Adventures abroad: The Gold Drawing Room


St. Petersburg, Russia, is a high recommendation as a vacation spot.  There, the Hermitage is pretty much the A Number One attraction.  It consists of two adjoining palaces that make up a giant museum.  One of the palaces is The Winter Palace, home of the Czars.  

Within that are many awesome architectural flourishes that boasted of the Imperial might.  The Jordan Staircase gets the most press, and indeed it is suitably breathtaking.

Underrated, though, is the Gold Drawing Room.  As we wandered around the private quarters, we got a ramping up sense of opulence.  From the Malachite Room to the Boudoir, you got a palpable sense of people who had more money than they knew what to do with.

And then… you enter the Gold Drawing Room, and all those previous rooms look like pre-made mock-ups for a McMansion model home. Because… holy moley there is so much gold.  I was whisked away to Imperial Russia, where Czars would take an audience here.  Everything about it says, “You are talking with the most powerful person on Earth.  Compared to us, you are nothing.”

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Quote of the day

“The past,” they say, “is now truly like a foreign country. They do things exactly the same there.”

 — Douglas Adams

Adventures abroad: The Little Mermaid

So when you get to Copenhagen, there’s clearly only one site to see: the statue of the Little Mermaid.  And you also get the same reaction from all the locals, “Why would you want to do that?  It’s such a small statue.  It’s not worth it.”

TripAdvisor seems to agree with that sentiment, ranking the statue a #48 of 374 things to do.  It only gets 3.5 out of 5 stars.  This ranks below the very scenic spiral spire of The Church of Our Savior (4.5 stars, though we were warned away by my uncle due to the neighborhood being a notorious drug den), the Tivoli Gardens amusement park, and the palace where the Royals stay at.  It’s probably not my top site either.  I was most excited about the Round Tower of Copenhagen, another local landmark that was mentioned many times in Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales.  (I’ll have to talk about that some time in the future.)

And yet… when you get to The Little Mermaid, you’re greeted with crowds of tourists pushing and jostling to get into position so they can have a picture of this tiny, insignificant statue.  One that has the face of a celebrity ballerina and the body of the sculptor’s wife.  I should know.  I was one of those tourists.

Fortunately, I was already prepared for the underwhelming scale: I’d already seen Vancouver’s “Girl in the Wet Suit”, a modified copy of The Little Mermaid. (Though the Copenhagen version is still better.)  After all, it’s called “The Little Mermaid.”  “Little” is part of the name.  It’s a unique statue in which the lighting is never, ever going to be right.  Even when you get a postcard, most of the statue is going to be hidden in shadows.

But, seriously, why the fascination?  Well, it’s got a strange totemic quality in that if you visit a certain city, you feel like you’ve wasted your day by not seeing the city’s symbol.  Like… going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty or going to Seattle and not going up the Space Needle.

And, well… it’s actually a fairly intriguing statue.  I mean, it’s barely the Little Mermaid.  It’s just a nude woman reclining on a rock.  The only clue is that her foot is still partially a fish tail.  But you do start to wonder… what’s going on in her head?  What drove her to leave everything she left behind?  Knowing the original non-Disney doomed conclusion, are we seeing this poor girl mere weeks before she meets her demise?  There is a bit of a sense of doom in seeing how precariously she balances on that smooth rock, as if any false step means her end.  The arm is angled out as if she’s unsteadily feeling the ground for the first time.  The shadows work to her advantage, as if she’s still carrying the dark ocean depths with her as she arrives on land.

The statue has been vandalized many times, and the Copenhagen city council has toyed around with plans to fence her off or put her further out at sea… but the close proximity to which tourists can approach her is, I feel, also part of the appeal.  As in, we are the world that she’s getting so close to, but will never fully join.  If you set her apart for the sake of safety… well, I feel you lose that element.

All that was probably never the authorial intent.  (It was commissioned by a noble who was obsessed with a ballet based on the story and who was obsessed with one of the ballerinas, in general.)  But I think that’s what it finally came to represent, and why the statue remains the top Copenhagen tourist attraction.

