Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery

The Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery  is a monument to the Leningrad siege and contains the graves of 500,000 people.

We found a post on trip advisor that gave directions to the cemetery. So we took the metro (our first time, up to then we had used buses) and headed north. We emerged from the Metro to find ourselves in suburban Saint Petersburg. We then found the right minibus, paid our money and hoped that the driver would drop us off to the right place. Due to some mistranslation of Cyrillic he dropped us off past the memorial and we had to walk back about 1 km,

There were not many people at the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery, It is surprising as it is the most important event in Saint Petersburg (Leningrad) history. The siege of Leningrad by the German Army and the Finns started in January 1941 and lasted 872 days. Approximately 1.5 million inhabitants died from starvation, and the bombardment by the German Army. 500,000 of those who died are buried in mass graves at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. Compare this with UK and USA deaths in World War 2 which totalled 800,000.

It is a very moving place.


Just some of the many mass graves at  Piskariovskoye. Each are marked by the year they are from.

Just some of the many mass graves at Piskariovskoye. Each are marked by the year they are from.


Some of the Individual graves, with names and year of death

Some of the Individual graves, with names and year of death

How to get there:

We got instructions from Trip Advisor, these are the slightly amended instructions-

Take the Red Line (#1) subway to the Akademicheskaya stop on the north side of town (28 Rubles) . Exiting the metro go straight across the plaza, cross the side street (to the right that runs between the metro plaza and the shopping centre) and look for an appropriate bus. Take either a private bus K172 (Mini bus 35 Rubles) or 178 (25 Rubles) to the memorial. Just pay the driver the Mini-bus (K172) the 35 rubles , On the way back, there is bus stop directly in front of the memorial. You will be let off across the main street from the subway. If there is no conductor on the 178 bus pay the 25 rubles to the driver (just put the money on a tray through the little window near the driver) when you LEAVE the bus.

the name of the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in Cyrillic. If you can copy thsi to your phone you can show it to the bus driver.

the name of the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in Cyrillic. If you can copy this to your phone you can show it to the bus driver.

the route the K178 bus takes from the Metro to the Cemetery, the bus continues on past the cemetery.

the route the K172/ 178 bus takes from the Metro to the Cemetery, the bus continues on past the cemetery.



The State Hermitage Museum

On the first Thursday of the month, admission to the State Hermitage Museum is free. As luck would have it, we visited the Hermitage on Thursday August 1st. I’m not sure whether that was good or bad – the queues to get in were long, and even longer by the time we left, but at this time of the year there would always be a long queue, free tickets or not. At some of the popular exhibits (Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, and some of the Rembrandts), we had to wait till the crowd thinned to see the painting. But the museum’s crowd control was pretty good – they are obviously used to getting a lot of people through as quickly as possible.
The Hermitage Museum is huge, opulent, impressive, bewildering at times, easy to get lost in and a fine tribute to the excesses of Tsarist Russia. I couldn’t help thinking of how many of Russia’s poorer classes would have paid for those artworks with their blood, their sweat and their lives. The collections are displayed throughout the Museum, which itself comprises the Winter Palace, the New Hermitage and a couple of other buildings. In addition to the main exhibits, it is possible to buy tickets to see other collections including the Porcelain, Gold and Diamond rooms. We only saw a small sample of the main collection, and apparently what is on display in the museum is about 1/20th of the whole collection.
It took us about an hour to get into the museum and while we waited we watched some workmen replacing cobblestones around the edge of part of the Winter Palace. Well, 2 were working and 3 were supervising. We got our free tickets, took our bags to the cloakroom, went through metal detectors and headed straight to the Egyptian Room which has a great display of sarcophagi, jewellery, assorted artifacts and a mummy. Unfortunately there were no English translations for any of the display headers, so we couldn’t really work out what, when or where the exhibits were.
Then we headed up the magnificent Jordan Staircase in the Winter Palace to the Imperial staterooms and apartments, many of which had photos showing how the rooms were furnished during the last Tsar’s rule. We were following our Lonely Planet Guide which had a suggested half-day tour plan, although their map wasn’t all that easy to follow. We wanted to see the Da Vinci, the Monets and the Van Goghs, all of which we saw – a room full of Monet paintings, 2 rooms of Picassos plus one of Rembrandts. I know, all very mainstream, but the vast range of what was on display was pretty overwhelming for non-museum goers like us.
After the Picasso rooms we decided we’d seen enough – by then we had probably walked through at least 150 rooms spread across 5 buildings and 3 storeys, so we went to find a late lunch and a trolley bus back to the hotel.

the one hour long queue into the Hermitage

the one hour long queue into the Hermitage

The Hermitage from the plaza

The Hermitage from the plaza

the crowd at Da Vincis Madonna and Child

the crowd at Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child

the Jordan steps

the Jordan steps



Hermitage crowds

Hermitage crowds



Out and about in Oslo

Yesterday, our second full day in Oslo, we decided to see a few more things on the ‘What to do in Olso’ lists. We drove into the city because Greg had purchased a wireless broadband modem and it hadn’t been registered properly when he bought it, so he took it back to Netcom shop for them to sort out. We found parking on the street surprisingly inexpensive, ranging from $1.60/hour to $4.00/hour depending on where we wanted to park, and we found empty spaces with no trouble. We didn’t venture into any parking stations, so I’m not sure how much they cost.

