Rubles and Ramblings

Rubles and Ramblings

Monday, March 30, 2015

Moscow: Day 2

Back again for Day 2 in Moscow! We got up early and began our tour of the Kremlin, the site where the Russian government is run.
Entrance to the Kremlin

The world kremlin literally means "fortress inside a city".  There are walls and towers protecting the government buildings and cathedrals inside.  The walls were built in the Italian style between 1485 and 1495.  In the picture below, I'm standing in front of Assumption Cathedral, the site where all the tsars of Russia were coronated!  Also in the Kremlin I saw the tomb & throne of Ivan the Terrible in the Church of the Archangel.

Church of the Archangel
Outside the walls of the Kremlin is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where they have the changing of the guards every hour.  Here's a pic I got of the soldiers marching!
After the Kremlin tour, we were all starving and freezing from the cold, so of course I had to grab some Teremok, my favorite Russian food place!  After lunch I went to tour the inside of St. Basil's with a few friends.  Being inside the Cathedral was a whole different feel than any other Russian cathedral I've been in.  It was like a maze inside with tiny rooms and corridors weaving throughout the church.  

St. Basil's Cathedral

While we were in the cathedral, it started snowing really hard!  I looked outside onto the Red Square one minute, then the next minute I couldn't see anything from all the snow!  It was crazy, but hey that's Russia...
Before the snow storm
After the snow storm
More pictures from beautiful St. Basil's!
Looking out onto Red Square
After seeing the inside of St. Basil's we unfortunately had to brave the freezing cold, snow, and wind...It was not fun, and I think this picture I got of my friend Sarah pretty much describes the experience.

So that was my trip to Moscow!  I really enjoyed my time, and I can now say I have seen St. Basil's in the "sunshine", snow, and at night!  
Next post will be about my time in Budapest, Hungary!  Thanks for reading :) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Moscow: Day 1

After the longest and one of the best weeks of my life, I am finally able to sit down and write about what I've been up to since March 20th. Spring break began in Moscow where my study abroad group was in the city for 2 days. The differences between Moscow and St. Petersburg really took me by surprise. Moscow is much more metropolitan whereas St. Pete has an old European charm. I loved both cities, but St. Petersburg still has my heart.

The first day in the city I got to see the most iconic part of Russia, St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square.  It was truly unbelievable.  Here's my girl Tessa and I posing in front of the onion domes...

Red Square is also home to Lenin's mausoleum.  Unfortunately I couldn't see Lenin's preserved body because he is currently taking a nice chemical bath...Seriously disappointed.  Here are some more pics from the beautiful Red Square....Yes, my friends actually handed out donuts in paper Krispy Kreme hats.

Free donuts anyone?
St. Basil's & the Russian police
Mobile ice cream stand

After exploring Red Square, I checked out ГУМ (pronounced goom), a huge Russian department store that lines one side of Red Square.  We went to a soviet era ice cream stand where I had a delicious scoop of pistachio with friends.

I also was able to walk on the bridge that Russian politician Boris Nemtsov was assassinated. Flowers and ribbons line the wall at the site, it was very moving & something I won't forget.

On a much more cheerful note...After touring around the city and seeing the famous sites, we went to a Russian circus!!  Smelling the popcorn & cotton candy, seeing the monkeys posing for pictures, and watching the little Russian boys and girls run around toys brought out my inner 8 year old.  The circus was one of the best I have ever seen.  They had amazing acrobats that put me on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The lions and tigers was equally exhilarating, there were 10 in total doing tricks!  It was hard (and against the rules) to take photos during the show, but here's some others I was able to snap.

Cotton Candy Circus Freaks
That's all I have for Day 1 in Moscow!  I had a blast exploring the city, the Day 2 post will be up soon! Now it is back to classes in the morning....
Until next time, Москва

Monday, March 9, 2015

Поздравляю с 8 Марта

Hello everyone!  As the title of this post says, Happy March 8th!  It has been a very busy 3-day weekend for me because of the celebration of Women's Day, so time to share what I've been up to!  

Thursday was a beautiful & sunny day in St. Pete, a rare occurrence since the time I've been here.  It was so nice putting on a pair of sunglasses and a light jacket to walk around in rather than my huge coat and gloves that I've become so used to.  Everyone was in high spirits because of the sunshine and fresh air, a Russian man even said "добрый день!" (Good Day!) to my friends and I as we were walking down the street!

We decided to take the metro and walk to the Artillery Museum, which I really enjoyed.  Outside the museum was a huge courtyard filled with tanks, missile launchers, cannons, and a lot of other cool military equipment.  So of course I had to take the opportunity to pose on an artillery cannon with my roommate!
When in Russia...

Don't mess with my suite
Inside the museum were artifacts, weapons, and history about the Russian military throughout the centuries.  Unfortunately, the museum was closing soon after we got inside so we could only see the medieval exhibit.  We still had a lot of fun looking at the armor and iron weapons!

