the work of Ásmundur Sveinsson, a pioneer of Icelandic sculpture. I was surprised to learn that his early work was fiercely opposed and criticised. That early work is large, chunky and captivating, especially covered in snow.

Poor John and I wandered around the entire garden, and never minded the fact that we had to wade through ankle-deep snow. The garden wraps around Ásmundarsafn, the distinctive home and studio that Sveinsson designed with a Mediterranean theme.

As a young man, Sveinsson studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, mostly under the guidance of sculptor, Carl Milles. In the late 1920s, he lived in Paris for three years and travelled around Italy and Greece.

In Ásmundur Sveinsson's annexe

In Ásmundur Sveinsson’s annexe

Religions by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Religions by Ásmundur Sveinsson

Sveinsson returned to Iceland in 1929 and began producing a series of abstracted figurative works. His themes were often men and women at work. During the 1940s, his work moved away from the human and animal forms that had been his mainstay, and he began producing work that was much lighter and almost entirely abstract.

Throughout his life, Sveinsson believed that art was relevant to the people and belonged to the masses. Not surprisingly, he has been called Iceland’s ‘folk poet’ of visual art, and many of his works are displayed in Reykjavík’s public places.

Studio of Ásmundur Sveinsson

A small part of Sveinsson’s studio

Sveinsson died in 1982 (aged 89), and bequeathed all his work and his home/studio to the City of Reykjavík. Please scroll down to the comments. One of my faithful followers, efge63, has posted a short video about Sveinsson and his work and studio. 

After visiting Ásmundarsafn, we had a bonus stop at Reykjavík’s famous Lutheran church—Hallgrímskirkja—and one of the city’s most important landmarks.

Interior of Hallgrímskirkja church

A choir performs in front of the magnificent pipe organ in Reykjavik’s massive Lutheran church

Iceland's Hallgrímskirkja church, exterior

The tower at Hallgrímskirkja is 74.5 metres

At 74.5 metres (244 ft) high, it is the largest church in Iceland and one of the tallest structures in the country. The church is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman, Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–74), author of the Passion Hymns.

Guðjón Samúelsson, who was inspired by the shapes created when lava cools into basalt rock, designed the church in 1937. Construction lasted from 1945 to 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building.

Another impressive part of the church is its pipe organ, designed and constructed by the German organ builder, Johannes Klais of Bonn. The organ stands 15 metres tall and weighs 25 tons. I was interested to see that there was a organ appeal going. They want money to get the organ’s 5275 pipes cleaned. 

A choir was performing when we arrived, so we had a quick look before moving on to the Einar Jónsson Museum, another distinctive building that also served as the sculptor’s home and studio.

Christmas (Jol) by Einar Jónsson

Christmas (Jol) by Einar Jónsson

The sun had set and the museum had closed by the time we arrived, but we were still able to admire a few of Jónsson’s pieces in the garden.

Jónsson was another sculpture pioneer in Iceland. In fact, he was many years ahead of Sveinsson. He lived abroad for more than 20 years before returning to his home country.

Unlike most other sculptors, Jónsson worked almost entirely in plaster. This had to do partly with the lack of good modeling clay in Iceland, but it allowed Jónsson to work on his individual sculptures for years. He sometimes spent more than a decade on a particular piece.

Heimir by Einar Jónsson

He had a hand in the design of his home, gallery and studio, which is where the museum is now located. His penthouse apartment there is considered to have one of the best views of Reykjavík.

Jónsson donated the premises and his work to the Einar Jónsson Museum in Reykjavík, which opened in 1923.

Einar Jónsson Museum, Reykjavik

Wish we could have visited the penthouse at the Einar Jónsson Museum. See the Hallgrímskirkja church tower at the right

Having seen some of the various sculptures—just a small representation—do you have a favourite?

Note on naming
I was interested to read that the Icelandic names of Sveinsson and Jónsson are patronymic, meaning they are not family names. What I read said that both should be referred to by their ‘first names’ of Ásmundur and Einar.

Icelanders don’t always follow that. Both museums/gardens had plaques that used the ‘apparent’ surnames of Sveinsson and Jónsson, when mentioning either man for the second time. There’s an example below.

Plaque about Ásmundur Sveinsson

A bit of evidence

13 January 2018 / leggypeggy

More fashion in the Hermitage Museum

Court ceremonial dress, Hermitage Museum

A lavish court ceremonial dress from the 1880s that belonged to Empress Maria Feodorovna

Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Two of Peter the Great’s full dress garments displayed in an elaborate hall

I spend most of my waking life in camping clothes. Black merino wool tops and khaki camping shorts or trousers (weather dictates length and weight). All the shorts and trousers, plus some of the tops, have zippered pockets. I carry a lightweight wallet, mobile phone and keys, but no handbag.

