Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Russia Trip in a Nutshell

So I've been horribly negligent in informing you of the last part of my trip to St. Petersburg, so I'll try to include all the awesomeness in this blog post.

June 3rd:
Today was a nice break from museums and libraries. We spent the day like American tourists instead of students. We went to the Bay of Findland and strolled on the beach. Lynn was a rebel and entertained us all by stripping off her clothes and running into the frigid cold water. After that we took a nice long scenic tour back into the city and had an authentic Russian meal for lunch.

Bellies filled, the majority of the group headed towards the Summer Garden and we spent a delightful afternoon snapping pictures. Our next stop was the Church of the Spilled Blood and the giant souveneir market right outside it. We took some more pictures and bought waay to many nesting dolls. Our legs aching from walking nearly a billion miles, we plopped down in a nearby resteraunt and shoveled some food in. We then walked the 30min hike back. I'm am physically exhausted and in need of some rest so I don't come down with the cold that everyone seems to be getting, so I best be off. Goodnight!

June 4th:
Today we visited the National Library of Russia and it is by far my new favorite library! Imagine giant old 3 story libraries with card catalogs, ladders, statues, the old book smell (think Beauty and the Beast's library!) and there you have it. I wish I could have taken photographs to prove how awesome it was but they wouldn't allow it in most parts of the building. Bummer. Here's some cool facts about it:

1. It started off as the Russian Imperial Library in 1795 and was the first public library in all of Russia
2. It contains stone books that are over 2,000 years old! They are mounted on the wall and you can even touch them!
3. They used to have a copy of the Guttenberg Bible but the Soviets sold it in the beginning of the 20th century
4. Catherine the Great purchased Voltaire's entire library in the18th century (mainly to get back her correspondence with him that she didn't want to be made public) and they are all on display in a separate room. Over 2,000 of his books have notes scribbled in the margins from in his own handwriting! How cool!
5. It's one of the largest libraries in Russia that is open to the public.

After our visit we all grabbed lunch at a local deli (I had grilled veggies, cabbage bread, and a delightful raspberry pastry thing) then we all went our separate ways. My room-mate Lisa wasn't feeling well so we headed back to our hotel and on the way Matt and I checked out some local book stores. Unfortunately we didn't buy any books so we ran into the 24 hour market and I grabbed pink gin and mojitos (in cans!) and he grabbed some lays crab flavored potato chips (yuck!). Now I'm back here catching up on my blog and uploading pictures. For dinner I think Lisa, Matt, Darrell, and I are going to try the Soviet Cafe. Hope it's good! (disclaimer, the Soviet Cafe was awesome! My favorite restaurant in Russia, the mushroom soup was off the hook!)

June 5th:
Today was jam packed but that didn't stop it from flying by. We visited our last two libraries for this trip and then went our seperate ways.

We went to the Yeltsin Presidential Library first and dear lord was their security to contend with! It took us nearly 45 minutes to get our passports verified and bags checked. Once in we were escorted not only by a guide but a greeter and security guide as well! They gave us a tour of their amazing facilities and this was by far the nicest and most up to date "library" we've seen so far. Money was practically dripping from the building. It seemed to me as if the library was used more as a show piece and conference facility then it was for research and "normal" library usage. In fact there weren't even any books. There were a few dozen computers that could be used to access their online resources and a handful of librarians that could answer reference questions but that was about it. After the tour when we were asking about their funding they tried avoiding the question but they eventually stated that they were funded by the government and that they recieved so much money because it was new and used as more than just a library. The final library we visited was the children's library and it was adorable. I thought that their collection of international, rare, and mini books was quite impressive. They seemed quite eager to show off their technology (3 robots and an interactive globe) and were very hospitable.

After that some of us headed to St. Isaac's Cathedral and braved the nearly 300 stair ascent to the dome. Even though I thought my heart would explode it was well worth the view. The interior was also stunning. After that Lisa and I went to King Pong, an asain themed resteraunt and had a delightful dinner. We then grabbed some souveneirs and headed back. I can't believe that this trip is almost at an end, we've been having so much fun!

June 6th:
Today we took the hydrofoil (a big boat with jet skis on the bottom!) all the way out to Peterhof (Peter's Pleasure Palace!). It was dripping with opulence just like Catherine's Palace and the Winter Palace. A disgusting amount of gold was everywhere. The palace was great but my favorite part was the outside with all the awesome gardens and fountains. There are over 150 fountains outside that have been operating for nearly 150 years (except for that brief stint where the Nazis destroyed the palace). After we went back to the hotel, most of us went to the Cat Cafe, a cute kitschy Georgian restaurant owned by a man who looked like he could be twin brothers with Antonio Banderas!  The food was delightful and so was the jug of house wine that Lisa, Bridgette, and I shared. We spent nearly two hours in the restaurant laughing and chatting. It was great!

June 7th:
Today was our last day in St. Petersburg :( Thankfully it was a free day so we could all do whatever we wanted. About eight of us went to Peter the Great's Museum of Curiosities and woof! there were some disturbing exhibits there!! Most of it was like a natural history museum, with outfits, tools, and art from different major cultures from all over the world. But there was a "freak show" room that had tons of baby fetus' and kids floating in formaldehyde! They were mostly all deformed too, babies with multiple heads, no limbs, flippers, etc. And the really creepy thing is that most o these babies had been in these jars since Peter the Great's time! Clearly, I did not stay in this room very long, I didn't want to throw up my lunch on anyone. After the museum the group parted ways and Matt, Darrel, Lisa, and I went last minute vodka and souvenir shopping before dinner. Matt was on a quest to find more crab and caviar lay's chips before he left. We rejoined the group for our last Russian meal and then we all went on a marvelous boat tour of all the canals in St. Petersburg. We all shared a bottle of wine and macaroons as we floated along the canals. It was perfect. Then we all went home and began packing :(

June 8th:
We all go our separate ways. It was truly an exceptional experience and I have made soo many new friends.

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