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A Night on the Town

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I've been told that the thing to do when you come to Russia is to see a ballet. I had never been to one before, so I jumped at the chance to go see "Swan Lake" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky with my friend when she suggested it. For some reason, my husband declined to join us in the adventure. HMMM...


We attended the ballet with a group from our Russian language school where we had a meeting explaining the plot prior to the start.


The theatre alone was amazing to see. The gold and ornamentation on the stairs and hallways was truly magnificent. The chandelier sparkled it's beauty as we climbed to the second floor. We felt like we were rubbing shoulders with the high society of St. Petersburg.



When the music commenced, the real magic began. The story of the ballet was revealed before our eyes without a word being spoken on the stage. The program gave a summary of the plot, so we knew what would happen in each scene, but I found it fascinating to watch it unfold.



I was mesmerized…

Historic Splendor

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Several weeks ago we took an excursion on a hydrofoil to a palace about ten miles southwest of St. Petersburg. On the shore of the Baltic Sea, Peterhof Palace was built by Peter the Great as a summer residence - a place to escape the heat of the city during the summer months. He planned the layout of the spacious gardens and numerous fountains in the early 1700s.


A visitor has to walk along a channel linking the ocean with the palace. Originally, the Sea Channel was built to access the palace by boat, but today it's part of the breath-taking view as you approach the palace.


Peter the Great built his summer home high on a bluff, planning the fountains that today grace the front of the building. The Grand Cascade, with its 64 fountains, open into the main fountain, where Samson battles the lion. In this fountain, designed by a Frenchman, water shoots from the lion's mouth twenty feet into the air.

This main fountain is set in the middle of the huge gardens surrounding the palac…

Skeleton Church

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Since we've moved to St. Petersburg, we've worshipped in an English service every Sunday at St. Anne's Lutheran Church. St. Anne's, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, is the oldest Lutheran church building in St. Petersburg, built in 1779.

During the last half of the 19th Century, this church was one of the most important Lutheran churches in all of St. Petersburg. But that all changed by the 1930s when suppression of churches was the norm under Soviet rule. By the beginning of WWII, there were no more functioning Lutheran churches in the city.

When all the interior was stripped of anything religious, St. Anne's church was used as a cinema. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the small congregation that remained, petitioned the government to have the building restored and returned to the Lutherans. It was going to be returned on December 6, 2002, but a mysterious fire broke out the night before.


The government handed the burned interior with co…

Здравствуйте! Hello! - in Russian Language

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That was the first word we had to learn in Russian - and such a friendly way to say hello! Believe me, it wasn't the easiest introduction to our new language. Since I'm writing this blog about life in Russia, I thought you should have an introduction to the language here.

We had 3 weeks of Russian classes in July and now started working with a tutor twice a week for 2 hours. We need to pass a Russian test before Chuck can get his work permit, so we need to keep studying.

Russian is a hard language to learn, but since it's written in Cyrillic that makes it more difficult to figure things out. Many letters look the same but are pronounced completely different. For example the word "ресторан" means  restauran(t). The p's are really r's, c's are always s's, and н is really an n. And don't forger that - в is always a v sound and ш is the sh. It gets confusing.


And there are the letters that don't look anything like our English letters: г = g, …

"Home Sweet Home" - Not American Version

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We've lived in St. Petersburg for close to two months and have yet to see "the American dream" - a single family house. Here, everyone lives in an apartment, located either in an old building in the historic city center or in a new high-rise farther out.


The high-rise buildings are everywhere you look--in the center of everything, or at the edge of one of the many rivers.


We keep hearing about the communist era cement buildings, but we haven't seen many that look too old and dilapidated. They are probably replaced by the new high-rises built since freedom came in the 1990s.

We live in one of these new high-rise complexes. Our third-floor apartment is in a 21 story building in a complex of five other buildings (called korpus in Russia). We live in Korpus 3.

This complex includes several modern, colorful play areas for the children. It also includes an underground parking garage for the many cars that people own. In fact, the playground is located over the parking garage.


Достопримечательности of St. Petersburg

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I thought that since I was in Russian class for 3 weeks, I better show off all the Russian I know, so I put the longest word we learned in my blog this week. That long word means a famous site for tourists to visit in a city. We took some time last week to visit some of St. Petersburg sites which I am sharing with you today.



The picture on the left is the Alexander Column - the tallest of its kind in the world - built for the victory over Napoleon's France. It's named after the emperor who defeated the French, Alexander I. It's located in Palace Square next to the Winter Palace of Peter the Great. It's topped by an angel holding a cross.




Across the square from the Alexander Column is the General Staff Building, built in the early 1800s, which used to hold the Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry joined by a triumphal arch. The arch is decorated with sculptures also honoring the victory over Napoleon.


One of the main attractions in St. Petersburg is the statue of Peter t…

Riding the Underground Rails

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During the last three weeks, we were attending Russian language class 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. We left home, at 9:00 along with the commuting crowd, and made our way to the metro station ten minutes from our flat.

We're used to traveling by the metro from our year in Prague, but there are some distinct differences with the St. Petersburg system.

The metro system here is much cleaner - absolutely no graffiti anywhere - and fancier. Many of the metro stops were built in the 1950s to show off the splendor and power of the Soviet Union.


In the picture above, the walls of the Alexander Nevsky  station are covered in gold plating to mimic the armor of Alexander Nevsky as he rode to victory over the German and Swedish invaders in the 1200s. You can see other pictures of metro stations if you click on this link St Petersburg Metro. It's illegal to take pictures today in the underground stations, so you'll have to check out the link and scroll down to see more.

The stations …