Thursday, January 20, 2011

Flâneurie 101: Saint Petersburg


This was an academic thing. I went to present my research about cyclone physics in a university located on the Baltic Sea. I have a remarkable grasp on bureaucracy and paperwork, but this endeavor was particularly exhausting! Deadlines, signatures and flight booking were real nightmares, but hey, I got away with it! At the end of the day I was extremely lucky that the university covered the whole thing via New York City, so I could take some little vacations before and after Russia!

I traveled alone (literally) with no knowledge of Russian language whatsoever... I took a suitcase, laptop, backpack and that's it. Take off!

Traveling to Moscow-Saint Petersburg last summer made me feel like singing a Poliushko Polie, which is a traditional song dedicated to the soldiers that left home to fight in the fields. This was one of the best flâneurie experiences in my life because I was not only able to know about a completely different culture, but I felt the joy of being really incognito.

I love traveling overseas! The trip was very long and with several stops, the longest flight was from JFK Airport in New York City (via Aeroflot) to Moscow's International Airport (Sheremetyevo - SVO). Once in Moscow I literally faced a linguistic challenge to change from Terminal F to Terminal D, and take the next plane to the Venice of the North, or the former Leningrad: Saint Petersburg.

I was petrified when I got there! Once we landed on Pulkova-1 (LED) I thought: Where the heck am I? I don't even know Russian, and I don't even have the name or the phone number of anybody... plus my laptop has no battery. I must admit that within my angst, the excitement was enthralling! I felt at the end of the world and I had a strong desire to go back, but I was already far from my tropical side home... I was close to Siberia.

You're right if you think that I walked way too much in the city, I just learned to be careful with the metro system because we were in the White Nights (i.e no dark nights because it's summer and it's very far north).

A couple of blocks away from Gostiny D'vor metro station, there was this beautiful building, it's called Khram Spasa Na Krovi and reflects the unique Russian architecture. I love the tops that look like ice creams, in fact the whole thing looks as if you could eat it, very beautiful! 

Walking more toward the bridges (мост) I discovered the extremely beautiful Hermitage Palace (Winter Palace). I wish I knew more about Russian History by the way, so that I could tell you more about this. I promise I'll research more and I'll talk to a friend that knows a lot about this. I like this picture a lot, Leidy is indeed a good photographer!

There's always a time for relaxation so after a very long long walk, three bridges and a castle, I fell asleep on the grass! My friends know that I have no trouble at all when it comes to just crawl and sit down wherever. Music is always a must, and a backpack.... (I don't do the big backpack thing though). I leave a lot of things at home, but almost always I bring a compass, thermometer, whistle, Advil, bottle of water, snacks and two books (minimum two): One about physical sciences and the other about literature or art because my reading mood changes during the day.

So basically, my days in Russia were just like this. Some University in the morning, and in the afternoon, either some flâneurie or going out with friends to know the city a little more (plus they're the ones that speak Russian and can ask for my meal in McDonald's and Subway) -which was basically my nutrition over there haha!

We did have an awesome experience on the university's ship in the Gulf of Finland. I learned about pollution problems after World War II, the poor water exchange in the strait of Kattegat in Denmark and more issues regarding Meteorology and Oceanography.

I do recommend the experience, very nice friends and professors, but I'm not sure about living there for a long time... probably I did not get used to how things work over there, or the culture and of course, the language! I could not make a phone call home, all I did was going to MacDac (Russian abbreviation for McDonald's) to get some free WiFi!

Thanks for reading,


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