If you click on that picture and go to look at all the Saint Petersburg pictures as a group, you will notice that they are uniformly, well, grey. It was grey there, and according to N had been gray for quite some time. In fact, I had a window seat on my flight from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg and it was one giant expanse of gray clouds all the way, so this may be a wider phenomenon than just St. Petersburg.
And my stay was a little bumpy. I got there the last night that N’s group was there, so I met N and when with her and a friend to meet more friends at a pirog place and then I went off to bed at my hotel. The next day I moved from the hotel to the gloomier but culturally more interesting apartment N was living in, but N was tired and had a paper due (a paper which clouded my stay in Russia and which she finally finished in Estonia) so I went off to do some touring on my own while she worked on her paper. The trouble was, she kept hoping that she would finish, so I kept putting off the things we wanted to do together — like the Hermitage — and then we never had time to do them. I saw the Siberian collection at the Hermitage, which is very interesting, but I really wanted to go back and never got to do it. I did, however, see the Church of the Spilt Blood (all mosaics and icons), see a lot of the Russian Museum (and learned a lot about icons, which are much more interesting than you might have thought — there’s a huge collection in the Swedish National Museum, too, which was cool), see the Kazan Cathedral — but not St Isaac’s, or the Museum of Political History. We would have loved to go to a ballet or the Philharmonic, but did not. Next time.
Fun things I did were to go to the bookstore in the old Singer Building with N to have tea. (That is N’s picture from the fall — it was greyer and snowier in December, and people were wearing winter coats.)
Walk around and around and around. I walked up and down Nevskii Prospekt which was full of people at all times, but especially, it seemed, at around 5:00 in the afternoon, when it was already completely dark and the lights were all on and people seemed exceptionally cheerful. I crossed all the bridges I could find — over canals and over all parts of the Neva. The bridges are all labelled, and it was with especial pleasure that I crossed the Sinii Most which is, I knew from my rudimentary Russian, blue. Dark blue. Everywhere I went there were lots of people walking, and lots of groups of schoolchildren — and even babies — all out in the winter, and all wearing snowpants. I was really impressed with all the school groups I kept running into in museums, too. Is that true here? I don’t think my kids went on so many field trips to museums. All wearing snowpants, too. They seem to have figured out that you can be outside as long as you have the equipment for it, and the kids seemed perfectly happy about it.
Spend a lot of time in the Russian Museum. I went back there with N, eventually. Take the metro to a flea market. Drink tea in N’s kitchen with her housemother and another student from Austria — a graduate student. I liked her a lot (so did N.). Eat — pirog (which is like a turnover); piroshki (which are like dumplings); pelmenyi (like ravioli or wontons. Ours were potato and delicious.); pastries from the bakery; blini; borshch; even the soup at the cafeteria at the Peter and Paul Fortress was good — simple,but cheap and good.
Another strangely cool thing was the language — which I actually understood more of than I thought I would. Some people would realize that you spoke English and would quickly switch to English. But a significant number of people either did not realize — at least two people came up to ask me directions, in Russian — or just assumed you would understand and keep talking to you. We were waiting in line at a kasse to try to buy tickets to see the Nutcracker (which was hopeless) and a man came up and asked us which line we were in (I think). We were sort of in a joint line. I pointed, to indicate that we were behind the woman in front of us and then she turned and sort of explained it to him (I think), but somehow included us in the discussion — and I could understand enough (I think) to know that that’s what she was telling him. There were verbs about standing thrown about. I don’t know — I just sort of felt included even when I understood nothing.
Anyway. I think N felt that life there was sort of grey and difficult, but I kind of enjoyed my four days there. I want to go back.
In other news, K just took off for Pittsburgh. It’s kind of an odd time to go, but his two siblings can meet there now and his mom is not doing at all well — I think it’s not too long before she can’t live on her own — so it’s actually a good thing they are meeting now and not later. It’s odd, though.
And will we go skiing? I don’t actually know. Maybe. (I have seen snow, and am less impatient than I would otherwise be.)
But it’s quiet — N is out, M is reading, and I might just go to bed. Hmm. Not a bad idea at all.