Saturday, 6 September 2008

holy shit batman

so this is my first post from russia. I'm currently sitting in Raisa Iakovlevna's (the lady I'm staying with) living room with a computer from circa 2001 (which I've managed to connect to the internet).

I'm now finally in Petrozavodsk, which is er nice, after flying to Riga, training it to Petersburg and then another overnighter to Petrozavodsk. I didn't sleep properly for 3 days, and some points I was so tired I nearly slept in a park (I didn't).

Riga is boring, I mean, really boring - I advise everyone never to go there. There's a nice old towny bit but its quite small. My mate John who I travelled with recommended Vilnius (in Lithuania) instead as its less touristy and theres more old stuff.

Now- onto the good stuff. My first day in Russia was possibly the scariest day of my life, apart from the first day at school, but with more people shouting at you in Russia. I think me and John got told off at least 5 times, maybe 6, between us (various things like not having exact change, going the wrong way, making eye contact etc - for example when I asked to go to Ladozkskii Train Station, the lady behind the window looked at me as if I'd shat on a kitten). Indeed, customer service and politeness are not big things over here. I mean - really not. But once you've been shouted at by a scary old lady with a hairy face in the fastest Russian possible several times, you get over it. I've developed a look to give them when they do this.

Petersburg was scary as hell, but incredibly beautiful in the 'historic centre' (photos to come). We saw the Church of the Spilled Blood (which is what you see on postcards, and is phenomenal) and the Kazanskii Cathedral, the main bits and pieces. Literally an area of 5 square miles I reckon is just those massive buildings you probably saw in Goldeneye with the bit in the tank. Cool as.

The train to Petrozavodsk is potentially the sweatiest travel experience I've ever had. The provodnitsas (stewards) would continually close the windows we opened (they have their reasons) and the doors to our cabins, creating small, private and uncomfortable furnaces for us to sleep in.

We arrived in Petro at 7am, at which point we were introduced to our khoizyainkas (housewives) and we were taken away to our respective homes. Again with the hyperbole, but have never felt so apprehensive as we hurtled towards Raisa's house in a banged up taxi at half 7 in the morning. The plethora of potholes and small wooden cabins I saw on the way there did little to alleviate the fear.

The entrance to our block was not a surprise, it smells like piss and b.o. with a slight hint of butter. Someone from my course here has defined it as the 'smell of Russia'. I think she's probably right.

Thats it for now.


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