Thursday, June 23, 2011

The way to Kazan, reflecting on Piter

Thats me now

So once again I'm on a train. Finally on our way out of St. Petersburg after an unexpected delay due to waiting for my bank card to arrive from Vienna.

It doesn't seem like it's been that long but my calendar says it's been three weeks. The last day of our stay in Piter was the best. It was our first official night at a hostel at an attempt to se the city the way it should be seen (as you might have already read in my 3am buzzed last entry). But to summarize the last week here, I can complain and admire a few things. Since I'm Marina, I'll complain first. That might sound like a bad thing, but it's only so that you are left with the good things in memory when you've finished reading.

One thing I hate is that when I come up to a desk of some sort; whether it be an info, register, our sales desk; and ask a question, they tell me to read the long ass sign on their window. I can't read damn russian, and if I did, why would I stabs around reading for an hour til I finally got to the answer? When I can just ask, and you can just answer, since you MUST know the answer after working that for a hundred years - judging by that nasty mug of yours.

Specifically annoying of these is the ticket sales window at the train station. The line seems to have no shape but rather a bunch, with people cutting in and out, saving spots in three windows, and generally being strange. So in this chaos you end up waiting about 30 minutes until you finally get to the window, when suddenly she shuts off the lights and says she's decided to go on break. So you jump immediately to the next line, wait another 20 minutes, and then THAT ONE goes on break too!! And then the third woman says,i think shes sick, I should go help her, shuts her window down, and makes her way out...


And this is supposed to be Europe?
Well the russians complain but more to each other and amongst themselves than to someone who could actually change something. The fact of the matter is, there is no one who could make it different, or who could appologize for the bad service, or who would even feel accountable.

The next complaint is about the richie riches over here. What's the deal? Why you gotta be so damn stuck up. And why your man like 30 years older? Well everyone has a path in life to follow, and I guess some chose different paths based on different goals.

BIGGEST regret of the trip award goes tooooooo..... this story:

Once a year, there is a huge festival in St Petersburg called Aliyeh Parusah, which means Red Sails... It is meant for all students graduating, but gives reason for huge partying in the city, marked with fire works, drinking, music, and a huge ship with lipstick red sails which sails into the horizon.
What did we do that night???..

Persuaded by others, we were convinced to go to an "outrageous" party on the beach by some world renound DJ from london, with massive crowds and ridiculous partying. What really happened? A tiny shaq on some beach, with a hammock!, and about 5 people dancing. One drink later we went home. BOOOOO!!!!

enough with the complaints and on with the good stuff...

A funny note is how early and often people have their beers here... even strolling through the park with a baby carriage, at 10 am, a man will have drink in hand :D

I LOOOOOOVVEEEE the white nights... you never want to go to bed because its always so light outttt!! I wish it wasnt Russia so I could at least consider living here!!

This is 11 pm... the sun doesnt set til about 1 or 2 am!!

Well one of the fascinating stories I have about Piter is the cathedral Spas Na Kravy, which means the Savior On Spilled Blood. It was built on the spot where Tsar Nicholus
The first was shot and fatally wounded by a few men who were considered terrorists against his reforms of ending slavery. Before this, nobles and land owners were also owners of the people who worked on their lands. So they could be traded, given as gifts, killed, mated and so on. Nicholus I made a reform that any Christian man can be free, and can work to buy himself out from his master. In actuality no one knew how to accomplish this freedom because a price was never set by law, and neither was any procedure of how to obtain this freedom. Although room was made to put forth and erect this church in his honor, this Tsar, as most tsars, is not thought of with respect or admiration.

Savior on Spilled Blood day and night views

We took a really wonderful trip through the canals on a teplahod. The swim was on a warm sunny day and three canals opened up to awe inspiring views of ask the beautiful architecture. That is something special aboutSt. Petersburg. The color of the buildings is astonishingly un communistic. Although truth be told the restorations of the facades, including the pastel colorings and greek like statues were only began recently and after the fall of the Soviet Union. There is quite a lot that went to ruins due to the neglect and disinterest that occurred during the 70 some years that communism reighned.

Thats us on the ferry tour boat, with once again the Hermitage behind us, on the Neva river

Another great day was the visit to the Petrodvorets in Petrograd. A lot of Petro's, I know, but Peter the Great is the only exception to what I wrote earlier about the tsars, and how most of them have no admiration attached to them. In fact Peter the Great was the only tsar in his lineage to die naturally (of some disease), all others were murdered for their reforms. Anyways, this city is a granduer of fountains and parks. After Peter's architects were sent to europe to discover styles for the Tsar, they returned with their renditions of places such as Versaille and other palaces. And in true Russian style, Peter said, ooh I like that, now make it 2 times bigger!!

So this is now a magically mischievous playground, with secret joke fountains and majestic ones that are more profound than funny.

Getting hit by a surprise fountain

All in all, it is for sure a beautiful city, still recovering from wars and bad management. Whats most interesting to me is that you learn more from the people you encounter on trains, for example, than you do on tours or in our books.

