Back From Russia: It Was COLD

I am still waking up at 4 in the morning. I have not been out of the house. There has been a big snowstorm. I did go to the grocery store, but I have been lazing around. In Samara, we had about four to five meetings a day. We flew back on a 23 hour trip, three hours in Frankfurt, and came home.

Vic treated me to caviar and champagne. For a couple of days after, I cooked. (Hint. You don’t have to cook it.) We had that for two days, but the first day I did cook. Did lamb rib chops, stuffed potatoes and sliced tomatoes, and crashed. I have a terrible cold and have been in bed most days.

Bonnie and Vic, 2nd and 3rd from the right, at Peterhof Palace.

Bonnie and Vic, 2nd and 3rd from the right, at Peterhof Palace.

We had a mountain of mail, email and mail to go through, and my bags are still not unpacked. Well, the technology has been unpacked, and I have done a few online meetings. There was a bit of stress in working with 20 somethings, gifted and talented ones who spoke fluent Russian but who did not want to spend any money. They often ate ramen noodles in the hotel. Breakfast was free and huge, so they could survive on little or nothing for dinner.

Saint Petersburg3

Russia was not as scary as I was told. The hardest part is the language. I learned some of it, but I was with fluent speakers. Sadly, cab drivers don’t care how well you speak. They are out to get you, so we spent a lot of time in the Metro. 

Actually the cold was excruciating, but I got used to dressing for it. I had to buy a coat and boots. What I brought was inappropriate. I was not properly dressed, needed layers, a hat and a head covering, and lined boots. The gloves were fine; the coat — I was told not to bring a fur. Well, guess what. It was that kind of cold. I tried a leather coat and one of those stuffed coats that are popular in the US. C O L D. I would sit in the window and watch the fairy tale flakes drifting down. Finally, I got a coat. It made a big difference. I was cozy.

Bonnie St Petersburg2

I was with two very young fellows, girls who loved the cold. They had lived and worked in Russia, and they were excited to tramp around in the cold, damp and slush. No one cleans the streets in Saint Petersburg or in Samara. It is what it is, winter. They were like billy goats on the ice. They were often meeting with other exclusive school graduates who spoke Russian. It is like they were supercharged to be in Russia. It made them different. Well, I don’t have an ancestor who came from Russia. So, though I was not a tourist, I saw it through different eyes.

The streets are dangerous, and so is the subway — the parts where the slush is on the steps. I always feared that I would fall, but I did not, luckily. The curbs are uneven and the traffic fast and kind of merciless so you watch and are very careful.

Saint Petersburg

Vic came, and we then took more cabs. Before that we had been walking across the frozen Neva River, but on a bridge that was very, very long. We were two weeks in Saint Petersburg.

Saint Petersburg is an amazing city, lots of museums and wonderful places for tourists. It is an international city. It was designed to be. A frozen river runs through it. There are huge palaces, amazing palaces, the Hermitage and all of its sections and parts, and Peterhof, though its beauty was muted by the ice and the fact that the fountains were off.

I cannot properly describe the golden peacock clock or other extravagant things in the Hermitage. You can see the whole museum online. IBM has cataloged it. I love museums, and we walked and walked and walked . . . and then even I gave up. It was extraordinarily beautiful. I want to go back to that museum.

Conference

Saint Petersburg was called the Versailles of the North. Even the subway is fabulous. There are fabulous churches and museums and food markets and offerings for drama and a closed-in circus. I really liked the church of the Spilled Blood. I wanted to see Pushkin, the city out of town.

Food was interesting. You could eat Russian food, or any kind of food you wanted, based on the amount of money you wanted to spend. A US dollar is 35 rubles, so it was not so expensive. I loved wild mushroom soup and their mashed potatoes (the sour cream is fabulous). We ate pelimini and Georgian foods, and schii and borscht. I don’t like cabbage all that much. Just me — others were loving it. Piroski was good. We sometimes ate a pseudo-Greek salad with Russian cheese that was good. Vic tried stroganoff, beef, liver . . . I had a hamburger at the Beef Bar in the hotel. Bleah. It was so so. The biggest Coca Cola factory in the world. A big McDonald’s with better food than here in the US. We got the times mixed up from breakfast and went there once.

