St. Petersburg Day Three

March 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm (Uncategorized)

On Sunday Jeff and I started the day off together because we both wanted to go to the Pushkin apartment.  Pushkin is a very famous Russian poet who died in a duel.  The man he dueled wanted Pushkin’s wife because she was apparently very beautiful.  The Pushkin museum is famous for having Pushkin’s death mask, a lock of his hair, and the vest he wore with the bullet hole in it.

We actually found the apartment pretty easily, and bought our tickets (successfully fooling the ticket lady into thinking we were Russian).  However, when we went up the stairs to the museum, the ladies who looked at our tickets said, “Oh you bought tickets for the apartment, not the museum, so you can’t come in here.”  We asked where the apartment was, only to be answered with “not here.”  It was extremely helpful.  We finally found the dumb apartment across the courtyard.  Inside we had to put on felt slippers over our boots instead of plastic booties, which was extremely frustrating because there were no slippers big enough for Jeff, and no slippers small enough for me.  So we both had to walk really awkwardly throughout the apartment so that we would stay in our damn slippers.  Once we finally got into them (sort of), we went into the first part of the museum.  It turned out to be two boring rooms with absolutely nothing interesting.  There were some letters we couldn’t even read because they were in fancy, old Russian script.  There was a glass case with a dueling kit (two guns, two bullets, etc), and I got excited and asked Jeff, “Is that the gun Pushkin used in the duel?”  We read the sign, and it turns out it wasn’t exciting either.  The sign said, “Pistols used in the time period.”  Big whoop.  Above the kit was a portrait of the man Pushkin dueled, and underneath the name it said, “Non-famous Artist.”  The poor artist wasn’t even named because apparently no one cared.  This didn’t surprise me too much because, after all, I didn’t care either.

At this point Jeff and I were pretty pissed.  We thought we had paid money to see two dumb rooms that weren’t even in an apartment, with nothing of any importance to Pushkin in them.  Luckily, it turned out that after these abysmal rooms there were stairs leading up to the actual apartment.  His apartment was very pretty and interesting.  He had a very excellent library, and now I want one just like it.  When we were finished looking at the apartment, we figured it didn’t turn out so bad like we previously thought, but we were sad that we didn’t get to see the awesome morbid stuff, like the death mask.  As we were walking out of the door, one of the ladies who worked in the apartment called us over in a harsh whisper, and started leading us over to something in a really shady manner.  She said, “Here, here, students you should see something over here” and then she pulled a black blanket off something we hadn’t even seen before, and there was Pushkin’s hair and death mask!  She walked over to another covered case, and revealed the vest with the bullet hole.  She acted the whole time as though we were going to be arrested if someone found out we were looking at these things.  It was incredibly odd, but you really can’t expect anything normal in this utterly bizarre country.  As we were walking down the stairs of the apartment, Jeff’s slippers finally gave way to his giant feet and he went crashing down the first level of the beautiful staircase.  After he picked himself and put his slipper back on, we started down the second level of the staircase, where he promptly almost ate it again.  I bought a book of Pushkin’s poems from the store, so now I can say I have a Pushkin book FROM St. Petersburg, FROM the house he lived in.  All in all, what we thought would be a disastrous visit, turned out to be good.

Afterwards, Jeff and I went to the giant, famous cathedral in St. Petersburg.  It looks like it is something straight out of the game Candyland, but instead it is called the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  So clearly it is from some violent Russian version of Candyland.  Anyway, Jeff and I were buying tickets to go inside from ticket windows right next to each other.  I handed the ticket lady my Russian student card, and she looked at it like “What in the hell is this??”  The school I study at (KORA) is a very small technicum in Vladimir, so since this woman had never heard of it, she was turning it over in her hands, wondering if it was legit.  That’s when I saw Jeff’s ticket lady in the background, showing Jeff’s student card to a manager, saying, “What the hell is this??”  Finally they decided to make up a price for us.  We got charged below the foreign price, but above the Russian price.  Our ticket ladies made it very clear that we were a disturbance while doing so.