First tourist stop of the day was the Viking Ship Museum on Bydgoy Peninsula, which is also home to several other museums and 2 beaches. Every major Scandinavian city we’ve visited has a Viking museum, so we thought we’d better go and see one. This one was excellent with just enough (and not too much) to see, and we were surprised that the entry fee was just $12. The museum has 3 Viking ships, which were all pulled ashore and  used as burial tombs for people of high rank. They were all buried at least 1000 years ago, and then unearthed in the late 19th-early 20th century. In addition to the ships, a lot of Viking artifacts, tools, implements, 3 sleds and a carriage were unearthed from one ship which contained the remains of 2 women, one of whom was thought to be a queen, the other thought to be her maid.The Vikings believed that the dead needed to take things with them to the afterlife and provided everything they could think of, including horses and other animals. I did wonder if the maid had been dead or alive when she was buried with her mistress. You can read more about the ships and their contents here. As most of you would have guessed by now, we’re not great museum-goers, but this one was really good and I’d strongly recommend it to anyone visiting Oslo.

Next stop was Vigeland Park, a very large green space near the city centre that showcases the sculptures of Gustav Vigeland. There are over 200 granite and bronze sculptures depicting people at all stages of life, doing and feeling a wide range of activities and emotions. We sat under a row of trees and ate lunch and did some people-watching. There seem to be a lot more (mostly) women out and about with babies & toddlers in pushers here than we see at home. I guess it’s a combination of good weather and a generous paid parenting scheme.

And so on to our last touristy thing for the day, up to the hills just above central Oslo to see the beautiful old timber Holmenkollen Hotel and the terrifyingly high Holmenkollen Ski Jump, where the annual World Ski Jump Championships are held in March. The Ski Jump is also used as a concert venue.

Dinner last night was what our Lonely Planet guide tells us is Norway’s national dish -  Grandiosa, a brand of frozen pizza. I think they were only partly joking. Those things are stacked up high in every supermarket we’ve visited. We bought one, but when we went to heat it up, of course it wasn’t as big as the box, so I nipped down to the Kiwi supermarket on the ground floor of this apartment building and bought another one. They tasted fine, although it’s a long time since I’ve had a frozen pizza at home.

Viking Ship, this ship was thought to be a ceremonial ship for calm waters

Viking Ship, this ship was thought to be a ceremonial ship for calm waters

This Viking ship was a strongly built serious ocean going craft

This Viking ship was a strongly built serious ocean going craft, the boards are riveted to the hull with iron rivets.

Just some of the many bronze sculptures

Just some of the many bronze sculptures

Lots of tourists at the stone sculptures

Lots of tourists at the stone sculptures

Norway's food of choice Grandiosa Frozen Pizza

Norway’s food of choice Grandiosa Frozen Pizza



It’s all there, 2 storeys below ground level. The music, the costumes, the photos and music video clips, lots and lots of memorabilia. The ABBA museum opened less than 2 months ago and it seems as if its already on every tourist’s Stockholm ‘must-do’ list. Well, it’s our first day here and we’ve ticked it off.

It was great, really great. We booked our tickets online and collected them from an ATM in the museum foyer. We booked for 11.15am (it’s open from 10.00am to 10.00pm daily), thinking that would give us enough time to get the subway into the centre of the city and then walk to Djurgarden Island, which is full of museums, including Skansen the world’s first open-air museum, where Annifrid ‘Frida’ was ‘discovered’ during a singing contest. Our knowledge of ABBA-related trivia has increased exponentially today! We got to the museum with an hour to spare, so we wandered around past some of the other attractions and found a little well-stocked supermarket and bought drinks and a Danish pastry.

The museum is set up in ‘rooms’, with interactive stuff throughout. You can sing onstage as the 5th member of the band, do quizzes, record yourself singing ABBA songs, and with all the activities you can scan your entry ticket and then look at the videos/photos/quiz results online later. Sorry to disappoint but we didn’t sing or perform and our quiz results were so woeful that we’re not sharing them with anyone!

There are reproductions of the music room where Bjorn and Benny wrote lots of the hit songs, the recording studio at Polar Music, the sewing room where a lot of those amazing glam-pop costumes were designed and sewn, and there is a whole room full of the costumes, with hundreds of album covers and gold records lining the walls. There are recent videos of each band member, remembering their lives pre-ABBA and one of my favourites – Lasse Halstrom the film-maker who at the time worked for Swedish Television and made a few music videos on the side, remembering the early days of making ABBA video clips. The museum plays ABBA: The Movie on a continuous loop. A lot of that movie was filmed in Australia.

We spent just under an hour and a half in the museum, and by the time we left it was getting very busy. We did the right thing going in the morning.