Our daughters badger me about always wearing black tops, so last time I shopped at the camping store, I bought two tops in dark charcoal grey. I told the salesperson I was trying to move away from black and she nodded sympathetically and said ‘ah, baby steps’.

Formal court dress, Hermitage Museum

Formal court dress belonging to Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna

A couple of weeks ago I wore a skirt (green, black, white and grey) with a black merino top. My hand was forced. I was staying in Yass with my dear friend, Maggie, and we were dining at the rather posh golf club. I even wore shoes—not runners or thongs (yeah, Australians call THAT footwear thongs).

All this explanation is a lead-up to the fact that, even though I dress like a hobo, I appreciate fine clothing. And the dresses and uniforms on display in the Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace) in St Petersburg in Russia were divine.

gowns, Hermitage Museum

The blue gown on the left belonged to Empress Maria Feodorovna. The pink one to the right belonged to Princess Zinaida Yusupova

Not that you’ll catch me wearing any of them.

So let’s have a look at some of the finery.

The dress pictured at the very top belonged to Empress Maria Feodorovna. It’s a court ceremonial dress made by the Izambard Chanceau workshop in St Petersburg in the 1880s. It includes velvet, satin, lace, gold thread, spangles, bronze and much more. I wonder how much it weighs?

Directly below that dress is a pic of the elaborate room where some of the garments are displayed. In the centre is a case with two of Peter the Great’s full dress garments from the early 18th century. The light blue one was made in Berlin and the darker one was crafted by Russian and European makers. The latter is styled like the uniform of a Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment Officer.

There was an array of highly decorative liturgical vestments made of velvet, silk, satin, cotton and gold threads. The apricot one is sprinkled with pearls, silver, emeralds, rubies, spinel, beryls and crystals. Then there’s the armour and the glitzy saddles and harnesses for horses. I guess everyone had to dress up to step out.

I can’t really pick a favourite although I was especially intrigued by the shape of the dress directly below. Surely it’s for a child or perhaps for a cardboard cutout? Do you have a favourite?

Dress with a watteau pleat

Silk dress with a watteau pleat. Made in France in the mid-1700s




5 January 2018 / leggypeggy

Touring Iceland’s Golden Circle

Strokkur geyser, Golden Circle, Iceland

Strokkur—such a show-off

It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere so it’s time to head back to our recent travels in Iceland. According to my weather oracle (an app on my mobile phone), it’s going to snow there this weekend, so that fits in with our snowy travels around Iceland’s famous Golden Circle.

We were super lucky to be able to stay with friends in Reykjavik—Mary Pat and Siggi—and even luckier that Siggi had four days off while we were there.

So he set aside one of those days to squire us around the 300-kilometre Golden Circle loop that starts and ends in Reykjavik. The circuit has three main stops.

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Looking out over Þingvellir National Park. The buildings are part of a farm. We also stopped here the night we went chasing the Northern Lights

Þingvellir National Park
Our first stop was at Þingvellir National Park, Iceland’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park is also a huge part of Iceland’s history and folklore, and the scene of unique geology.

Þingvellir is situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in the rift valley that runs all the way through Iceland. This is the only country where this valley, called the Mid Atlantic Ridge, can be seen above sea level. And nowhere is it more visible than in Þingvellir.

But the UNESCO status has more to do with the park’s importance in Iceland’s human history. The country’s first permanent settlers came in the 800s and were mostly vagabond clans who refused to bow to the new High King of Norway.

Nevertheless, by 930 AD they decided some sort of collective government might help to resolve disputes on the island. So each of 30 or so groups in residence on the island sent someone to represent them. They called their meeting place ‘the fields of parliament’, which translates to Þingvellir.

Þingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake

Looking out over Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake

That first parliament was such a success that the tradition continued every summer for centuries. In fact, parliament didn’t move to Reykjavik until the mid-1800s.

We arrived at a high point in the park and looked out over just a fraction of the wintry landscape. The area has long stretches of lava rock, and many volcanoes surround the park, rising above Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake. There are regular earthquakes in Iceland, and volcanos perform too. You might remember that Bárðarbunga caused a lot of aviation problems when it erupted in 2015.

We walked down a busy tourist pathway and Siggi picked us up at the bottom. We sneaked down a side road he knew to have a look at a section of the rift.