Inside the church was absolutely beautiful.  Churches in Russia are either gold inside or covered in mosaics.  This one was the latter version.  It was very interesting to see, but Jeff and I agreed that it was not worth the 130 rubles we paid for it, especially since the signs told us squat about the mosaics.   I finally pushed my way through a million people to get to the sign, only to find out that it said, “This wood was donated by so and so, blah blah” Are you kidding me?  No one wants to read about that; I wanted to read about the pictures!  Nonetheless, the inside of the Cathedral was still interesting to see.

After we finished with the cathedral Jeff and I went to the Russian museum.  This museum has many famous Russian paintings and sculptures, and I thought these were much better than the ones in the Hermitage.  There was one painting called “The Wave” that showed a large wave wrecking a ship.  The painting next to it, by the same artist, was called “The Ninth Wave” and it showed the ship absolutely decimated.  There was also a very huge, famous painting depicting the volcano in Pompeii exploding.  As usual, many of the paintings showed tragedies happening to people.  At one point in the museum I saw a tour guide holding a stuffed pony that had rope attached to it.  Attached to the rope were seven small children.  They were literally tied to the rope, and being lead around by a stuffed pony.  I just about died from trying to hold back laughter.

When I was in the gift store in the Russian museum, I realized exactly how much Russians love Nicholas II.  There were about a million and one books about him, and his face was plastered across practically everything.  You could buy magnets, postcards, and assorted other paraphernalia with his face on it.

That night Courtney, Jeff, and I made pelmeni, which is similar to tortellini, but with meat inside, and without sauce.  We met some Russians in the kitchen of our hostel and talked with them.  One of them, Misha, had taken five years of English, so he wanted to practice with us.  His friends Dima and Christina just sat and listened for the most part because their English wasn’t very good.  At one point Misha asked us, “So what do you think about us aliens from Moscow?”  We didn’t know how to respond, so we went with the ever-intelligent “uhhhh?”  After a very awkward, long silence, Misha said (in a very strong Russian accent), “So now I would like to talk about religion.”  Overall it was a very strange experience.

Later that night we all decided that we wanted to go dancing at a club that Jeff’s friend in the Saint Petersburg group went to a lot.  Just to be polite we asked Misha, Dima, and Christina if they wanted to come with us.  Dima decided to come.  At first I was a little concerned about him because he kept following me around wherever I went.  Eventually, however, we realized that he was the nicest guy that we had ever met.  Courtney and I talked to him in Russian a lot throughout the night because we three didn’t like dancing much, and everyone else in the group did.  At one point, a young man who we nicknamed “AC/DC” because he was wearing an AC/DC T-shirt, staggered up to Courtney to hit on her.  Courtney was obviously very uncomfortable with the situation, so Dima stood up, led the guy away, and gave him what looked like a very stern talking-to.  AC/DC never spoke with us again.  Later on in the night, we sat next to “Very Intense Mullet Guy,” who at one point secretly slipped something into Courtney’s pocket.  Courtney looked at me and said, “Very Intense Mullet Guy just put something in my pocket.”  In order to remember this event the next day, she wrote, “A mysterious person just put something in my pocket” on her hand.  Dima kept buying us drinks the whole night because apparently women never buy drinks in Russia (a tradition that should be implemented in America as well).  Even if men are not dating a woman they’re hanging out with, or interested in one of them in any way, they still pay for all the woman’s drinks because it is just part of their culture.  I kept saying, “No, no let me pay for this one.”  Dima just gave me this look that very clearly said, “You will do no such thing.”  Courtney, Dima, and I were the last of our group to leave the club.  When we got outside, Dima hooked his arm around Courtney’s, and then held his elbow out for me to take.  I said, “Oh no I’m fine,” but he gave me the “This isn’t optional” glare, so I hooked my arm around his too.  We realized that he did this because the streets are straight sheet ice in the wintertime.  All men help women walk on the street during the winter because women wear impractical shoes and need help walking, or else they will bite the dust.  When we got back to the hostel, he said goodnight to us, and headed off to bed.  It was honestly the first time I’ve ever had a guy buy me drinks, and walk me home without expecting some sort of compensation.  In the United States, women know better than to except multiple drinks from a man they’re not interested in.  However, men in Russia can be very different.

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