Thursday, June 12, 2014

St. Petersburg

Здравствуйте from St Petersburg! We have arrived, what a rush it is. All the bustling city life and the culture to be explored and soaked up is helping us overcome our jet lag. After arriving at the terminal we took a bus to the hostel where we will be staying for a couple days! For me, when I picture a hostel, I think of an army-like bunker with far too many people sleeping on bunks, in a darkened room, with too many smells to register. But this place was far from the stereotypical hostel. It was like a gigantic slumber party with us six girls in a small room staying in a bunk bed sorta configuration with our own little cubbies and a shower room (баня) just down the hall. The name Graffiti was fitting for the place: rather than paintings covering the walls there were drawings, much like graffiti covering sidewalks, all unique and clever. We were in awe of it and as we unpacked our stuff and quickly did introductions we all had visions of the following weeks running wild in our heads. We faded into sleep and then next morning, after fighting the time difference, dressed and headed off to what would be one of the greatest meals of the trip! We all are in this little cafe, order bravely and are rewarded. We got everything from sweet apple Crepes to caviar and thick berry smoothies. It was amazing! That day's festivities only furthered our enthusiasm. We attended a boat tour that explored the city, detailing the history on all the beautiful architecture. Although it was hard to grasp fully, as the tour guide spoke Russian quickly, the history and the grandeur was recognized even without the verbal connection. 
Later in the day, heads covered and all, we visited a huge cathedral attributed to St. Alexander Nevsky himself during the time of war with Sweden. It was all so spectacular, with all the gold and the empowering presence of The Lord and all his followers. After all that walking we slowly realized two things: we would really be in shape after this trip but we would be exhausted. Nap time!

For that night's festivities, we all dressed up and took the metro down to the waterfront, where we proceeded to watch the bridge rise, so that the big boats (yachts) could pass through. It was really something! Nightly the bridges rise about 1:00 am and stay up until 5am so there is no going from one side of the river to the other. We walked back to the metro station to catch our route home. We ended up going in the wrong direction so we asked for help! They said we had crossed the river of the bridge we just saw rise and we were stuck. The "my gosh" look appeared upon all our faces, but luckily the very last metro to cross back was arriving in forty minutes. It was well worth the wait though and after fixing our mistake we only had to hike it back home. All the while, as we walked back to the hostel, it was getting dark only briefly and then the sun was lifting again. These white nights are just truly amazing! And thank goodness for curtains. Whew! The rest of the trip was dedicated to museums of art, history and war. All too fascinating seeing the comparison of our people and our sides of history, just spring to life in front of our eyes.

We ate many more delicious meals and enjoyed all the St. Petersburg-ian cultures we could. From climbing the Cathedral to view the city from a bird's-eye view, to visiting cemeteries of famous historical authors and individuals, to playing late night Jenga with our new Russian friends at the hostel, the fun never stops. And this is only the beginning; there were many more cups of tea to drink, many more conversations to be had, lessons to look forward to and culture to absorb! There is a lot more fun ahead but the memories made in St. Petersburg and the bonds formed with our Minnesotan fellow travelers, I wouldn't trade for all of the world.
     Haley Rae

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