People are audibley dissatisfied and fed up with their government. Nothing is working right, no one is responsible for anything, monopolies make it hard for cheap prices, corruption makes it hard to get ahead. In fact, one has told me that it is very hard for a company if they succed into their third year. At that point people start to notice you and ask of course you to pay from your successes to the pockets of officials who do nothing but patrol success and steal from it. Thus, most companies open, and close on their second year and open again under a different name. This is why even designers cannot have their own label and sell internationally. Because it because far too expensive to pay off whoever it is you need to pay off. And the line of people waiting to bank in on your success is far too long.

Now that that is in the past, I can enjoy the ride in my coupe. The first and last time I will enjoy one on this trip. Afterwards, it will be once more platzcard seating.

I can focus on the journey, writing this blog, and looking out my romantic window in the pauses between the talks with the two others who share our cabin.

The windows in your cabin on the train don't open, so you have to go out into the hall. And once you do, you can pry open a little crack, just wide enough to stick your curious nose out while the frame blocks your eyes from the view. And then mmmm how the wind smells of wild grass which had never known the shreek of a grass cutter, nor felt the thumping pressure of man's footsteps. It smells of fresh dew, wild flowers, wildreness and freedom.

Also really cool is that we got to see Sting rehearse for his concert that night. So we got a free concert and close up look. Video at bottom

Here is the picture part ...

The Hermitage

inside the Hermitage

A park with miniature St Petersburg

No we"re not crazy in love, just kissing on The Bridge for Kissing

A mobile nuclear rocket at the military museum

From inside Peter and Paul Fortress.. where St Petersburg was formedWalking around

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

White Night Night

Following the river down the never setting White Nights sun, the landscape opens up to the giant cobble stone square in front of one of the most magnificent palaces I have seen. At night its quiet stilness is even more daring and the pride of the facade breaks through where otherwise noisy day tourists make the place much more about themselves than about the beauty of the Hermitage, the Winter Palace for some of the most influencial Tsars of Russian history. Its playful pastel green paint contrasted with the white columns mimics the illusion of a lighthearted background, when in fact this palace is a warrior withstanding some of the toughest conditions anyone or anything has had to face. The Leningrad blockades were the most recent where not only men but also stone were subjected to cruelty, shame, starvation, and the depletion of soul.
These days, almost forgotten, and littered with happy brides frolicking in search for the best picture, the square must hide its medals behind its playful pastel green coat.
At the moment though, I enter the square just as the lighting begins to flicker on, almost in its own ligt show, as some lights are delayed, some flicker, and some are ready to shine piece by piece. Its own fireworks before the full light. The saxophone, as if on cue, starts to cry a sad melody, and my sadness makes me want to give him everything I have in my pocket, just so one of us at least feels some joy. Listening to him, a few horse hoofs in a distant courtyard, and a few barely audible horns honking in celebration are the only sounds to greet me this evening on this lonely Hermitage square. The sky refuses to darken, as the clouds surround the sky in a dance of the shadows. They are grey in contrast and again deepen the mood for deep thoughts sent to the heavens.
It is true that every city has a different soul that comes out at night, and I have had a glimpse of this one. The bridges surounding this beautiful oasis have been lifted and stand high lifted in all their strength, and the soul of this city can sulk to the rythem of the saxophone undisturbed and unafraid of its own vulnerability.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Moscow - The herd of the heels

Thanks to our wonderful hosts in Moscow :

Stas and Nastia

Being my first official blog from my adventure trip comes to you from a tiny hanging cot on a rather noisy (fort now in a fun way) train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, at 11am.

This is what our living quarters look like right now:

Not for the lack of trying, but it appears Emir and I will NOT be sharing a bunk "bed" like I thought. Im not even sure I can share it with myself, come to think of it. Its SO tiny! Had to eat my dinner with my chin in my chest and head against the top of the train.

So, Moscow... I called this post the herd of the heels since, in this choice of passage, I have found the herd too which I belong. For those who think I wear crazy heels to crazy places, you don't even want to see the shoes worn around here...
And the women are absolutely gorgeous! dressed sexy, modern, chick!
I am also not the only one posing for pictures, achem, achem!

This is not me, but I wish it was :D

But enough about that, Moscow is a wonderful place to visit. None of the horror stories ive heard have touched me. Maybe its because of the wonderful couple we lived with, but also because its not such a scary place. Of course my benefit is that I know Russian, which I can guarantee would have been almost impossible without. There are plenty of signs in English for getting around, but not many people can point you in a given direction.

Speaking of people, they have a very distinct and unique characteristic here. They are super friendly only if you close your eyes. Haha. Ill explain. Its like a magic trick.if you keep your eyes open, their mean expression would make you believe they would rather hit you in the head for asking then something. BUT if you momentarily close your eyes, at least metaphorically, you would see that they are actually very open and willing to help in any way they can. Magic! They are good people!

