Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First impression!

Finally I've found some spare time to write my first post about my little Russian adventure!!

So far, St. Petersburg has been treating me is such a peculiar yet beautiful city!! Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a tremendous statue of Lenin at a square not far from the airport which I watched in awe as we quickly drove through the boulevards.
As we got closer to the suburbs of St. Petersburg, the buildings started to look all very similar and can easily be compared to the banlieues in France which appeared to be constructed during the soviet years.
Once I arrived I was welcomed by Bart, the course coordinator, Hans, Gerrit & Jeroen whom also participate in the course. After a small introduction we quickly decided to walk around the neighbourhood and get ourselves something to eat.
In total we are like 8 students with nationalities varying from Dutch, Polish, Belgian and US and we all bonded quite well right away as we sat down for a few Baltika piva's (Russian beer) that same evening. Most of the students are here for primarily business purposes although some have also a special interest in Russian literature.
The following day we were scheduled for an excursion and met up with Nastya at the city
centre. As it turns out, St. Petersburg celebrated a sort of veterans day which attracted a incredible amount of locals.
An air of proudness and joy filled the faces of most Russians as they were waving their national flag through the streets and raised their glasses as early as midday!!
Quite amusing to watch some of them already completely intoxicated and noisy at around 2-3 o'clock in the park whilst Nastya was showing us some of the sights and telling us about the history of the city!
In any case, the weather was incredibly in our favour which allowed me to take some great pictures as can be seen below.

The picture above shows a colossal monument of Peter the Great which is located in Nevskiy Prospekt. During his reign, the Russians conquered the 'city' from the Swedish in 1703 and quickly let it develop by foreign architects. It is said that due to his obsession of Holland, he wanted it to be designed similar to the city of Amsterdam with its canals. Above can be observed the St. Isaac's Cathedral which went through multiple phases of construction and was ultimately designed by Auguste de Montferrand who also designed the Alexander's Column in front of the Hermitage museum. Quite amazing how clean and good everything is maintained!

The tour became slightly more interesting as we decided to take a little rest at a bar. After a nice coffee and conversation, Nastya asked one of the participants to ask for the счëт (which means bill but is pronounced as 'shot'). The student was slightly confused and went, when he came back he looked at all of us in doubt and said...'soo..we're going to start already?' and the waitress came back with 6 vodka shots!! A funny mistake which won't happen again...or perhaps? lol

The following day I was scheduled for a 3 hour class with Alexandra together with my classmate Gerrit. The class turned out to be quite a wake-up call as the level of conversation was high and I noticed a lack in vocabulary...i think I got like 4 A4's filled with notes on grammer and vocab front and back! nevertheless I am learning a great deal and the teacher is really helpful and sharp so I am certain I'll come out of this with quite some improvement!

Tomorrow I'll be going together with my other class mates to the Bolshoy Dramaticheskii Theater as we decided to go and watch a ballet which supposedly St. Petersburg is renown for so I'll tell you all about it as well as my first stopka vodki experience! :P

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