St. Petersburg, Russia
I am now living in Russia’s fourth biggest city with a population of over 5,000,000 people! Did you know that there are about 416,000 people living in your city of Raleigh, North Carolina? Having done a little bit of math, I figured out that Raleigh could fit into St. Petersburg twelves times! I have already started this Spring semester’s classes. I’m now enrolled in an intense Russian language program at Saint Petersburg State Polytechnic University. My goal is to learn as much Russian as possible while I’m here. While I’m at it, I’ll be taking a few classes in English in order to learn more about Russia and more specifically, about the great city of St. Petersburg! I plan on sharing with you not just what I learn inside the classroom but also what I learn outside the classroom. Come take a peek and read about some of the experiences I’ve already had this past week!
How far did I travel this week?:
This week I did not travel outside the city of St. Petersburg. Nonetheless, I did a lot of traveling within the city because I commute back and forth from my temporary Russian homestay to my university where I take Russian language classes. I live in a Russian flat which is located on the very southern end of the city and my university is located on the very northern end of the city. They are about 25 kilometers apart. While Russia uses the metric system in order to measure distance, the United States uses a different system known as the United States Customary Units. In other words, 25 kilometers here is about 15 1/2 miles where you live. Although, this doesn’t seem too far, it still takes me about an hour and a half to get from one end of the city to the other! That means I travel about three hours a day on the local underground railway system known simply as the “metro.”
How did I get around this week?:
I usually use the underground railway system to get from one place to another within St. Petersburg. It is the easiest and least expensive way to get around the city. All you need is 28 roubles to buy one token, which allows you to enter the gates into the underground Metro station. Roubles is the currency or type of money that Russia uses and in this case, 28 roubles is about 92 cents. Not even a dollar! I really enjoy taking the metro here because the Saint Petersburg Metro System is very beautiful and elegant. Many of the metro stations have huge mosaic murals or paintings depicting different themes and designs. Each mural tells a story about Russia and the history of St. Petersburg. These metro stations are not just richly decorated in artwork but many also have massive and unique chandeliers dangling from their ceilings. It’s almost like walking into an underground palace! These chandeliers are made from various materials and differ from metro station to metro station. Did you know that the Saint Petersburg Metro System is one of the deepest metro systems in the world? The deepest of the metro stations is called Admiralteyskaya. I’ve been there and it is about 105 meters below ground. This means I was traveling around the city 345 feet below ground! Their metro system is also considered one of the busiest in the world because more than half of the people living in St. Petersburg use the metro every day. Can you imagine 3,000,000 people traveling underground every day? I think the Saint Petersburg Metro System is like its own underground city!
What was the most interesting place I visited this week?:
I think the most interesting place I visited this week was the Kunstkamera Museum. It was the very first museum to be opened in all of Russia! Tsar Peter the Great, also known as an emperor, built this museum and opened it in 1727. He used his own personal collection of odd and rare things which he had found during his travels throughout Europe and other parts of the world to create this museum. He had collected over 2,000,000 objects! When I visited the Kunstkamera Museum, I saw everything from the traditional clothing of different Native American peoples all the way to the skeleton of a giant man named Bourgeois. Bourgeois stood at 2 meters and 27 centimeters which is almost 7 1/2 feet tall! I realized afterwards that by having gone through this museum, I learned a little bit more about our world as a whole. I saw the wide spectrum of animals, peoples, cultures, and traditions that inhabit and make up the world we live in. I also learned that the main reason Peter the Great opened this museum was to encourage his people to become enlightened and more educated. He wanted his people to be observers and learners. Peter the Great made it even easier and more tempting for his people to come and see what was inside the Kunstkamera Museum by making the entrance free of charge. he even made sure that all visitors to this museum got a free cup of tea or coffee and cookies! Sweet deal!
Number of sunny days this week: 2
Number of cloudy days this week: 5
Number of rainy days this week: 0
Number of snowy days this week: 6 (Would you believe it? There was one day when it was sunny in the morning and it snowed heavily in the afternoon!)
Number of windy days this week: 3
What is the air temperature right now in Fahrenheit?: 5 degrees Fahrenheit
How was the weather this week?:
This past week has been mostly cloudy. This is very typical for St. Petersburg. Many locals would say that this is a very gray and dreary city because the sun rarely comes out, especially during the Winter months. Even on the few days where the sun did come out, it only stayed out for a few hours. The sky would quickly return to the same gray and cloudy way it was before. It also snowed a lot. Almost every day! Although I think it’s been pretty cold here with an average of 15 degrees Fahrenheit, the locals have also informed me that this has been a mild Winter. Can you imagine it being dreadfully colder than this for months on end? Snow I can handle but super cold is a little tough for me.
