Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dr. Mummy

We didn't have a lot of time for sightseeing in Vinnytsia, which had surprisingly many interesting things to offer. We had heard about the ruins of Hitler's bunker north of the city and a cool Soviet-style amusement park in the center. But when the team read the word "mummy" in the guide book it was clear that everything else would have to wait until a possible future trip to Ukraine and we'd spend our afternoon at doctor Nikolay Pirogov's home museum and the chapel where he's buried. Or not quite buried, as his mummified body's on display in the basement. 

Dr Pirogov was a groundbreaking scientist who developed a form of anesthesia that saved countless lives in the first and second world war. He also created a cast to enable broken bones to heal properly and became quite famous already during his lifetime. So three days after his death in 1881 a specialist arrived from St Petersburg and embalmed his body, which has been re-embalmed (is that what it's called?) ten times since and is rumored to be in much better condition than Lenin's.

A home museum may sound horribly boring, but a home museum with detailed anatomical drawings, brutal 19th century medical tools and an actual human brain floating in a jar filled with alcohol is not what we'd call boring. They even had some signs in English, but at the chapel Lina had to act as an improvised interpreter as the guide spoke no English and a Belgian couple happened to be viewing the mummy together with us. (We must admit, though, that an actual mummy isn't quite as exciting as the ones in the movies, as the good doctor's earthly remains very much resembles a wax model…)

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