Adventures abroad: ABBA, the Museum

As someone who is not much of an ABBA fan, there’s probably not much reason for me to go to the ABBA Museum (or, officially, ABBA The Museum).  I’m only familiar with Dancing Queen, and the only time the rest of their discography ever comes up is during karaoke time.  Even then… a Bee Gees museum would probably be more up our alley.

But considering that most attractions in Stockholm were old buildings, museums, an old ship, and an open air collection where re-enactors do their best to convince you that you’re living in M. Night Shamaylan’s The Village, a silly trip devoted to a disco and pop music sensation sounds like silly fun.  That and the Absolut Ice Bar, anyway.

So, here’s several hiccups along the way.  First, they had a karaoke stage … something I am totally up for considering this is, you know, ABBA The Museum.  However, the selections were Waterloo… and a bunch of non-ABBA EuroVision songs that I am pretty sure no one had ever heard of.

Second, the audiotour is a joke.  The first unit didn’t even work, and the second unit died after three or four exhibits.  Plus… it’s not even that good an audio tour.  It’s better to just read the exhibits.

Third, some of the exhibits weren’t even working properly.  There’s finally a booth where you can sing … four of your favorite ABBA songs.  (This is ABBA, the Museum. Why is this not the entire catalogue?). I scored… zero.  And this makes no sense.  Even at my most pathetic in karaoke I score something.  My guess: the microphones were not working.  So… what’s the point?


The “insert yourself into an ABBA video” was dumb fun in that “goofy booth in the middle of the Street Fair” sort of way… but the technology wasn’t more than that.  As a result, you’re just a tiny dancer while giant ABBA singers from the original music video footage loom behind you.  It could’ve used multiple camera angles and a better sense of scale, honestly.

Generally though, it was rather fun wandering through a museum where your primary thought is: “Why does this museum even exist?”  There’s a stage, for example, where you can jam with a hologram ABBA.  That’s ridiculous!  And it’s all I want an ABBA Museum to be.  (And I would have loved to do it… but when your wife’s not up to go onstage with you, it’s a little embarrassing to perform alone in front of a crowd of tourists.)

Sadly, there wasn’t nearly enough of that shameless silliness that I craved for walking in.  

But… it did do its purpose.  It was a nice change of pace from the sometimes stuffy historical points of interest around Stockholm.  Honestly, I probably learned more about modern Sweden going through the ABBA Museum.  (There are some loving recreations of living spaces that members of ABBA used to live in.) Vikings and ambitious kings are fun… but there’s something to be said of the spirit of young entertainers who were suddenly thrust on the global stage when one of their songs became an inescapable ear worm.

Lame joke time

If Wonder Woman was a Transformer…. she would be Amazon Prime.

Ranking: the PAW Patrol


#1 CHASE

You cannot get better than the pup who is always on the case.  A favorite of princesses, a certified police officer, and an all around performer, Chase is pretty much the team’s backbone.  If you’re some mustachioed mayor you’d better pray that he’s not part of the three person squad sent to sniff you out.

#2 MARSHALL

While something of a bumbling buffoon, his skills are surprisingly versatile.  There’s the firefighting aspect, which is handy.  But need someone to paint something green or put some whipped cream on a sundae? Surprisingly you call the dog with the fireman hat.  I’m pretty sure the hose shoots actual fire, too, which would put him in Guy Montag territory.

#3 RUBBLE

Rubble’s gotta have some of the most destructive equipment, what with the shovel and drill and such… but he’s kind of square in the personality department.  Still, that catchphrase.  “On the double,” indeed.

#4 SKYE

This pup seems completely designed to give Tumblr conniption fits.  She’s the only girl on the squad.  She’s barely included in missions, unless it involves Sweetie who apparently is still allowed to live at the castle despite being a habitual traitor.  She has the least aggressive ability (flight) that all the boys have anyway.  And all her stuff is pink.  I haven’t checked, but I’m sure she’s launched nearly a hundred angry Jezebel thinkpieces.

#5 ROCKY

The favorite PAW Patroller of absolutely no one.  Basically the Hawkeye of the Avengers, only that guy’s power isn’t garbage collection.  Man, imagine the kid who gets this guy and his accessories as a birthday present.  I repeat: his vehicle is a garbage truck.  How did Everest — the snow and surf specialist — not make it on the regular squad… and yet they had room for the sanitation worker?