What animals did I see this week?:
You don’t see too many animals in the city. If you think about it, there’s really no room for them. The only ones I’ve truly noticed are the stray dogs. There are many homeless dogs running around in the streets here. They sometimes form packs while they scavenge trash cans and beg for food from passersby. There seems to be more of them near and around the different metro stations. I think this is because they know there are a lot of people coming in and out of these metro stations and so there must be a higher chance of them getting some sort of food. I even noticed in a few places that a stray dog would sneak into the metro station! It’s so cold outside that they sometimes try and sneak into the metro stations in order to feel some warmth. Every time I see these stray dogs and even cats, my heart breaks. I’m a huge animal lover and I really wish I could take every single one of them home with me to an animal sanctuary in the countryside where they’d never go hungry or cold again. Sadly, stray and homeless animals are a normal part of St. Petersburg city life.
What was the coolest thing I saw in nature this week?:
Very close to where I live there is a small canal or waterway. I’ve noticed that there are many ducks and pigeons that like to stay in this area even though the water has almost completely frozen over. Every day I walk past this canal I notice the local people feeding the ducks and pigeons. They get fed everything from whole loaves of bread to cookies! Needless to say, I think they are definitely spoiled. What I find most amazing is they know when someone nearby has food. It seems like they almost attack the person by flying towards them and waiting eagerly for their meal. Either way, people of all ages come by to feed the birds. I’ve seen little children, teenagers, young couples, and old men and women alike come and feed the birds. It seems to be a very typical thing to do here in the parks and the outskirts of St. Petersburg!
What main languages are spoken here?:
The main language spoken here is Russian. It is very, very different from English. Not only is it different from English but it’s also nothing like some other languages you may already be familiar with like Spanish, French or Italian! These three languages belong to a family or group of languages known as Romance languages and Russian belongs to another. Russian is considered a Slavic language. They use a completely different alphabet than we do in the United States. Their alphabet has 33 letters and some letters which most Americans, like myself, could never pronounce without a lot of practice! Since I’ve been here, I’ve been making lots of funny faces trying to create the right sounds for certain letters. Many of my Russian professors and American friends find it quite hilarious! Maybe someday I’ll show you some of these difficult letters and their pronunciations!
What type of money is used here?:
The currency or form of money used here in Russia is called the rouble. Roughly 30 roubles in Russia equals 1 dollar in the United States. These roubles come in paper and coin forms depending on how large or small the amount is. Surprisingly enough, there exists an even smaller form of currency within the rouble system in Russia. This coin is known as the kopeck. There are 100 kopecks to each rouble just like there are 100 cents to each dollar. In American terms, 1 kopeck equals way less than even a fourth of a penny! Today, Russians rarely use kopecks. Many view it now as a useless coin because it has so little value. This outlook or view on the kopeck here in Russia reminds me of how most Americans view the penny. Do you think we’ll ever actually stop making pennies? Will the penny become history? I wonder if Russia will eventually stop making and using kopecks someday.
How much does a bottle of water cost?:
Your average size bottle of water her in Russia costs between 25 and 30 roubles. This is between 82 cents to 1 dollar. Not bad, right? I tend to drink lots and lots of water, though. This could easily become pricey if I bought four to six bottles of water every single day. For this reason, I boil tap water at home and save it in a big plastic jug. Whenever I need more water I just pour some out into my recycled water bottles to take around with me. When I notice I’m running low on water in my plastic jug, I simply turn on the faucet, put on the kettle, boil some more water, and wait for it to cool before storing and drinking it. Boiling water in St. Petersburg is very important. There are a lot of chemicals and bad bacteria living in the tap water that can make you very sick. By boiling the water, I am killing the bacteria and eliminating the chances of getting sick.
What was the best meal this week?:
The best meal I had this week was at a local cafe. I got to enjoy a delicious and very traditional Russian soup called borscht soup. The main ingredient in borscht soup is the root of the beet plant. These beets tend to be very red and sweet. They give the soup it’s deep red color and sweet aroma. Russians like to put cabbage, potatoes, onions, and sometimes meat into this soup. The bowl of borscht soup I had this week had chicken in it and was served with a slice of bread and tea. Russians love their tea and they love their bread! Bread tends to be served with every meal of the day! Believe it or not, another ingredient that Russians traditionally mix into all of their soups is sour cream. My borscht soup not only chicken in it but also a spoonful of sour cream, which I stirred in before dipping my bread into the broth. It was utterly delicious! I am now looking for a good borscht soup recipe to take back home with me to the States!