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Shopping the Russian Way

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We've been in St. Petersburg now for four months. I'm getting used to shopping in our local grocery store which in many ways is like grocery shopping in the States. The stores close to my flat are rather large and very bright, just like back home. But there are several differences that are at times hard to get used to.


Besides everything labeled in Cyrillic, the first thing I noticed was the way mayonnaise was sold. I looked on all the shelves for jars of mayo and finally had to ask someone where it was. Of course, in the refrigerated area. I finally found the huge section of bags of mayo. Mayonnaise is used all the time here for every imaginary salad you can think of, so I guess it's not too surprising that so many different kinds are sold.




Most of the foods that I use are available for purchase, maybe just not in the same form. I searched for hours for vanilla to bake some brownies before asking my friend who's been here two years. She told me to look for a packet, …

Kazan Cathedral

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Last summer we took the time to visit one of St. Petersburg's famous cathedrals. This impressive building is the Kazan Cathedral. It serves as the "mother cathedral" of the Russian Orthodox Church in St. Petersburg.


Built in the early 1800s, the church is modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome with two wings spreading north and south of the main cathedral. At the time it was constructed, the Russian Orthodox Church strongly disapproved of the idea that their cathedral would be built in the shape of the Catholic cathedral in Rome, but the Czar's courtiers applauded the design since it resembled a European structure.


The cathedral was dedicated to "Our Lady of Kazan" the most venerated icon in Russia. When we visited the cathedral, the line leading up to the icon snaked around the interior of the church.


We watched the people inch toward the icon. As their turn arrived, they climbed the one step to reach the icon and then would stop and pray before ki…

Маша и Медведь

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We first encountered Masha and Medved in our Russian language classes in July. Medved is the Russian word for bear, thus Masha and the Bear. It's a very popular children's cartoon here in Russia, which is why we were surprised our teacher played an episode in our Russian class. 


The title of the cartoon was originally taken from the fairy tale of the same name. I've heard the fairy tale on a Russian language website. It was the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" if you haven't guessed that already. 

The cartoon series was started in 2009 by Oleg Kuzovkov, a Russian cartoonist. It has now been translated into 25 languages and is available on YouTube.

The show focuses on a kindhearted, smart little girl who is also mischievous. One day Masha was walking in the forest and entered Medved's house. Of course, she caused chaos in his house by the time he returned home. But they became best friends. 
In every episode, Medved has to extricate Masha from wh…

Fall Comes to St. Petersburg

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A couple weeks ago, I spent a day with our International Women's Club touring Catherine's Palace gardens while the trees were in full color. The day was windy and dreary - which is very typical for our location - but the garden and buildings were beautiful. I'll share some scenes with you this week.


This palace, built in the early 1700's, was the residence of Catherine the Great. She didn't like living in the city of St. Petersburg so built this great mansion out in the country. The gardens around the palace were built around the same time. Today it is a state-owned museum.



The breathtaking blue palace was surrounded by acres of gardens including several ponds.









Our guide told us that Catherine enjoyed walking in her gardens. She built several pavilions in the large area so she's have places to take her rest after walking so far.









The lovely paths wound between the ponds and crossed rivers with stately bridges. The picture on the right is the view from Marble Bri…

All Locked Up

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I thought that it was silly to turn my key in my Prague apartment three times before the door was unlocked when we lived there, but that was nothing compared to getting into our apartment here in St. Petersburg. I have to turn the key six times before the deadbolt slides out of the lock.


They take locks very serious on apartments here. We have three sets of deadbolts on our door. The middle one is only accessed from the inside our flat. The other two sets have keys so they can be locked from the outside. We never even bother with the top deadbolt. That's where my husband stores his keys.


When we were at our temporary flat in the older part of the city in June, I was surprised by the multiple locking system. I assumed that because of the years of Soviet occupation, they added extra locks to the doors. I must have been wrong, however, since our new flat has several sets of deadbolts as well. I'm sure our building has been built in the last three years, so the USSR had no effect o…

St. Petersburg - "Venice of the North"

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Before the weather turned too cold, we took the time to check out St. Petersburg by boat. Since this city was basically built on a bog by Peter the Great, much of it is now made up of islands connected by 342 bridges over the many canals and rivers. A terrific way to see the central city is by taking a boat excursion tour.


This was a unique view of the 18th and 19th century buildings that line the banks of the rivers and canals. The area, visited by many tourists during the summer, is known by the citizens of SP as the Central City.


We passed many beautiful buildings and palaces. Currently, many of these buildings are occupied by universities and colleges.




The green building in the picture on the left is the largest drama building in the entire city. It's named the Tovstonogov Bol'shoy Drama Theater.


As we rounded a corner into a smaller canal, we glimpsed the blue domes of the Trinity Cathedral. This beautiful church has been added to our "to visit" list.


A short dis…

Torn Again

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One of the first things that we noted when we arrived here last summer was the unusual ritual that the cashier did with receipt before it was handed to us. The woman made a small tear in the receipt on one end or the other  - or maybe even in the middle.


The first time it happened, I didn't think too much about it, but it happened over and over again. I tried to figure out why they were ripping my receipt.


I finally heard the whole story behind this seemingly odd behavior that was uniformly done in grocery stores or pharmacies or home decor shops. I was told that it's the law, or, at least, used to be the law.


Back in the Soviet era, all stores had their products behind the counter. You couldn't go pick out what you wanted like we do today. You had to ask the sale's person to pick out the items you needed.



She/he would then make a sales' receipt for you, but they weren't allowed to take your money. So the buyer would then take the receipt back to the cashier and…

Russians Do it the Hard Way

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We are always amazed how people park their cars in our apartment complex. Often cars are parking others in with absolutely no way for them to get out. I have no idea what drivers do when their car is parked with someone right in front of them. We're just glad that we don't have a car to deal with here.

This summer, we think that the complex owner tried to solve this problem. A couple men were in the parking areas to paint white stripes so cars would know where to park.


There was one problem, though, when they were doing this job. They never asked the drivers to move their vehicles. The result is that some of the parking spaces are very wide and some are very narrow. It really didn't matter where he painted the strips at all. People still park wherever they feel like parking. 


It was very interesting to watch the men work on this project. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture, but the two men measured the stripes out very carefully - as far as length goes - and …