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Taking Time Off

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By the time you read this, we'll be gone from St. Petersburg - temporarily. Our Russian visa has expired which means we are out of the country.


We are headed for our home service to visit several states and many of our donors in the US. We will be gone for several months to return mid-August.


While we are traveling in the States, I won't be writing my blog posts. I'm not sure what will happen when we return. I may be persuaded to continue this blog in fall when we return to St. Petersburg.

From Palace to State Hermitage Museum

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When we first came to St. Petersburg last summer, the question we most often heard was, "Have you been to the Hermitage yet?" Being new in the city, we didn't have any idea what that was. Now we know.



The Winter Palace of the Tzars, on the shore of the Neva River, is now the Hermitage, the largest museum in Russia. Catherine the Great was the Empress who first started collecting art for this museum in 1794. The Tsars added to their collection year after year and opened it to the public in 1852.



The collection outgrew it's original space in the Old Hermitage until today when it covers six buildings in the main museum plus other buildings for storage of items not on display. If you would spend 1 minute per each item - 8 hours per day - it would take 15 years to see everything in the entire museum.


We spent about three hours in the Hermitage on one day, so far. The following pictures are some of the things we saw. I'm sure we'll go again sometime.





































Bridges of St. Petersburg, Russia

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Since St. Petersburg is known as "Venice of the North", it's obvious that bridges are an important part of the city. The city has 342 bridges over canals and rivers in the city limits that vary in size from several lane car bridges to pedestrian bridges.


The bridge (pictured above) crosses the Neva River, the main waterway running through the city. Twenty two bridges that cross this wide river are heavily used for traffic by day, but at night they all are raised to allow ship traffic to maneuver in and out of the Baltic Sea and into the Volga River. Between April and November, the bridges raise and lower by a very intricate schedule so the ships can travel, but also allow for emergency vehicles access to both sides of the city. An open drawbridge is a popular symbol of St. Petersburg.


The newest bridge built to cross the Neva River is the only one that is not a drawbridge. The Bolshoy Obukhovsky Bridge was opened in 2004 and is part of the Ring Road - the freeway system …

Pushkin - Russia's Shakespeare

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When Russians talk about their most famous poet, they all refer to Alexander Pushkin. Everyone learns about Pushkin during their school days. My husband, who teaches theology to seminary students, has had Pushkin cited during their discussion. When I was on a Pushkin tour of St. Petersburg in February, the group of Russian students, also on the tour, stood before his statue and recited one of his poems.



Born in Moscow, Alexander Pushkin lived at the turn of the 19th century. Early on, his talent as a poet was recognized by the literary establishment. In his late teens, he associated with the intellectual youth culture of St. Petersburg where he graduated from school. These friends influenced his writings to be controversial in subject and style, according to the government.



As a result, he was exiled in 1820 from St. Petersburg. He spent the next several years in Odessa, Ukraine where he continued to work. Written in 1825, his most famous poem "Boris Godunov" was composed
w…

Postcard from Odessa, Ukraine

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Last week we were in Odessa for a seminar that my husband presented. I thought I'd share some pictures with you.

Odessa is a very European looking city, much like St. Petersburg. It's located on the northern shore of the Black Sea, but is more of a port city than a tourist city. Therefore, the coast line is filled with more shipping industries than beaches.



Like St. Petersburg, it was under Soviet control from 1920s until the early 1990s. Much of the downtown area has been restored since freedom came to Odessa.




We didn't visit during summer, but I can tell it will be beautiful when the trees and flowers are out in full force.



A very unique monument is located in a central park of the city, a chair sitting on a pedestal. It represents one of the chairs from a novel titled "12 Chairs" by a famous Odessan author.  The story is about jewelry, hidden from the Bolsheviks, in the seat of a chair in a dining room set. The chairs were then stolen by the communists after th…

Russian Style Easter Eggs

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Last week I was invited to decorate Easter eggs the Russian way. I pictured the multi-colored, intricately painted eggs that are famous the world over. However, I was thinking of Ukrainian Easter eggs instead of Russian.


When I arrived at the egg painting session, I was actually relieved to find the Russian Easter eggs have simpler designs. They are just as beautiful, but the ones we worked with were all the same basic color - brown with lighter decorations.


I found out the secret of the coloring was in the process of cooking the eggs. Before the eggs were cooked, masking tape was placed on the eggs where the color was to be lighter - either in a square, round, or even cross shape. A good example can be seen in the basket of eggs above, where the center egg has the cross shape. Then the eggs are cooked, starting in cold water as usual, with onion peels added to the water. Yellow onion skins were used that day.

The longer the eggs cook in the onion skin water, the darker the eggs are at…

Ever Heard of Tallinn, Estonia?

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Not too many Americans have heard of the historical capital city of Estonia. Last summer we had a chance to visit Tallinn since it's two hours west of St. Petersburg.


Founded more than a thousand years ago, this ancient city is preserved in its historical setting for us today. The stone walls surrounding the ancient city are well-preserved for tourists.


Tallinn is located on the north coast of the Gulf of Finland. Historically, it was very important for trading purposes. Because of that, it was ruled in different times by Denmark, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Russia.





The Old Town area with its town square is preserved for tourists today and is listed as the best preserved medieval city in Europe. The narrow streets and castle walls take a tourist back in time.










We climbed the steps to the Upper Town where the government buildings are located today. From the top of the castle wall the view of the Lower Town was amazing.





The next day we visited the Estonian Open Air Museu…