Saturday, July 4, 2009

Baltic Sea Baptism

Today we went on the best group excursion I have been on to date. We went to Peterhof (Петергоф). This was basically the Russian version of Versailles. Everything was really extravagant and baller and there were cascades and fountains of water everywhere.

The day almost didn't start at all. I woke up at 9:45. I was supposed to be at the school with the rest of the group at 9:50. I don't know why I got up so late. I had set my alarm for 8:35 and I wasn't up late last night. Anyway, I immediately called my teacher and told her I'd be there in 10-5 minutes. I threw on some clothes and my umbrella and jacket. Grabbed two apples I bought yesterday and some Russian cookies (kind of like animal crackers) on the way out. I sprinted from my room all the way to the metro and then from the metro station to outside of the school where we were supposed to meet. Everyone was already on the bus. I made it just in time. It took me exactly 15 minutes from the time I got off the phone with my teacher to the time I made it school. Record time. The last time I ran that fast was in high school. How fast was that you're wondering? Texas High School Track and Field State Meet Fast- 2006.

Today was really cold. Like high 40's low 50s'. And there was an overcast and light rain. My favorite kind of weather. I got on the bus and passed out and slept all the way to Peterhof. I was almost left on the bus because when everyone got off I was still passed out. I woke up and saw everyone outside and the bus moving and I asked the driver to stop and let me off. We take big huge very comfortable charter buses so I was really comfortable. Like drool coming out of my mouth comfortable. After I regained my bearings I was amazed at how beautiful the gardens and fountains were! I started snapping pictures like crazy. And I have about 100 pictures from today. The weather was still cold and slightly rainy.

The Harvard and Princeton kids were there today too. Probably on a more extensive and extravagant tour... Or maybe not. Who knows?

We walked around the park and saw all the extravagant fountains and it was so baller! Words can't describe so look at the pictures and video and form your own opinion.

We moved to the Baltic Sea (Gulf of Finland) and on the other side of it was Finland. It was so cool! I wanted very much so to get as close to Finland as possible so I took off my shoes and socks and started walking along the rocks protruding the waters surface. I was also joined by this Asian kid in our group. We both had to submerge our feet in the water a little bit to get to the furthest stone in the ocean. But once we made it there it felt incredible. The breeze from the sea against my face. The water seemed to stretch infinitely. And because the sky was really cloudy it was hard to tell where the horizon was and it looked almost as if sea, sky, and land had all just come together.

There was so much water all over the place today I made the joke with the Asian kid that he had been Baptized and was now part of the Russian Orthodox Church. He thought it was hilarious.

We met back up with our tour guide and my teacher for our tour of the palace at one but we couldn't enter until 2:30 because there were groups of Russians that were supposed to enter. She suggested that while waiting that we go and get lunch. Great suggestion! On the way to lunch more Russians wanted to take their picture with me. Bringing the total to 4 times that this has happened since I've been here. And I've also noticed some people sneaking taking photos of me that are probably too afraid to ask. They should just ask though. I'm a nice guy.

The lunch was delicious! I had meat soup with sour cream in it and it was probably one of the best tasting things I've had since I've been here. Russians eat sour cream and/or mayonnaise with everything! The soup was perfectly seasoned and had a variety of well-prepared meats. While at lunch the sun came out for a while and the gardens and fountains looked even more extravagant.

We go back up to the palace and the inside of it was incredible! A lot had been restored because the Germans blew everything up during World War II but it was such a beautiful Palace. Sadly guests weren't allowed to take photographs. But there were rooms where everything was gilded with gold and on a sunny day it would probably blind someone to step into that room. There was another room where there were hundreds of portraits that covered the walls. The portraits were actually the wallpaper/wall design.

On the way out I discussed the taboo topic mentioned in the last post with my teacher. It's kind of complicated but she had a similar experience when she was here back during Soviet times. It was okay for me to discuss it with her because she's an expert on issues like this. Currently working out the details.

We rounded everyone up. Got back on the bus. With cloudy, gray skies and I slept all the way back to Petersburg listening to the Jackson 5. Now I'm back home and the skies are still nice and cloudy and outside is gray and miserable looking. What a nice day.

After this I'm going to focus intensely on a couple of papers I'm working on and compiling some of my research I've done since I've been here for the good Mellon Mays people at Brown. Hopefully the sun will stay hidden for the rest of the day. I've seen enough daylight here to last me a lifetime.

Stay Tuned.

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