i enjoyed russia so much more than i anticipated. don’t get me wrong- i was very excited to go, but i knew it would be cold, i knew it’d be busy, and i knew that work trips always have a way of… well, being work.
the opening reception at the grand hotel europe was amazing. it was a great opportunity to network and see some colleagues who i haven’t seen for awhile. a men’s russian choir also sang for us while we ate, an experience i’m not sure many would have. i sat with some of my favorite people within the company. they didn’t even mock me too much when i had sprite instead of wine. 🙂
the next day the meetings started. i won’t bore you with the details of the sessions- but our technical service people and marketing people split up into two different groups and attended sessions that related to their subject. i obviously went with the marketing group. the sessions were nice- they were lead by internal employees so we all had an opportunity to see and get to know people’s personalities more as the week went on. there were also poster sessions (where people presented an important “finding” for the year for their division) and a bit of time that i used to get interviews done, the main reason i attended the meeting.
after the first day was over we were broken out into smaller groups for dinners. our dinner was within walking distance, so we set off for this place called terrassa. it was snowing, but very lightly. the walk was nice because it allowed us time to check out the sights of st. petersburg. it also gave me time to catch up with my friend chandru, who i had not seen in a very long time.
(looking fluffy in our warm winter-wear)
the restaurant was very nice– and the menus were absolutely ridiculous! the menu was more like a magazine, i think it had around 20 pages and it gave all the food and then the corresponding images were around the outside. we quickly made it into a matching game, trying to guess which item was what. the food also tasted pretty good. i had some sort of seafood udon noodle dish. the indians ordered round after round of food, then realized they couldn’t eat it all. it was kind of humorous. 🙂
our dinner ended and a group of us… well… the women…. decided that we were going to go shopping. there was a giant mall across the street from our hotel and everyone had a different mission of something they wanted to get. diane wanted a soccer jersey for her fiancee’s son. marsha wanted a coat like diane had bought the day before. april wanted a russian hat for her husband. and i- i wanted nesting dolls. the mall is actually very different than malls in the united states, because all of the rooms are connected. you walk into a store and then you immediately walk into the next, there’s no division. i found the nesting dolls almost immediately and then tagged along with everyone else while they made their purchases.
i got back to the hotel, went to the bar to say hello, but stayed away from any tasty beverages. i was still tired and recovering from the nights before.
the next day was potentially my favorite day in russia. besides having to present my poster, there wasn’t really anything that i disliked. the sessions were good and after they were over a bus took us to the hermitage, which is one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the world. kessler and i were in the same group, so we decided that the hermitage was our “first date.” and by that, he meant that he was going to throw his jacket on mine and make me wait for the coat pick up.
um. wait. what?!
the hermitage is BEAUTIFUL. words cannot even express how impressed i was with the museum. i know that the museum was so large that it would’ve spent days upon days to see the entire thing- but because we had local tour guides, they showed us the best of the best. we got to see some van goghs and some picassos. we got to see beautiful, elaborate design and rooms so breathtaking i literally was letting out contented sighs while i was in them. we also got to do a bit of goofing off, because i was with a fairly fun group who knew how to have fun. 🙂
(check out dexter’s “chiseled features”)
(the gold room- possibly my favorite room in the hermitage)
At the end of the tour we were able to see this peacock clock. It’s a very famous clock that has a peacock, an owl, and some other nature-like items in it’s mechanisms. When the clock is wound the creatures “come alive” and the peacock even makes some… peacock-esk noises. they aren’t pretty. but they are pretty cool. the clock is only wound up around once a month now or for “very special guests.” i assume we were in that later group, and it doesn’t go unappreciated.
as we were exiting the museum portion of the hermitage there was a string-quartet playing music and champagne waiting on the tables. i wasn’t going to have any, but my arm was twisted (rather softly) by my colleagues and i gave in to the bubbles.
also, since this was the only photo i could find in my album with champagne, let me tell you about frank, who is also featured in this photo. frank is my favorite frenchmen in the world. he’s the nicest and politest person i’ve ever met, and he won me over entirely on this trip with his gentleman ways.
what i’m getting at is, if i was to have a “top 5 men of work” (which, let’s be honest, of course i do), he would definitely be on it. 🙂
the rest of russia kind of went by in a blur. i got the rest of my interviews taken care of. attended more sessions. worked. stressed out. relaxed. drank. socialized.
we did get to see catherine’s summer palace and also take a horse sleigh ride around alexander’s park. the palace had an extraordinary outside, but the inside was less impressive to me. don’t get me wrong, for a house, sure, it’s pretty amazing. but after seeing the hermitage i just expected more. as for the horse ride- well, we have horses and we have snow in iowa. 🙂 granted, we also have dogs in iowa and i was still excited to pet the dogs in russia, so i can’t really talk.
on the last day in russia i finally got to take advantage of some sight seeing opportunities. originally i had planned on going out on sunday, but didn’t make it out of the hotel. lucky for me, jim and frank had nothing to do the last day either and were ready to do some exploring.
the first stop was the church of the savior on spilled blood- the only thing that wasn’t on the agenda that i really wanted to see. the outside was just beautiful and iconic and i felt immediately drawn to the building. the church was built on the spot where emperor alexander II was assassinated, which i think is where the ‘blood’ reference comes from in the title.
the inside of the cathedral was even more beautiful and intricate than the outside. the inside was comprised completely of mosaics. 7,500 square meters of mosaics– having more mosaics than any church in the world.
after we left the church (which i think jim and i would’ve been content to hang out in all day), we moved on a bit farther to go see st. isaac’s cathedral. at st. isaac’s you can pay to enter the church, but also pay to walk to the top of the cathedral and overlook the city. of course we would like to. oh? it’s 622 steps? yeah. i guess we’d still like to.
breathtaking views. the weather was brisk, but i felt good after jogging up the steps. i was also very contented at the top of st. isaac’s- i’ve found that i like places where i feel calm, but slightly out of my element. those are usually high up places, or places where the land meets an ocean (not really a beach, but more like the cliffs of moher in ireland).
but i digress. feast your eyes on this.
(they will see us waving from such great heights)
(inside the lower level of st. isaac’s)
in conclusion- would go back to russia in a heartbeat.