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Привет все! After another long hiatus, I am back in the blog game. Pretty sweet new header photo eh? Tapestry from the middle ages taken with my own little point and shoot in the Hermitage. The other photo is one of the many Van Gogh’s in the collection. The place is absolutely amazing. Apparently, if you wanted to just spend one minute in each room, you would be in there for 8 years. So I definitely see myself going back several times.

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The champagne room–where the courtiers would all get wasted in order to get through the self-written plays and operas that Catherine the Great would make them watch in the Hermitage Theater that lies adjacent.

So  yes I have made it back to Saint Petersburg in one piece. I am living in a comfortable but old soviet style apartment complex with my host mom and the the gorgeous, white, diva-cat Marquis. Irena only speaks Russian, which is the whole point and we can communicate pretty well. The time spent in Vladivostok has definitely served me well. We are directly north of, and quite far outside the center of the city. It’s about an hour commute every day but the metro is beautiful and so streamlined and simple that it’s not so bad. Classes have started and are held at the very blue Smolny cathedral. So far they seem alright. Electives don’t start until next week so I won’t really get a true idea of what my schedule will be like until then.

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Field Marshall Hall….is anyone else reminded of Stratego? Number? *smirk* Bomb.

The program is huge, almost 100 American students so we stick out like a sore thumb when we have to do group things. For example, this weekend we have an overnight excursion to Novgorod, the capital of the old Russian kingdom of pre-tsar times. One of the oldest cities in Russia and very different from Petersburg. But other than instances like this, I generally don’t spend any time with the other Americans outside of Smolny except of course the LC people. There are five of us from LC which makes us one of the biggest delegations. It was mighty good to see them all as its been a long, lonesome summer at times. Our beloved professor Tatiana was in town for a couple days when we first arrived so we were able to get together with her and our former tutor, now LC alum, Danya for a small reunion on Nevsky Prospekt. Image

St. Sebastian, by some Italian guy.

We have the advantage in that we already have some contacts here. David met up with a friend of his sister who lives here now who is going to introduce us to some more people and before that we went together to see Sheynya, Sasha, Anton and Vera, the fine folks I stayed with on my short stint here earlier. David missed out. After he left to fulfill his previously made plans we had a big dinner, dessert and then went out to this awesome dive bar (one of the first I’ve seen here) with a custom foos-ball table (table soccer for non-Fendt readers). They play with a dense rubber ball which means you can do some pretty cool things in the course of play. No spinning of the bars allowed, only the standard wrist shot. Thomas wouldn’t like it though because you can not appeal to the ref when the ball goes into the goal and bounces back into play. The back of the goal has got some metal plating which makes a very satisfying sound when you score and they go by that.

Also, so far we have seen lots of good places for busking, and quite a few people trying their hand at it. I still like our chances. So as soon as I get over this cold we are going to take to the park guitar and melodica in hand and see what we can do. I’m thinking about maybe making a provocative sign as well to get more attention. “Talk to an American in Russian.” In Russian of course. Might make people stop, right?

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The October Steps–where the Bolsheviks stormed the palace to overthrow the provisional government in the October Revolution.

My interim travels were, for the most part, great and I’m glad it all worked out, though I’d be happy with never seeing the Riga airport again. Vilnius was really cool and I wish I could have spent more time there. The girls I was couch surfing with were really nice and did there best to show me around even though they had to work since I arrived in the middle of the week. Beautiful oldtown and riverfront. Good transportation. Not too big, which was really nice. Relatively cheap too. The white shades finally bit the dust there too. And by bit the dust, I mean I forgot them in a beer hall. Anyways….pictures.

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Massive Catholic Cathedral in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Beautiful side-chapel of said cathedral.

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Ceiling of said side-chapel. There was a room like this between every single one of those columns in the first picture, on both sides. 

Germany was also great and again I had wonderful hosts. I saw the one and only Jakob again and also met his older brother and parents. The live in a really picturesque, small village called Shlangen. Again, everyone had work and school but they really tried to show me a good time. We also went to Berlin for a weekend which was awesome. Didn’t get any weisse beer Gene, but I did get some weisse wurst. Out of a can. It was interesting.

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Monument to Hermman in Teutorburg Forest.

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in front of The Reichstag

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One of the last standing GDR watch towers.

And the wall…Image

took this one while riding a bike. NBD.Image

used the timer for this one. can you tell?Image

and these cyclists had perfect timing.

As usual, this has kept me up past my bedtime but now hopefully I can get back on track with shorter posts. So I’ll leave it there. My best to you all and I thank you for your continued readership.

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