In my last post, I was on my way to St. Petersburg for the weekend. I have to say, it was so much more fu than I thought it would be. The newbies from the Southern Hemisphere were there and I made friends with some Australians, a South African, and a New Zealander.
Most of our trip was driving around in the bus to see the city, and stopping in particular places to take pictures. The first full day that we were there, we went to the Hermitage Museum. The majority of the museum is the Winter Palace and the inside is filled with magnificent paintings and sculptures and absolutely covered in gold. One of the first things our guide said was that, in Russia, everything that looks like gold is gold. The Winter Palace was huge and every room was draped in gold.
The Hermitage museum is home to an enormous collection of art, including two paintings of Madonna by Leonardo Da Vinci and a sculpture by Michelangelo. There was also a hallway that was decorated with a painted version of the bible.
We had lunch at a restaurant underground and met some Russian exchange students. After lunch we went to another museum. This one had an astronomy tower filled with old instruments used for astronomy and a big room filled with the preserved bodies of animals and babies with physical deformities. There were things like a calf with two heads, a puppy with two bodies and one head, a kitten with two faces, and a baby with an unusual number of limbs. It was very interesting and kind of creepy since, not only were they all real, but that a past Russian monarch had wanted to have such a collection.
That night we went to see a ballet in a fancy theatre. I liked it a lot, but I also thought it was way too long. The best part was that there was no talking at all, which would have been Russian if there was any. Apparently the lead female dancer is a very famous ballet dancer.
The next day we drove around St. Petersburg, stopping at different statues and scenic views to take pictures and purchase souvenirs.
Before I came to Russia, I never really thought it was in any way similar to other Asian countries. But it really does have some similarities. For instance, Russian has a distinct lack of chocolate, anything 'chocolate' like a milkshake is made with hot chocolate powder. Also, there are the street vendors. Like in China, there are people with tables of souvenirs set up in tourist hotspots. They sell magnets, pins, hats, and various other things.
By the time we finished the tour and got off the bus to do our wandering around to buy things and have lunch in small groups of friends, at least half the bus had the fuzzy Russian hats. I went with Brittney, and my new friends from the Southern Hemisphere to a random restaurant where most of us got these things like giant dumplings for lunch. We did a lot of walking and shopping and got back to the bus on time.
Then we went to a beautiful church and took pictures outside and then went in to look around in silence because it was still in use.
That night we went to see a folk show with dancing and singing. That was the best part of the whole trip. It seems that courting is a big part of Russian dancing. The singers and dancers were simply amazing.
The next day we left St. Petersburg and headed for the border. We had to go through more checkpoints to leave Russia then to enter, but both ways it still took forever with all the checking and rechecking of passports and visas and the thorough search of the bus for stowaways, then driving a little way and having passports checked again.
Anyway, the trip back to Helsinki from St. Petersburg was much shorter than the one back from Lapland.
The three of us Estonians got back home with only one minor screw up, again, unlike Lapland. My ferry ticket on the way there said my name was Dykstra, Molly Anderson and when Brittney went to get the tickets the woman at the desk was confused because it didn't match my passport and Brittney had to explain that Dykstra was Erick's last name and whoever had ordered the tickets had mixed up our names.