Monday, June 4, 2012

Playing Catch Up in Russia

Sorry I've been away for so long!! It's so hard to find time to blog here! We've been doing soo much! I'm going to post everything from last week on this post to catch you up with what I've been doing, I'm having a blast!!!

May 29
So i had a nice insightful entry that didn't properly publish so i have to rewrite it. Clearly i'm not happy about this so pardon me if this posting isn't as long or awesome. I'm blogged out.

The trip started with an awesome visit to the Mayovosky public library where we recieved a tour of two of the buildings and got to meet and chat with different members of the staff. After the tour we met with library science students and asked each other questions about the state of libraries in the United States and Russia. It was very enlightening and I think everyone enjoyed it as soon as they got over the shyness and timidness.

After that we ate at a local fast food joint (Tepemok - crepes and borscht is their speciality!!) and went on an awesome tour of the city where we all took an obscene amount of photos. Later tonight we're going to see the raising of the bridges at twilight (an event called White Nights in Russia because there is over 20 hours of daylight!!) and I can't wait. 

Again sorry this post isn't more awesome, I promise tomorrows wil be!

May 30
Today was exhausting but eventful. We started off by going to one of the finest library science schools in Russia and meeting students with the same passion as ourselves. After our presentations (we each had a short presentation on different library topics, mine was on e-books) I was hoping for more enlightening discussions with Russian students but I didn't feel as if we learned a a whole lot more than we did yesterday. They were nice and asked us some good questions about our presentations but I felt as if they were more talkative and forthcoming yesterday when we met them at the public library. I did however really enjoy the tour they gave us of their school. What a majestic learning center! They get taught in a palace (literally, it was an old palace that has been renovated) and I get taught in the basement of an old ugly library! Lucky them! I was surprised, however, to see that while we offer very similar programs and classes, they seemed to be lacking in technology. I couldn't believe that they didn't even have wi-fi! The lack of technology didn't seem to be of concern to them though and they have produced many accomplished graduates (as we saw in their lovely video). I do wonder if that is something that they will want to work on improving in the future.

After our several hour visit we rushed like mad men to grab a bite to eat before heading to the Marinsky Theater to see a production of "Sleeping Beauty." I didn't know that I could change into evening wear in less than 10 minutes, I really am learning a lot of things about myself on this trip! The ballet was beyond beautiful, albeit a bit too long at 4 hours. The dancers were superb and I can't wait to post pictures of the amazing theater and performers. Truly it was an amazing day!

May 31
Today we got to experience the magnificence that is the Hermitage. Words can literally not even begin to describe the opulence and grandeur contained in the 5 buildings. It is estimated that it would take five years to go through and see the one million plus items on display. At first I thought that sounded unreasonable but after going through dozens of exhibit halls and not even scratching the service of what is on display I can see the truth in that statement.

Our tour started out with a behind the scenes visit to the reading room and a presentation by THE Hermitage librarian, Olga Zimina. She graciously explained the history of the Hermitage library and even brought out examples from their collection. We got to see beautifully bound volumes from Catherine the Great and other notable tsars, it was surreal. The history and beauty in each book was magnificent to see first hand.

After our brief introduction to the library we were allowed to use the employee cafe for lunch which was beyond nice of our hosts. We definitely got the red carpet treatment compared to the rest of the thousands of visitors!

From 1 to 3 we gota guided tour of all the major art exhibits, throne rooms, and halls. I'm literally speechless as to how much there was to see! We saw tso of Leonardo Da Vinci's paintings, a Caravaggio, Monets, Picassos, Degas, Rapheals, and hundreds more. The quality of their collection ismagnificent. The Hermitage collects not only Russian works of art, but masterpieces from all over the globe. There were Dutch masters, French masters, and Italian masters just to name a few!

The one thing that genuinely surprised me was that visitors were allowed to photograph everything (although no flash obviously). Very rarely do you see a museum that allows you to do that. I was also very surprised to see that they opened thewindows around such precious paintings. That would never ever happen in majzor American museums where everything is temperature controlled.

Overall, I had a fantastic day. Lisa, Lynn, and I ended it by exploring Nevsky Prospekt and unwinding with hookah and absinthe (Lynn smartly declined that little adventure). Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

June 1
The day started off rocky when I could barely pull myself out of bed. Coffee and breakfast kept me going for a bit but after I post this I'm eating dinner and passing out so I can enjoy tomorrow.

We started off the day by going to the BAN which was fascinating. The director was so nice and seemed even more excited to see us then we see to see him! He gave us a nice overview of the history of the library and gave us some pretty sweet swag. He was such a sweet guy, I bet it's a lot of fun to work for him. After that we went on a tour of the library and saw the reading room, the manuscript room (which was my favorite part! The 11th century manuscripts were amazing and so was their collection of Peter the Great's personal collection!), an the archive room.

After that we had a speedy (but yummy!) lunch and went to the graduate school of management's library. They had by far, the most high-tech and stunning library we've seen so far. It was all modern and up to date (they even had a self checkout machine) and they kept the history and heritage of the 18th century building alive by keeping some of the old architecture and bricks in with their slick new remodel. I was also impressed that their program was all in english, I might have to pick up another masters degree in business!

Our final trip was to the Pushkin library where we got to see music compositions handwritten by Mozert and Bach. What a treat! I would have appreciated it more, but my lack of sleep started to catch up to me. Definitely heading to bed earlier tonight so I can appreciate tomorrow even more!

June 2
Today we battled the wind and the rain to see Catherine's Palace in the Tzar's Village. It was well worth the nasty weather and the insanely ridiculous long lines though. Only a handful of the many rooms are open to the public because they are still in the process of restoring the rooms that the Nazis destroyed during WW2. It took more than 30 years alone to restore the amber room (the 8th wonder of the world)! That's intense dedication! I was also shocked when I heard that 50% of the palace's items had been looted by the Nazis and are lost forever. How depressing! Thankfully, they were able to remove half of the collection before the Nazis surrounded Leningrad. The before and after pictures of the palace are incredible. After our extremely crowded but informative tour we took a quick tour of the grounds and saw many beautiful gardens, statues, and buildings. I would have liked to explore more but the weather was awful!

We all warmed up at a nice resteraunt before heading back into the city. Can't wait to see what tomorrow has to offer!

June 2
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!

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