четверг, 13 марта 2008 г.

Last stop

We made it from Moscow to St. Petersburg on the night train, meaning we are now on our third and final city. SPb is rainy, beautiful, and grand; we have an excellent guide, Sergei, who has already managed to show us some of the city's architectural and cultural highlights. A brief walking tour of the city, meeting with Russian students, lunch in the university cafeteria, and trip to the Hermitage (from where I write this) have been some of the day's highlights. Can I just say that the Hermitage has a hell of a lot of chandeliers.

The day that everything exploded

Every trip has a day where nothing seems to go right. That was yesterday. Yesterday was our last day in Moscow, so in the morning, we all moved our luggage to one apartment and checked out of the others. After having our Georgian cuisine for dinner, we went back to the apartments only to find the landlady yelling at us in Russian when 10 of us tried to go back to the room. Andrea has run to get money and Anna had ran to get me some sort of pain killer for my leg that had started to be unbearable. (it had been hurting the whole time from what I now know was from my shoes.) This left us with no fluent russian speakers. Anyway, to make a long story short, we convinced the landlady to let four of us go back to the apartment, (using our Russian to count to four) only to find the cleaning lady who was upset that we hadn't left the room yet. We then proceeded to take all of our luggage out of the room as quickly as possible and make our way through the metro system with all of our luggage. Not an easy task. Especially me with my gimp leg and Andrea 6 months pregnant. After getting momentarily confused about where the train actually was, we found it, and got on our sleeper train to Saint Petersburg. We arrived this morning at 7:40am, dropped our things at the hostel, and went directly over to the Hermitage, stopping briefly for a much needed coffee break. The general consenus is that we like saint petersburg more than Moscow. The buildings are beautiful at every turn and in general feels a lot more welcoming. Tonight, we are all looking forward to a good night sleep.

среда, 12 марта 2008 г.

Сенк-ю Джим

Today we talked to some old believers. They are the old sect of the Russian Orthodox church. We talked about their religion, our religion at home and how things are different. One thing that was interesting was that the boys did basically did all the talking (even when prof. Lanoux asked "what is woman's role in the religion?"). We then toured a HUGE, old Russian bunker. It smelled pretty bad and they were still in the middle of rennovating it. It was 60 meters underground and we had to walk down 18 flights of stairs to get there. They told us about the history of atomic warfare and showed us where it attached to the Russian metro. They then told us that they sometimes rent it out for parties and fashion shows... strange
Ok, Professor Lanoux has been calling on us to spout forth pearls of wisdom upon the unsuspecting world from this blog, so I shall in the 8 minutes remaining to me on this computer. I'm having a really good time, but of course things are going wrong - people are late or missing, things are closed, plans are SNAFU'd - it's all part of traveling. Moscow is, of course, filthy, but fascinating. It's like no European or American city I've ever seen - huge boulevards, massive grey concrete buildings and pre-soviet structures that could be beautiful with a lot of TLC. The only colors are the garish billboards advertising every modern convenience. The Russians themselves are a staid lot - in JFK, every time another delay was anounced, all the Americans groaned, and all the Russians went back to their books or conversations. There's been tention in the group - like with any group this big gone for this long - but we're still living together, so it's cool. We're going to St. Pete's tonight, and I can't wait to see it. I'm sad because it means the trip's half over, but I need a bit of a break from Moscow.
I've only got a minute before I get forcably logged out, and so I'll wrap this up. My mom will want to know it's me writing, so mom - it's me. Ok, time to go!
Another day in Russia! Once again we were led by our highly organized tourguide Ludmila. Today she took us to the center of the Old Believers of the Orthodox Church and we had the opportunity to talk with a few students at the small college there. It was interesting to talk to them because they're lifestyle is so different from both ours and the lifestyle of most people living in Moscow. They shared with us their reasons for subscribing to the Old Believers' faith and adopting the corresponding lifestyle. What I think was most suprising to many of us girls was that the young women there were very quiet, and even when we asked them what their role was in the community, they allowed the men to answer for them for the most part. Many of them expressed that they believe it is their duty to help their husbands and to raise their children in the Old Believer's faith.
Later in the day we visited the Cold War "museum," which was actually an old Soviet "hideout" designed to protect against a potential nuclear attack. When we got there, we climbed down 18 flights of cement stairs and were led by a younger man in a soviet military uniform. The tour at the base was really interesting and also pretty creepy (I think we all can agree).
Last evening a few of us went out with a few fine Russian guys to a club called "B2." We were all pretty nervous at first, but once we got there we all loosened up and attempted to speak some Russian (although I was personally told that I don't have very good pronunciation-I guess I'll have to work on that).
Hope to blog again soon! (my time's running at out at the internet cafe!)...

понедельник, 10 марта 2008 г.

Day 3 -- Moscow

No one has managed to make it to an internet cafe so far to give an update, so I'll do it. We arrived on Saturday after a three-hour delay at JFK and one lost suitcase (Liuda's--still M.I.A.). The first day was thrilling and slightly chaotic--getting installed in our aparments, dinner at Mu-Mu with Yasha, chai with Sasha, shopping at the famous Eliseevsky Gastronom. Everyone seemed tired but alert taking it all in.

Day two (Sunday) was relaxed: a morning walk to Red Square (the view of which has been significantly obstructed by the skating rink), a successful trip to the Vernisazh open air market, and a cooking class in the evening in which we made pelmeni of all kinds. We managed to lose only one person (Kolya) and only for a short time when the subway door closed before he could exit the train. A minor snafu.

We spent most of today (Monday) in the town of Borovsk an hour and a half south-west of Moscow. Some gratuitous waiting around, an informative trip to the local monastery led by the by the subtly gregarious twenty-year-old monk Yaroslav, a makeshift lunch of kasha, cabbage salad, and sausages, a doll-making workshop led by the incredible Valentina Ivanova, and a tour of the historical museum were all part of the day. People kept commenting what a wonderful, "well behaved" group we have. Truly everyone has been a sport and open to everyone and everything we meet.