Some Stories: to read one at a time:


A little thing of history. The Kremlin is actually NOT that cathedral with the spiral colorful roofs. In fact that is the cathedral of Saint Vasil. The kremlin is a walled area which most Russian cities possess. And as usual of most famous sites, the cathedral is much smaller in life than it appears on tv our books (if any of you read those anymore).

Pic taken from the Red Square outside the walls of the Kremlin

This picture taken from the Aleksandrovsky Gardens ouside the Kremlin

The following pictures are from inside the Kremlin:

Largest bell in the world

The plate you see above is the 0 mile point from which all other distances and cities and measured. Tradiotionally you make a wish and toss a coin over your head whilst standing on the mark.

I.5 ( side note about being here)

Walking around Moscow, you do get the sense of the separation of classes. It is true what they say about that. Some people walk around wearing things worth more than my life, while three others in outdated or polyester attire. I mean that doesn't mean they are any less sexy, because believe you me, there is plenty of that no matter what the social level of scale.

Prices here are kept exceptionally high sure to corruption. It seems to open up a whether a franchise or your own place, you need to pay out lots of bribes. Even Ikea was about to bounce, piter much stating in a paper "common, you've got to be kidding me, how more bribes do I gots to pay!" So in short don't plan on doing much shopping. Which is very unfortunate because the fashion is damn good.


My favorite day was actually the last day.
It happens to be the day of Russia, a national holiday, and it was on Sunday. On the advice of our gracious hosts, we went to the area know as VDNH - Vistavka Dostixenja Nationalnich Xozyastvo, which means Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy. But really what it means is a shit load of people prancing around the wide flowered allies, splashing around in fountains, and having really strange pass times like putting their kids in balloons on a small pool.

There was an impressive entrance, and strangely the sound escorting us was "the road to hell" playing out of a biker's stereo. A small symbol of americana in what used to be it's greatest enemy's exhibition of achievements- haha-ironic. Also ironic was the monkey sitting on the back of that bike, but I won't get into that (or I will upset mirza).

It is quiet amazing how much money, labor, and detail was put into all of this. The people really take advantage of it's glory and really know how to enjoy life. They socialize in a way rarely seen in the western world and I think it is a great gift to them left over from communism.


But what real Moscow blog post would be complete without mormons. Mormons? In the most orthodox country? Oh yes, mormons. Americans trying to mormonize in Russian no less. Jake Anderson and Milton Zim. MILTON!!! hahaha... Well he looked how hits name sounds.

We were walking along a beautiful lake in Moscow, passing the very skin showing russian men and women, enjoying their saturday morning with beers and shishlicks (bbq skewers). We followed the shore until the beach turned into wood, and even further til suddenly we came to a fence that went perpendicular to our path and duped into the water. It seemed we were lost with no answers and no one to show us the path to freedom. As our heads sank in despair and all hope was sunk, we heard a noise coming from deep inside the woods. English? We waited til the image came closer and closer and was finally upon us like angels onto George Smith. It was Jake and Milton. With only their bags of wisdom (in the form of the mormon bible). I dared to ask them who they were and what they were doing here. Even more daring was when I asked them to explain. Needless to say, they didn't save or souls, but another russian couple did as we watched then go through a secret whole in the fence, and gave us an excuse to cut the conversation off. We quickly took the chance and ran after them. And while we ran, there were distant echoes beseaching us to "go to w-w-w-dot-mormons-dot-org for more vital information".
Well alls well that ends well, right?

Can you imagine being called milton (with dorky glasses and a talking style that reminds me of milhouse from the simpsons), american, a mormon, and being sent on a mission to RUSSIA, to convert drunk, highly orthodox russian macho men, wearing speedos on a saturday trying to relax at a lake? That is one job I do not want to have!

Running away from ....THE MORMONSSSSS


Just a word about the pollon. For those of you with allergies, consider Moscow to be your living hell. When I say theres a hell of a lot of polon, it would be a drastic understatement. The trees are beautiful, it's called Topol, but might as well be called sent from hell. I dont have allergies but I do have eyes, and jeezus were they filled with that damn fluff. Just to give you another example, we lived on the SEVENTEENTH floor, and do you think that stopped the constant inflow of white fluffy friends? No! Walking in the streets, it would seem at first glance that it was snowing. But when you realize that its like 80 degrees you know better.


Ok Here come some pictures!
An aisle in a TINY deli, just for Vodka.. thats right, that is ONLY Vodka

We got to see a fire :D very exciting...

The guys, just hanging around...

Roof of the Cathedral of Vasil

A memorial to all those lost in the hands of Nazis...a truly moving peice. Maybe the best I have seen.

The Red Square at night
A bridge for lovers. When you get married you have to buy a lock, lock it to the tree, and throw the key off the bridge. Thus ensuring that your loved one never runs away.

A view from the bridge leading to and from the Church of The Savior

The Church of The Savior

No one is gonna save HIM though

Old Arbat - one of the main streets in Moscow- very artistic and full of life
Also on Old Arbat

Selling kittens on the street

Some different looking ducks by the lake


Some wild night life... notice how at 2 am it is not dark out!!

Saying goodbye and getting on the train (from which I wrote most of the blog)

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