McDs

Of course I am spoiled since I have lived all over the world. I drank a lot of tea, as we were often welcomed with it and chocolates. I ate at an Italian place twice, and a French place, and we sometimes bought caviar, black bread and wine and vodka and had that in the room.

You could stay in an American hotel and cross the street to the Galeria, and it would not be too expensive. I went there, but it was like being in America, except that the prices were ridiculous for anything American. All of the stores you know were there.

Galeria2

We had an amazing theater at the Mariinsky, which was the new Kirov. The walls were of onyx, and the staging was absolutely beautiful. It was a wonderful birthday. We saw Eugene Onegan by Pushkin. We were working so we did not see everything in Saint Petersburg. Vic went to the monastery where all of the music greats were buried. I watched from the window. It was across the street from the Hotel Moscow where we stayed. He was listening to the greats on the computer, using streaming from Washington.

One Response

  1. Now that I have been back in the US and have thawed out a bit. I have more to say.
    No one prepared me for the Russia of today.

    I am not talking about the saber rattling. It’s a poor country.People don’t make a lot of money.

    Never mind the headlines. In the big cities the infrastructure of goods is international if not American. The first thing I saw in Saint Petersburg was the largest Coca Cola plant I had ever seen. Then KFC, and then McDonald’s. And then seven car manufacturing places.There is a Galleria that is better than the one in Houston. You could stay American visit Peterhof and the museums .. but at a tourist price. An IPhone sells for $1000.

    I was told that I should be careful. KGB or whatever the name is. Ok they did take my passport and register me into the country. When I was leaving is the only time I was questioned.Why did I want to leave? I had a work permit. Why was I in Russia, I looked at him and said, it is on the visa.

    I stayed in the Hotel Moscow next to the Metro and steps away from a shopping mall. I supposed my unexpected was to be with a very young Russian speaking student who loved walking in the slush and on top of ice. Initially I was a weather wimp favoring under the quilt with a hot cup of tea.

    I did not tell my young friend that in Washington a typical day in Saint Petersburg would have closed the city down ( winter). I never said to her that I don’t use the Metro. I know it is there and I have used it. Kinda. The metro in Saint Petersburg is beautiful. Really.

    Clothing. Apologies to those who live in very cold climates. It was so cold that I would have killed and stripped my own animal to keep warm but I bought a fur coat, and a hat and other things. I learned to LOVE the warmth of oatmeal, and rice porridge, and any hot soup, like wild rice soup, mashed potatoes, blini. keep it coming if it is warm.

    Food. I am a foodie. I eat at home whatever I like.But the geography of food is where you are. I learned to like Shchi ( a soup) I am still not into cabbage. Well, stuffed with meat …ok. Oranges and chocolates and pear juice, oh my. Saint Petersburg is full of many kinds of places to eat that are not Russian.You can buy red or black caviar, butter and black bread and vodka ( don’t ask me about vodka.. I don’t like it either.)Why?
    Once was enough. Apparently I am not a drinker. ( with apologies to those who said I sang “Soul Sister?” Did I?) Guess so.There are so many kinds of Vodka. Pelmeni, I bought a cookbook at the Hermitage. Borscht?ok Khachapuri..yum. Shaslik..yes.

    Cigarettes are on the menu in dining places. People smoke and drink a lot.Peanut butter costs as much as champagne. Their sour cream, absolutely delicious.

    Culture. Everywhere, opera, ballet, churches that rise like poems to the sky and theatre. I think music is the DNA of Russia.

    Literature.. of course everywhere. People are reading, reading , reading.

    Schools are clustered in geographic regions and they are called by their location 414 etc. They have a theme. Often the schools are K-12. English is taught early and often. Activities do not interfere with academics. That is after school stuff . Many children play an instrument and take sports, after school.

    Some websites are blocked. NASA, National Geographic, Edutopia.
    If you know a sub of the URL sometimes you can access it.

    The regular people are very friendly. Some want to go home with you.

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