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But as of yet, no snow. Patchy or otherwise. The weather here has thankfully remained mostly un-rainy, however temperatures have hovered around the mundane and frustrating 50 degree mark. Too cold to stand around with the constant breeze off the Baltic and yet way too warm to walk at my favored brisk pace. And don’t even get me started on the metro. Though, on a surprise upside, I now actually have something to do on that two minute thirty second escalator ride–shed all outer layers in relative peace. I must confess my envy for Portlanders who have, for nearly two weeks now, enjoyed near 80 degree sunny weather. I do hope that the regular group of reflecting pool bathers, with whom I am well acquainted, are making the most of this rare occasion and have perhaps even swelled their ranks. Do enjoy the sunshine.

But yes, we are right now in the middle (perhaps the end now) of a wonderful золотая осень or golden autumn and it has been beautiful. It is especially beautiful when you are at Peterhoff, the massive palace and gardens built about an hour west of the city by Peter the Great for his R&R.

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It really has everything. Upper gardens, lower gardens (both of which are huge), a palace, beautiful nature, reflecting pools that dwarf ours and would allow the LC Reflecting Pool Bathers Club (LCRPBC) to have the entire college attend their next frolic, gold, gildery, statues, monuments and of course the elaborate fountain system that, believe it or not, uses not a single pump, just gravity and fancy pipes. Oh and this is all located right on the coast of the Baltic Sea as well. That is in fact the large body of water you can make out through the trees in the first photograph. It was great to stroll through the mostly tourist free grounds and take in the sights and history. Great for an imagination out of practice. Visions of elaborate facial hair, jackboots, military uniforms and pomp, horses and carriages (lets be real, the actual reasons I’m here) came through quite forcefully and most splendidly. It would be worth it to go back to the 18th century right?! All in all, a very magical and romantic place. A place that you wish you could share with all those you love, in the moment, because the photos while good, of course can’t capture the whole experience. Luckily, I wasn’t completely alone.

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As usual, none of the other 90 Americans could quite hang with our coolness and thus mastery of the camera’s timer function was key.

We are officially a month in now. Finally, I feel that I have settled into the routine and that classes have arrived at a more or less acceptable spot, although the electives are still something of a bore. I hear back this upcoming week about whether or not my program is gonna be able to help me find a piano to practice on. David and I have also found the conservatory where you can often attend cheap or even free concerts. We went last week to a performance there of traditional Russian “choral music.”We are talking the old stuff here. While interesting and definitely different, it was not exactly what I expected for choral music and did begin to try the foreign listener’s patience after the second hour. We remain undeterred however and are going back tomorrow for what we think is a brass ensemble of some kind and some solo works for French Horn.

We also went to a voting party put on by the consulate general at the American school here. Forms and help with the special ballot, burgers, dogs and ice cream for free! The people in Vladivostok could learn something here. The usual light discussion on the economy and political system, football, state pride. Usual American topics. It was nice not feeling like doofi for being our loud, obnoxious selves. As usual, I was disappointed by the general lack of choice and the large amount of uncontested local elections so, Phil, I wrote you in for Milwaukee County DA. I have a good feeling about it. Carcetti 2.0

Here are some more photos of Peterhoff and a few from Novgorod too. Keep it real. GO PACK.

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Great Novgorod: Russia’s oldest city

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