St. Petersburg and all that





So as you all know, we went to St. Petersburg this past weekend. What a whirlwind of experiences! We left around 1am Thursday night/Friday morning and it was my first time riding on a passenger train. Pretty nice, slept for the whole ride and woke when we were about a half hour outside of St. Petersburg. We were met by our tour guide then proceeded to breakfast. New food obsession: blini. They are like crepes and are awesome. You can order them with all sorts of fillings like ham and cheese, sour cream, condensed milk (my favorite), berries, chocolate, bananas, etc.

We then moved on to a tour of the city. There are many beautiful buildings in St. Petersburg. Some parts reminded me of Moscow, but there was a distinctly different vibe. I was very impressed with the number of bookstores I saw. As a whole, my impression has been that the Russian people are a very literate group and appreciate books. Tons of people read on the metro, bookstores are everywhere, there are booksellers that set up shop on the street, there just seems to be a literary air in this country. As a reading and book enthusiast, I love it. Anyway, after the tour we went and at a restaurant that one of the girls (they work for MiM and help us around town) knew from before. Some friends and I were still hungry later that evening and found a pelmeni place that looked promising. We got to try dumplings from many different countries like Uzbekistan, Russia, and Georgia.

The next day, Saturday, was spent touring the summer palace of Peter 1. This place was amazing! A bit too much gold for my tastes, but the grounds were truly impressive. Also, I got to see the Baltic Sea. Having spent most of my life not far from the ocean, it was great to be by the water again. Apparently Peter would host these parties and pull pranks on people. If you made some kind of faux pas or did something dumb/mean, he would punish you by making drink alcohol out of this monsterous cup. Apparently, some people even died from too much alchohol. Very crazy.

That night we ate at this amazing Georgian restaurant. If you can’t tell, I really love trying new restaurants. So far, the best places I’ve eaten have been the Georgian restaurant and this one Caucasian restuarant in Moscow.

Finally, on Sunday, we toured the Hermitage. This place is very beautiful and part of it is in the winter palace. Really cool paintings, my favorites were by Renoir and Monet. Also saw some old coins, armor, weapons, sculptures, and tapestries. I remember watching this Russian movie called “Russian Ark” that was filmed at the Hermitage, so it was cool to actually be there in person. After the Hermitage, we went to the graveyard where Euler is buried. I didn’t know this before getting there, but there are a bunch of other famous Russians buried there too. I saw Tchaikovsky’s grave and a few others. It always amazes me to be around things that are so old. Some of these guys died in the 1700’s.

The weekend was exhausting and no homework got done, but it was worth it. The train ride home was uneventful, slept the whole way. Apart from that trip, courses and homework have consumed all my waking hours. I have never been academically challenged like this before. Tomorrow, a few of us have to make our way to the International University to take the GRE subject test. There aren’t many of us, but there are a few that are also applying to graduate school during our semester here. So it is nice that others will be going through the process at the same time as me.

Its time that I started getting ready to sleep (have to be at the GRE super early). Until next week!