Then back in the car to our next stop—the geysers, 50 kilometres away.

Strokkur geyser, Golden Circle, Iceland

Strokkur belches every 10 minutes or so

Geyser geothermal area
Geothermal activity in the Haukadalur valley is visible long before you get there, with steam rising on the horizon in many places. The area is dotted with hot pools, clay pots and fumaroles, and the hills and soil are vividly coloured by the minerals of the earth. And then there are the two geysers that make the site famous.

Geysir (from which we get the word geyser) is the grand old geyser that is mostly dormant today. That’s because of the tectonic activity in the area, as well as intrusive human intervention. Studies show that it has existed for about 10,000 years and that it tends to erupt in cycles. Usually, a large earthquake will trigger it to start off, then it will slowly peter out. It’s last big blast was in 2000, when it shot water 122 metres (almost 400 feet) in the air.

Geyser geothermal area, Iceland

Approaching the geothermal area

Geyser geothermal area, Iceland

Waiting for Strokkur to perform

Strokkur is the star now. It goes off every five to 10 minutes, throwing steam and water from 20 to 40 metres (66 to 132 feet) into the air. We saw her (are geysers female?) perform four or five times while we were there. A word of warning: pay attention to the signs. The whole area is bubbling with activity. Don’t stray from the paths or you could get burned. The water temperature ranges from 80°–90°C (or 176°–194°F).

Our third and last stop was another place to take care—the Gullfoss waterfall.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

The impressive two-tiered Gullfoss waterfall is on the Hvita river. See the people up on the ridge at the left?

Gullfoss waterfall
Gullfoss, which means golden waterfall, is an amazing two-tiered waterfall on the Hvita River. It was our third and final stop of the day. 

Gullfoss cascades down 32 metres (the first tier is an 11-metre drop and the second is 21). In summer at its heaviest flow, Gullfoss dumps an average of 140 cubic metres of water over the edge every second, which then spills into a 2.5-kilometre long crevasse. This crevasse was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic floods. The constant bombardment of water means the crevasse lengthens each year by 25 centimetres (or almost 10 inches). 

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

No one was silly enough to jump the fence and follow the path to the edge

There’s a walkway down to the edge of the falls, but wild weather meant it was closed the day we were there.

Now here’s an interesting aspect. Not long ago, when the walkway was closed, a couple of people jumped the fence and ended up being swept away. Yeah, they died. Perhaps people have paid attention to the news! The same do-not-enter sign was up the day we were there and not a single soul had ventured over the fence.

Sometimes common sense kicks in.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

You get a hint of a rainbow from this angle. See the people on the ridge in the upper right and no one on the path

Iceland’s countryside and happy new year
This post is already long enough so I’ll do another post on some of the gorgeous countryside we saw as Siggi drove us around the Golden Circle.

Wishing you all a wonderful new year. Here’s hoping that 2018 is good for all of us.

P.S. It’s been crazy busy here, but I hope it’s calmed down and I can post more regularly. Also hope to tidy up the categories and tags. Fingers crossed.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

The viewing platform gave us a great look at the falls

26 December 2017 / leggypeggy

My dog doesn’t have fleas—she’s just obsessed with things on TV

Dog watching cartoons

Cartoons are popular

After the glitz and glamour of some treasures at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, I feel the need to add a bit of the ridiculous. Consider it holiday cheer.

My dog, Indi the standard schnauzer, watches television. She’s especially keen on watching animals of any kind (including cartoons). She even knows the music and voices for certain programs and advertisements. When an ad comes on for the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), she tears in to the family room so fast that you have to jump out of the way or get knocked over. 

Dog watching TV

I wish Indi would learn more from the dog training programs

When she first started watching television, she was rather puzzled when the horse that trotted across (and off) the screen to the right didn’t appear behind the curtains and chair.

She’s branched out lately and now shows an interest in programs on gardening, science, the weather, cooking and more. David Attenborough is a favourite too.

Over the years, I’ve owned or minded more than 20 different dogs. Indi is the only one to have ever shown an interest in television. That said, I had a cat that liked to sit on top of the television (an old bulky one) and bat at the sportspeople who ran around the field—any field.

Dog watching TV

Gardening is popular too

So what quirks do your pets have?

P.S. Yes, our television screen is huge. It’s one of Poor John’s guilty pleasures. I can watch TV from the backyard if necessary. And all those books you see in the pics are cookbooks. They are about a tenth of the cookbooks I use for the other blog. Check it out if you like to cook.

Dog watching TV

I don’t think she knows what a spider is

Dog watching TV

Now the weather report