St Petersburg: The Hermitage

The Hermitage is a collection of buildings and former palaces that house the second largest collection of art in the world. It’s centered around the Winter Palace and started by Catherine the Great.

I found the wealth, opulence and lavishness of the Winter Palace profoundly uncomfortable. In a society where such profound inequalities existed its really not hard to understand why there was a revolution. Many of the rooms, not surprisingly, have military and imperialist themes which I also had trouble enjoying.

The art museum sections were much more comfortable. Only 6% of the museum’s collection is on display at any time but that tiny fraction is still vast and impressive! Originally the private collection of the czars, the collection also compromises gifts from other governments and is now state managed. The halls are organized by country of origin, including Greece, Egypt and most of Europe. I got a bit of a reputation amongst my team for mimicking the statues and trying to pinch their butts. Who says art has to be quiet and stale?!


My favorite part of the experience was running into a class of Russian grade schoolers. The students were all in costume and there to present “painting reports”. Instead of book reports, each student had prepared a short speech about a piece of artwork and gave it to their classmates. Live, collaborative learning-love it!

St Petersburg: Declaration of Arrival

The Russians make it damn difficult to get into the country and stay here within regulation. Of the eight countries I’m going to on this trip, Russia is the only country that required an advanced visa. The application was, ahem, very through and the application fee was expense. Luckily, proper preparation bore fruit and we sailed smoothly through customs once we landed in St Petersburg.

The restrictions don’t end there. The Russian government requires you to register in every city you are visiting for more than six days. Monday morning we walked to the post office to complete the process. Natasha, a local Rotarian, helped guide us through. We brought everything we needed and were prepared to move quickly until we read the instructions and discovered that the entire form had to be completed in Russian. Oof. So much for a quick errand!

Nate translated the top of the form for me, it reads: Notice of Arrival of a Foreign Citizen. Subtle, Russia, really subtle. You want to know all about me and I guess I don’t have much choice but to tell you.


Frankfurt: Five Hour Layover

We landed in Frankfurt after a 10 hour flight and were anxious to stretch our legs. After we left our bags with the security desk we hopped on the train into Frankfurt. The area surrounding Frankfurt is very green which always warms my Northwestern heart.

So happy to be off the plane!

Nibitu relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

The Germans were a model of efficiency through immigration. Stamp and go!


Ruminations on my first international flight

Guten Morgen from Germany!

We took a 10 hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt and are about to board a second flight to St Petersburg. Compared to the domestic flights I’ve taken in the US, Lufthansa is a god among men. The unlimited free booze was my first hint that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Then during dinner the pilot came around, introducing himself to everyone and refilling wine glasses. He teased me for only asking for half a glass (I was trying to stay hydrated to avoid jet lag!). The crew was entirely bilingual, if not trilingual. At the beginning of the flight the head steward announced the languages the crew spoke-seven between them! In fact, the flight attendant that checked our bags is originally from Kronsandar, the last city in Russia we will travel to. Once he knew we were honorary Russians, he let us slide on being slightly overweight in our carry ons.

Everyone on the plane was super interesting. My seat mate was a facial plastics surgeon returning to Germany after a three month observationship in the United States. We chatted a bit about her work and working in teaching hospitals. My teammate Nate sat behind me and sitting next to him was a 19 year old guy flying to Ukraine for a four month visit. He is studying engineering in Vancouver but his entire family still lives outside of Kiev. What a brave guy to live so far from his family for such long stretches.

See you in Russia!

Holy shit, I’m going to Europe

Maybe one day I’ll stop cussing every time something big happens. (Once I gave a speech at Slutwalk and cussed a lot. Like enough that after my dad congratulated me he immediately told me to stop cussing so much in public. Whoops.)┬áMeh, probably not.

I’ve spent the last two days running errands like a mad woman, saying goodbye and generally trying to forget that I won’t see many of my favorite people for a decent while. Tonight, my dad is treating the family to Jersey Boys. I always love a good musical and Sparky, my resident 5th Avenue season ticket holder, gave it rave reviews. I’m looking forward to raiding the bar with my bartending little bro.

Finally, this post is dedicated to my loving and patient friend Kat. She came up with about 17 million names for this blog, all of which I rejected like a spoiled child. And yet, she continues to put up with me. First post is all yours, babe.