so before I continue on with my story, I thought I'd say a few things. First of all, they raised the price of our bus fare which made me rather irritated. I went to the center this morning to catch my bus, and realized it was two roubles more. Don't worry, I had enough money, but it was still irritating. 12 roubles. come on. Also, it snowed yesterday. A lot. and now we have calf-deep drifts all over the city. Which is funny considering everything previous to the snow had basically melted away.
Having said that, on with my story. It's kind of hard to sort everything out in my head. A lot happened, and I'm still working on sorting it out, but it was an amazing trip. I tried to relax and just enjoy myself. And I did. A lot. From getting right off a train at 5am and seeing Red Square in the early morning hours, to body mod in Vladivostok, the trip was interesting, awesome, scary, and sometimes depressing. I'm going to share some pictures with you all on here, as the stupid school computer won't let me get on Flickr. Hopefully I won't be having this problem much longer as I'm supposed to be changing families at the end of the week and I'm hoping the new one has internet access at home.
Here's how the trip worked. We flew from Vladivostok to Moscow, then from Moscow we took a night train to St. Petersburg. We stayed in Peter for five days then took a night train back to Moscow where we spent four days. From Moscow, most of us flew back to Vladivostok and dispersed from there, with the exception of three or four. I think my favorite time was in Peter. Just because of the hanging out, and some of the stuff we saw.
I loved the way our program worked because we had excursions in the morning (But thankfully not to to early) which finished around three or four. We then had the rest of the day to explore and do stuff on our own. This meant shopping, exploring, and hanging out.
I should really give you the highlights since I keep talking about how awesome it was but haven't given you any details.
In St. Petersburg, we went to Tsarskoya Celo which is where this palace for Catherine the Great was. I saw was because it was pretty much destroyed in WWII. (Leningrad Blockade anyone?) Fortunately, a good portion of it has been replicated and you can see the how the palace would've looked Back in the Day. In all it's overdone splendor. Yeah, that's right. I personally thought that the palace was completely overdone. Too lavish for my tastes. Though the reconstruction of the Amber room was cool.
One of the best places I went in St. Petersburg was not on an official "excursion" a couple of the other kids and I decided that since we were in the west, we might as well take the opportunity to see some things that our guidebook (Yes, we all have the same one, go Lonely Planet for making a guidebook that includes Eastern Russia.) said were interesting, but that weren't on our official itinerary. So one day a group of us decided to go see the Memorial to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad. If you ever get to Petersburg, this memorial is a must see. Not only is the outside moving. There's a statue and music playing and a huge oblesk, but the inside is moving as well, featuring Murals, little displays, lights that look like bombshells accompanied by the eerie sound of a metornome which is apparently all that the Leningraders heard on their radios during the war.
We were there for like an hour, just looking around and taking in the atmosphere. I haven't been that moved since the first time I went to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It was amazing. When we were done looking at the displays, one of which included a tiny piece of sawdust filled bread that was a ration for the Leningraders, the Babushkas played a short video for us. It was film clips from the war years, starting with young men going off to fight, covering the years of hardship and famine and ending with Liberation accompanied by music.
It was just amazing.
Peter itself was an interesting city. People here have told me it's like the Paris of Russia since Peter the Great wanted it to be a very Western city. Having been to Paris, going to St. Petersburg was an interesting experience. Because, yeah, I could see how some of the architechture resembled Frances, but at the same time it's its own city with a distinctly Russian flair.
One thing you should definitely know about Moscow and St. Petersburg. They are different cities. Not from each other. I mean that's obvious. What I mean is that they're really different from where I'm living. Different from Eastern Russia. As soon as we got to Moscow and Peter, I looked around me and said to myself. "This is a different world." because it is. McDonald's abound, (I ate Micky D's six or seven times during the course of the trip) the buildings are different, the people are different. It's really hard to describe unless you've been to both Western and Eastern Russia, but it's like there's a different atmosphere surrounding Moscow and St. Petersburg. I wasn't sure I liked it.
One of the best parts was finding people who speak English. Not many people in Eastern Russia speak English. They're everywhere in Moscow and Peter because that's where all the tourists are. I'll never forget our first day in Peter. We were walking along, and we go past some people speaking english. One guy is like "Hey, Foreigners" and I was like "yeah." then it was like "wait, we're foreingers too." Funny how technically i'm a "foreigner" but i don't feel like one anymore. Yeah, I was being a tourist in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but I felt more like a Russian tourist than a real foreigner. Just like I felt more Russian than American when flying to Korea. I love those times.
I have so many stories, of my trip. Stories I don't have time to post here, some stories that probably aren't appropriate to post here, but I wanted to give you some hightlights, show you some pictures, and let you know that I had an awesome time.
When I got back to Yakutsk, I had a shock though. I got back and saw that the ice on the river has started to melt. I saw that the land itself is not nearly as frozen as it was. I found out that I have one month of school left, and realized I'm almost done with my exchange. Do you realize I now have less than three months? It's a scary thought. I've only now realized how comfortable I've become here, how much I'm enjoying myself, and how much I'm going to miss it when I have to get on a plane and don't know if I'll ever be back.