Rubles and Ramblings

Rubles and Ramblings

Friday, May 15, 2015

Это Россия

This post is my farewell to Saint Petersburg.  With the title translating to "This is Russia", enjoy these pictures and video from my last week here in this beautiful city.  Now, here's goodbye to my Russian home, Санкт-Петербург.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
Victory Day 05.09.15
Admiralty Building 05.09.15

Peterhof Palace 05.11.15
Peterhof Gardens 05.11.15

Peterhof  Palace & Gardens 05.11.15
Peterhof Palace & Gardens 05.11.15

Rainy days 
Matryoshka Dolls
Sunset on my walk home
Entrance to Palace Square
View from the top of St. Isaac's 05.12.15
View from the top of St. Isaac's 05.12.15
View of the Hermitage from the Neva
River Cruise 05.14.15
St. Petersburg~ Venice of the North 05.14.15
Goodbye, 28 Grazhdanskiy Prospect 
Thank you again to everyone who reads my posts!  I have had the best semester of my life and am sad to see it go.  This experience has taught me so much about myself and the crazy world we live in.  Russia, I will be back someday 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Weekend In The Land of Abba & IKEA

If you didn't guess from the title, this weekend I packed my bags and flew to Stockholm, Sweden with my two friends Kathleen and Shayla.  It was an impulse decision to go; we had a 4 day weekend so we said "why not!" and booked our tickets.  The weekend turned out to be one of the best trips since coming abroad!
Day 1 in Stockholm began with breakfast at Espresso House, basically Starbucks only 10x better.  They are all over the city, so it became our little tradition to go there every morning for breakfast.   
After bagels and fresh juice for breakfast, we decided to wander around the city.  We walked along the harbor admiring all the sailboats and buildings.  
Our wanderings took us all the way to a different island of Stockholm. 
On this island was the Vasa Museum.  This is a museum dedicated to the Vasa, a Swedish ship from the 17th century.  I'm not kidding when I say this ship looks straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean!  It sank in the harbor during its maiden voyage in 1628.  In 1950, it was finally located and restored.  Now, the Vasa museum houses this beautiful ship that is 95% original.  It was hard to get a good picture because of how massive the ship is, but it was incredible to see and learn about its history.

Replica of the Vasa before it sank
After the Vasa Museum we went to the Abba Museum!  Being a big Dancing Queen fan, this was a really fun experience.  They had all the costumes the band wore, a disco room, and a stage where you could sing and dance with Abba holograms...That was actually really creepy.  We ended our long day of walking around the city by treating ourselves with a few drinks at a bar.  Note to self: Swedish drinks cost a fortune.  
Day 2 in Stockholm was cold and rainy...That didn't stop us from exploring the city though.  We went to Sweden's largest steel bridge where they had incredible panoramic views of Stockholm.  It was so windy and rainy that I had a difficult time getting good pictures, but it was still really fun and we had a good laugh walking along trying not to blow away. 
Lock on the bridge
After the bridge, we checked out the Old Town of Stockholm.  I really loved this part of the city, the winding alleyways and old Swedish architecture was really charming.
Since we had been walking around all day, we desperately searched for a place to eat in the Old Town.  The moment we landed in Sweden I was determined to have Swedish meatballs.  This was a difficult feat simply because of how expensive Sweden is, every place charged at least $18 for a dish.  We ended up finding a small cafe that had our sought after meatballs and they were delicious- way better than IKEA's.  
We stuffed ourselves with meatballs then popped into some souvenir shops and had a good time trying on some Swedish themed hats...That night we signed up for a bar crawl, which ended up being the best night in Stockholm.  We met up with our friends from the hostel and had a great time dancing and meeting new people.

Overall, Stockholm is a great city.  The only complaint I have is how expensive everything is there...When I'm not on a college student's budget, I would love to go back (I say that about every place I visit, I know).  Now I'm just enjoying the rest of my time in St. Petersburg before I leave.  The trees are starting to bloom here, so it is finally beginning to feel like spring!  Thanks for reading, more posts about my final weeks abroad will be coming soon!

Breakfast with our 2 new friends from Austria & Paris
Goodbye, Sweden!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to Survive in Russia: An American Girl's Guide

After living in St. Petersburg for 3 months, I’d say I have a pretty good handle on Russian life.  So here are the necessary steps you must take to ensure your survival in Mother Russia and blend in like a pro! 

