My last month in St. Petersburg has flown by and it has been hard to find a minute to sit-down and process it all. Additionally it is my last month here under official Year Abroad terms (we are required to spend at least eight months abroad). Without lessons and with a month stretching before me I have tried to keep as busy as possible, but there have still been some days where I find myself just wanting to give up and go home. Although I have objectively accomplished a lot over the past few months, my impending final year at university is weighing over me. Questions of whether my Russian is up to scratch or if I’m ready to throw myself back into the Cambridge grind have gradually crept into my mind. However, I am in my final few days now and some much needed perspective has returned. So, after a month or so of silence I am ready to write down what I’ve been up to without these concerns weighing me down!
27/05/17 – St. Petersburg Day
On the 27th May, St Petersburg celebrates the anniversary of its founding day. On this day 314 years ago Peter the Great laid the founding stone in the Peter & Paul fortress. Russia loves a good celebration and many free events were organised for the day.
Issy and I begun our day away from the main crowd and went instead to a nearby park where there was a festival of flowers. We had a great time wandering around, watching the live music acts and trying our hand at some rowing. Issy, despite an admirable two terms rowing at Cambridge, forgot which way round to place the oars!
When we returned to the city we decided to go to a free concert being held at Palace Square. The concert was both to celebrate St. Petersburg Day and also the success of the St. Petersburg ice-hockey team, SKA. We had heard that Leningrad, a very famous Russian band, were going to be playing and hoped we might be able to find a spot. We rushed down that evening and amazingly found a really great place in the crowd to stand. Leningrad then performed and they were amazing! I had seriously considered buying tickets to see them live, so having the opportunity to see them play live in front of the Hermitage was incredible. Their music is very lively (think Ska music) and the whole crowd sang along with their catchy songs. After a cheeky encore which only half the audience who hadn’t left managed to catch, we headed to the riverside where we watched the fireworks display. Russia has so many national holidays and fireworks displays: I think this is my third so far, and I know that I have missed others!
For anyone interested, here is a song from Leningrad. They are also known for making hugely entertaining and popular music videos (this one has over 100 million…), so check it out! No Russian comprehension needed!
03/06/17 – Peterhof
Two of my language tandem partners live in a student dormitory located near Peterhof, which is about a 30 minute train ride away from the centre of St. Petersburg. However Peterhof isn’t just an outpost of St. Petersburg State University. It is also home to the Peterhof Palace and gardens, which were built under orders from Peter the Great. His daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, particularly loved the estate and organised an expansion which included the extension of the beautiful gardens and cascade fountains for which the palace is famed today.
Together with Issy and Madeleine (a British student visiting from Moscow) we traveled to Peterhof where we were met by my tandem partners, Yulia and Anya. They had also brought along their other friend who wanted to speak English, so we were a bigger language tandem gang than usual! Despite the overcast weather we wandered around the vast palace gardens and chatted away in both English and Russian.
15/06/17 – The Dacha
My friend Sasha (an American student who has Russian family) had to sit a few exams at the end of her term here, as she was here on an official exchange between universities. However when she was finally freed, she invited me to join her for two days at her family dacha (N.B. Dacha = a Russian country home located in the countryside). After gathering together lots of food and alcohol, we set off with her cousin and his friend. We spent our time there swimming in the nearby lake (very cold!), sitting in the sunshine and cooking outside.