Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Россия! - Sean from APU

SPRING 2011
Okay, I know Jackie already posted about the incredible opportunity to spend Spring Break in Russia... I guess you have the privilege of hearing about it from two perspectives! Though we all got back a bit exhausted from experiencing a whirlwind of things to do and places to see, spending my usually restful break in the largest country in the world was so worth it. I mean, c'mon, how often in your life do you think you'll be able to week in Russia?!

You'll learn more about this when you get closer to spending a semester here if you don't know already, but this trip, along with a couple others, is included in the study abroad program (and you get a stipend!). When I first heard of this, it definitely went in my "Top 5 Reasons to go to Lithuania."
We spent the first third of our week in Moscow and the rest in St. Petersburg, which are separated by a 4-hour (almost) bullet train ride.

Anyway, in an effort to save your time and eyes (along with mine), I'll attempt to choose my top favorite moments/activities:
  • [the cathedrals] Two words: ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. My favorites are the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (in Moscow) because of it's how ornate and massive it is, and the Church on Spilt Blood (in St. Petersburg) because the entire interior is mosaic, when at first glance the walls appear to have paintings all over them.
  • [the history & art] We went to the Hermitage, which is the third largest museum in the world. It held so much art from so many varieties, from the original interiors of the Winter Palace to ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. For the first time, I saw original works from Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet! And it's free admission with your student ID. BOOM.
  • [the ballet] Even if you're not a person that would be interested in a ballet, you would still enjoy this thoroughly. This was my first ballet, and it was so incredible to see it in the world-renown Mariinsky Theatre! The ballet was Romeo and Juliet, with many of the dancers giving excellent performances. We also had the opportunity to dress up. The whole experience was nothing but classy.
  • [feel yourself russian] This was a Russian folk event with incredibly talented singers and dancers. You could possibly equate it to a lu'au, if you've ever been to Hawaii. As cheesy as it might appear to native Russians, the entire cohort had a blast. We were cracking up and had huge smiles on our faces the whole time. They also treat you to a few refreshments, which definitely was a plus for us starving college students!
  • [the sauna] If you've never been to one in the States before, you're not missing much, 'cause the saunas in Russia aren't like them at all. I mean, yeah, there's a wooden room that gets excruciatingly (yet refreshingly) hot, but there's this whole tradition and culture around it... You'll get it when you actually experience it. It's glorious. Definitely up there in my favorites, nonetheless.
  • [the food] All you need to know is that it was bomb. I can't go into much detail without getting super hungry, but there was this fast-food pancake place called Teremok. It was just fantastic. And the Pizza Hut is more like a down-graded Olive Garden. Well, aside from the not-so-exciting, there were several classy (and cheap) bistros and cafes that served as our lunch stops!
  • [traveling in general] As Jackie posted, we spent a significant of our time underground in Moscow because of their ridiculously efficient metro. Traveling (not just internationally) is honestly one of my favorite things. Just walking along the sidewalks of beautiful and massive buildings within the hustle and bustle of city-life is very much a therapeutic thing for me. We also got to be on two overnight train rides, which are more entertaining than you would imagine.
  • [my birthday] Yep. 21 years ago, last Saturday, I was born. But more importantly, I was in Russia! Another student in the cohort also had her 21st birthday, which made for good times. Though I would love to have been with family and friends back home that are dear to me, I felt blessed to spend the day with a group of people I now call friends in such a unique place as St. Petersburg. One of the highlights: Having birthday pancakes and a birthday McFlurry!
I know, that was pretty long winded. But with all that being said, it was such an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which you should all experience!!!

I hope your spring has been as blissful as mine thus far.
Blessings.


In Red Square with St. Basil's Cathedral in the background


Team: "It's Go Time" - Our Moscow travel group


Cathedral of Christ the Saviour


Russian matryoshka dolls at the market


Church on Spilt Blood


The Hermitage


Us with our Russian fur hats and Russian guard faces


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