Step 1: Don’t Smile.  You know the phrase “turn that frown upside down?” Yeah, do the opposite.
Step 2: If you’re a girl, put on a pair of stilettos.  If you’re a guy, put on a fur hat…‘nuff said.
Step 3:  Pour sour cream on everything.  Eating soup?  Sour cream.  Blini?  Sour cream.  Dumplings? Sour cream.  The answer is always sour cream.
Step 4:  Wear your winter coat everywhere.  You never know when its gonna snow!  (To give you a real life example, it snowed this morning and it's April 23rd)
Step 5: Read Pushkin & Dostoyevsky.  Russians love their Russian literature and will defend its honor to their death.
Step 6:  Get a cat and love it forever. **Bonus points if you talk about said cat at least 3 times a day.

With these steps, I guarantee you will survive The Motherland…You’re welcome. 
*Actual results from following this 6-step guide*

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Finland & Estonia

Traveling the world with the best 
I'm finally home after 5 days of traveling to Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia!  Both cities were very different from each other, I still can't decide which place I enjoyed more...but here is everything I did while I was there!

After a long train ride to Helsinki, Finland, we arrived at our hotel.  The first day was a bus tour of the city where we saw the main sites of Helsinki.  There was a huge cathedral in a large square that we got to take pictures and climbed to the top of!  Photo creds to Leo!
We also went to a memorial to commemorate the famous Finnish composer, Sibelius.  It was in a beautiful park and one of my favorite sites in Helsinki!  My group and I had fun taking pics on the monument and exploring the grounds together.
Posin' with Sibelius

After the city tour, a few friends and I hopped on a ferry to the sea fortress of Helsinki.  This was my favorite part of Finland by far.  The sea fortress is a series of small islands that housed old military bunkers and cannons to protect the city.  We spent our time there exploring the hills and abandoned bunkers around the island.  

The views from the top were breathtaking, I felt like I was millions of miles from the city when it was really just a quick ferry ride away. 

Bye Finland!! 
After the sea fortress, we went back to the hotel for dinner.  Everything in Finland is really expensive, so rather than throwing down 30 euros for a meal, we kept it cheap by getting Chinese takeout (Definitely worth the 8 euros!)  So that's Helsinki in a nutshell, it really exceeded my expectations.  Next stop- Tallinn, Estonia!

Before coming abroad I never thought “Wow, I would love to go to Estonia one day!” but I am so glad my program included Tallinn in our excursion, I would never have ventured to this country otherwise.  To give a brief description of what the city is like, think of an old medieval town with cobblestone paths, huge stone wall fortresses, and a large town square.  That’s Tallinn. 

As soon as I entered the Old Town, I felt like I was back in time.  Estonians are proud of their history and will never miss a chance to tell you all about it.  They love to talk about their independence and how the inventors of Skype are from Tallinn!

On my first day in the city, we went out to lunch in Town Square with my entire study abroad group (about 20 of us).  The meal was included with the excursion, and one of the best I’ve had in awhile.  Here’s a picture of the 3 courses we were served, all of them equally mouthwatering.  

After waddling back to the hotel and resting for a bit, it was time to go back out.  We went to a bar called Hell Hunt that had a basement area big enough to fit all 20 of us.  We all got drinks and played darts, (I got a bullseye!) it was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone and just having a good time. 
Night out in Tallinn with my girls!

The next morning a few of us went to explore a large concrete structure in front of our hotel.  I’m not sure what this area was used for, (someone said it was a gathering place for the town) but we walked up to the top of it.  This is what we found. 
Every inch of this area was covered in graffiti, so of course I had to pose for a picture…
"Graffiti is not a crime, its art" 

After exploring the graffiti park, we went into Old Town to see more of the sights.  Along the street, artists were displaying their paintings on the 13th century stonewalls, vendors were selling candied almonds and mulled wine, and musicians lined the streets playing for coins.  Katie and I ordered a bowl of elk soup (no spoons allowed!) where we drank it in the town square, while a knight in full armor milled around.  Once again, I had gone back in time.  
Knight in Town Square
  My favorite part of this walk around Old Town was getting to a lookout point of the entire city.

Enjoying the view!
 I also picked up a few souvenirs!  Estonian wool is very popular, they have handmade wool sweaters, hats, scarves, socks, mittens, you name it.  Here’s a picture of what these wool vendors look like! 
7-hour train ride later, and I’m back in St. Petersburg sitting in class.  I had a great time visiting Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia.  A quick thank you to my AIFS study abroad leaders for organizing such a great trip and making sure we get the most out of every place we visit!  The next post is going to be my top 10 favorite things about Russia, so keep a look out for that…Only 25 days left here…Until next time