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Merry Christmas from Russia!

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BLESSINGS TO YOU THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON FROM OUR HOUSE TO YOURS!
Painting "Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerrit van Honthorst (1622) - public domain.

Christmas Postcard from Russia

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It's getting close to Christmas for everyone in the US, but in Russia, December 25th is just another work day. (They celebrate Christmas on January 7 on the Orthodox Church calendar.) The children go to school and parents go to work. Same old, same old. However, they do light up the dark nights with holiday lights.


We walked along the streets in the city center and captured some of the beauty of the lights that cheer everyone during the long winter nights. I'd like to share some of them with you.






Some stores go all out to decorate for the season. On the left is a department store with old-fashioned decorations. Every window portrays a different scene.





Streets are lit up for the shoppers.












Historic buildings have a whole new look to them.







The lights add a feeling of a festival to the city. The main holiday here is New Year's Eve, so that's the festival that they celebrate. (More about that in a later post.)







However, the lights don't make the temperature any warmer!

How Dark It Is

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When we arrived in St. Petersburg in June, we came just in time to experience "белые ночи" or white nights. On June 21, the sunrise was at 3:35 and the sunset at 10:25. In between those times, it doesn't even get totally dark, but is called officially twilight.


We never managed to stay up all night to witness this phenomenon, but we could hear the revelers enjoying their white nights at the bar below our temporary apartment. We did get used to using eye shades to make it possible to sleep through the hours of sunlight before we were supposed to get up.


Now we're at the opposite end of the length of our days. I have been known to get up, eat breakfast, wash dishes, wash clothes, and even bake cookies before the sun rises. You might think that I'm an early bird, but in fact the sun rose at 9:50 today and sets at 3:53.



The picture on the left was taken out our bedroom window at 9:00 in the morning. Nice bright sunny day, right? It's taken us a long time to get …

The Mystery is Solved

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When we first moved into our flat, the skeleton of the building across from us was dubbed "the Hulk."  I thought that name very fitting. I had imagined that right after freedom here in the early 90s someone had purchased the land and started a building. After he ran out of money (remember I'm surmising all of this), someone else purchased the land around the hulk and built up the strips around the hulk into the complex in which we now live.


Now I know that I guessed wrong. I even lost a bet with my hubby and had to buy him a pizza. The Hulk has changed much since July.


We first noticed action over there when we saw men on the roof of the building pushing large bundles over the edge and having them crash on the ground four stories below. I took a picture of it, but don't know if you can see the bundle half way down. We now think that they were pushing insulation over the edge because it had been sitting on the roof in the rain for so long and now ruined (my imaginati…

Story Behind the Faberge Egg

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Last month I had a chance to visit the Faberge Museum here in St. Petersburg, located in the restored Shuvalov Palace. The building itself is an amazing work of beauty. The rooms are redecorated to fit the early 18th century style in which it was originally built.


The golden highlights in the exquisite ceilings added to the look of grandeur throughout the museum. I'm always struck with a feeling of overwhelming opulence when I visit these former palaces. So much money was spent on these homes for royalty.


Seeing the building was an experience all by itself, but seeing the collection of Faberge eggs was icing on the cake. The museum owns nine of the original Imperial Faberge Easter eggs. The eggs were made by Peter Karl Faberge from 1885 to 1917. Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II ordered the eggs to be made as gifts for their wives/mother during those years.


Tsar Alexander III commissioned the first one in 1885 to surprise the Tsarina. Inside the outer white egg was a golden yolk …

Happy Thanksgiving - Russian style

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Since we are away from home this Thanksgiving, we decided, along with another American friend, to introduce that holiday to some of our Russian friends. There's no Thanksgiving Day in Russia on Thursday, so we decided to hold it last Saturday. We had a total of only seven people in our small apartment, but it turned out fine in the end.


We managed to come up with chairs for six people, but had to use a stool for the seventh person. Our furnished apartment isn't furnished with much when it comes down to it.

We didn't have enough dinner plates for everyone (we only have 2) so we had to to get along with disposable plates. At least we had enough water glasses.


Of course, making traditional American food in Russia can be tricky. Fortunately, I brought back some contraband from the States on my recent trip over there to pull it off. After all, how could it be Thanksgiving dinner without Green Bean Bake? Cream of mushroom soup and French Fried Onions are very integral for that d…

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…