After the museum, we continued the theme of military might and went to a Russian military surplus store!  I was expecting it to be much bigger inside, but it was packed with combat boots, camo jackets, badges, pins, fur hats, and flasks...All in Russian military style!  I didn't feel comfortable actually buying something, but a few of my friends bought scarves and fur hats.

That Thursday was just the beginning of my weekend excursions.  On Saturday, I woke up bright and early after a night out to go on an excursion to Pavlovsk Park with my study abroad group.  First we toured the palace there, but I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the inside.  After the palace tour we had free time to explore the park.  It is one of the largest landscaped parks in the world!  I can only imagine what this place will look like in a few months when the snow and ice has all melted and the trees begin to bloom...I definitely want to come back here in the spring!

Horse drawn carriages in front of Pavlovsk Palace
Exploring the park all day was extremely exhausting, but later that night my friends and I had tickets to see the St. Petersburg football team(or in America, soccer team), Zenit!  They are part of the Russian Premiere League and played the Ural team that night.  The game was so much fun.  I don't know much about soccer, but I had a blast standing in the student section cheering on the team in Russian.  They were constantly chanting and singing songs throughout the entire game, by the end of the night I was pretty much able to chant along with everyone!  We won 3-0 with a hat trick, which is when one player scores all three goals in the game.  It was so worth going to the game even after my long day at Pavlovsk and having to endure the freezing cold during the match.  Here's a video clip of the game and Russian football chants!!

Red flares in the stands after scoring a goal! 

So that was what my busy weekend consisted of!  11 days until Moscow, 14 days until Budapest!  I can't wait for these next few weeks, I will definitely have lots to write about.  Also, shout out to the boys in my hall who gave all the girls flowers and chocolate for women's day!
до свидания!
Hoping for sunnier days soon...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Russian Quirks

Привет!  I apologize for not updating in awhile, but I am back with a new post!  It has been over a month since I’ve arrived in St. Petersburg; time is really flying by.  With one month down, I have compiled a list of what I call “Russian Quirks”.  Basically these are everyday/normal things in Russia that I consider rather odd compared to what I’m used to in America.  I don’t have pictures to go along with this list, so I’ll just scatter some pictures that I’ve taken on all my adventures!  

1. Cats.  I don’t know why, but Russians love cats.  They are considered family to Russians.  If you ask someone what kind of animal he or she wants to be, the answer will most likely be a cat.  I’ve even seen a man with a cat’s face tattooed on the back of his hand…So if you’re a cat person, come to Russia.

2. Dressed to the nines.  Even in the grocery store you’ll see women dressed in heels, fur coats, and almost never wearing jeans.  They take pride in how they dress on a daily basis, something I am not used to back in the states

3. Don’t clear your trays.  If you find yourself in a Russian food court or fast food place, you wont find any trashcans to throw out your food and put your trays up.  Instead, they have people come around and do it for you!  Its very strange just getting up and leaving all your trash on the table, but that’s just how they do it here!

4. Dancing.  Remember when you were in 4th grade and had little dance parties with your friends?  Imagine that kind of jumping and dancing around but with Russian men and women in clubs.  Its very amusing to watch them bouncing around and waving their arms in the air, plus it makes my awkward dance moves look normal on the dance floor!

5. No smiling allowed.  On the metro, walking down the street, taking pictures…no one smiles.  It just isn’t normal to walk around with a smile on your face like it is in America.  Luckily, I’ve gotten better at putting on a straight face and blending in with my surroundings, but it is still so strange to me.

6. Is this the 90’s?  Russians are not as modern and up-to-date when it comes to music.  They have some new top 40 hits that they play on occasion, but it is not uncommon at all to hear a throwback playing in a restaurant or a store.  Example:  I was in a fitting room and suddenly “Oops I Did It Again” starting playing.  Later that day I went out to dinner where Nickleback & Hanson accompanied my meal in the background.  If you love 90’s music…Russia is the place for you.

7.  PDA??  This one is really quite strange to me.  Young couples in Russia are always alllll over each other in public.  On the metro, going up an escalator, having lunch at a café…you name it.  In Russia, no one gives it a passing glance if 2 people are making out on a bench in public; it’s completely normal.

8. “Obama or Putin?”  This one is only because I’m an American in Russia, but Russians love to ask about politics.  The first thing they’ll ask after learning I’m from the US is “Obama or Putin??”   My response to this is always the same, “No politics please!”  Normally they drop the topic, but on more than one occasion it only ends after them bashing Obama and praising Putin.  Definitely not a topic of discussion between strangers in the states...

That’s all I have for now!  Hope you enjoyed getting a small glimpse of Russian culture and their everyday lives.  I have loved every second of being here, and am shocked at how fast this semester is flying by!  In less than 20 days it’ll be spring break where 5 of my friends and I will be traveling to Budapest, Hungary for 5 days (with a day trip to Vienna, hopefully)! More updates and blog posts to come soon!!  

♡ Lots of love from Russia