Monday, March 28, 2016

Russian Countryside

Whenever I travel I'm so focused on taking pictures that I completely forget about the fact that videos exist. I actually took these videos with the intention of sending them to my parents, but I thought why not make a video and share them on my blog. I apologize in advance that they are kind of crummy. Had I thought about doing this before I might have taken better videos. Russia is pretty bare and white in the winter and while we were on our way to Kazan it was so obvious why Russian can't be invaded. Would you be interested in more videos? Maybe I'll try to get some Russian language in there, but not from me of course. My Russian is terrible. ;)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Kazan Pt. 5: Museum of Soviet Life

I'm so sad this is my last Kazan post! I had such a blast here. We were planning to go to Yekaterinburg the weekend of March 5-8, but our plans ended up falling through when then cancelled our bus at 10:30 pm the night before. But anways....

On our last full day in Kazan we went to the Museum of Soviet Life. I might be a little biased because I LOVE vintage things, but it was the coolest museum. I think Soviet history is so fascinating and it's really neat to see the toys that were popular during the time. You are allowed to touch and try on anything your heart desires, which is so awesome! They even have some things for sale like pins and Soviet Rubles!
When we first arrived there was a camera crew and all the people visiting were putting on old Soviet army uniforms. I was really confused, but I just figured they were part of some club. Then the director came over and handed us uniforms to put on! I was the only one who didn't speak Russian and the guy asked where we were from. Apparently he called me an American Spy which was pretty funny. I literally had no idea what was going on I just stood with A and everyone started singing a song that I obviously didn't know. I pretended like I knew what I was doing. It turned out it was the local news filming about the museum so I made my Russian debut in Kazan. You can see it here just go to minute 13:45. It was such a neat experience!

What are your favorite things to visit when you visit new cities?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Traveling With Nailya Safina to Dubrovitsy

My next guest post comes from Nailya Safina who blogs at Oh My Blog. She's a Russian blogger I met through a Facebook blogging group. I saw that she said her blog was in Russian, and I thought, "Hey! I've live there!" She is actually from a place near Kazan, one of my favorite cities in Russia. I was so excited she offered to talk about a Russian city, especially one that isn't so popular to foreigners. She also stressed that the city is much prettier in the summer and was hesitant on giving me her own photos, but I told her it didn't matter. Plus, isn't winter what makes Russia, Russia? Her post is so entertaining, even when English isn't her first language she definitely knows how to make me laugh... especially at the end when she talks about the "ugly places."
"First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Nailya, I am from little town near Kazan city, in the Republic of Tatarstan. I have lived in Moscow for 5 years, and I study Urban Studies at the Higher School of Economics.

My trip to Dubrovitsy was kind of “field research” for our team project of developing rural areas of Moscow. So, our main goals were not just visit typical tourist places, but also to see the main problems of the town by speaking with locals and just meandering around.

What it so interesting about Dubrovitsy and why you must visit it? Dubrovitsy has not only beautiful landscape views and incredible nature, but also has the richest historical and cultural meaning. First of all, all tourist’s favorite church. And, mostly, it’s not about the religion, but about the architecture. Just take a look at this beauty!
The second “must see” is Golitsyn’s Homestead (усадьба голицына) There is no museum, unfortunately, but it is incredible to understand that this was a house for Morozov’s, Golitsyn’s, and other famous families of Russian Empire for so many years (from XVII century).
Near the Church and homestead you may stroll along Linden Park (from Peter the Great’s period), and the beautiful park is between the crossing of two rivers: Pahra and Desna. In the winter you can skate on a "sani" (сани) and in the summer just to sunbathe and do a picnic. There are always many people but not too much.
Food: There is only one place to eat (yep, seriously). Golitsyn restaurant is in the Golitsyn’s Homestead. It is not cheap at all (middle check 1500 roubles *$22*), but it's worth it. First, we ordered pizza from Podolsk, the closest city to Dubrovitsy, and then when it came, went to the restaurant (with permission to eat pizza, if we would order vareniki from chef =)). It was so delicious, and we all were very happy to eat a hot and fresh meal.

We went to Dubrovitsy on a car (it is 1 hour from Moscow), that’s why had opportunity to take a drive all around the town. We found an awesome river bank and a forest with good quality ski run, where you can just be one-by-one with the nature. After an overcrowded, stressful Moscow, in Dubrovitsy you are just like: What is that? Silence? The sky? White (not grey!) snow? ☺
I know that Jasilyn likes to write about ugly places too, so let’s take a fast look at them in Dubrovitsy. Firstly, the housing and administrative buildings may scare you a little bit (if you are foreigner). It is Soviet Union time “heritage." No comments.
Secondly, abandoned camp for children (we tried to enter, but everything was closed).
But, after all, that was a perfect retreat. We all had a great time there and now are planning to visit Dubrovitsy in May and to see all of the spring’s pure beauty.

Tips for visiting:
  • Plan your visit in summer or late spring. That is the most beautiful time in town.
  • You can order an excursion if you want, or just explore everything by yourself."
Thank you for sharing, Nailya! Also, don't forget to check out her blog, especially if you speak Russian. If you would like to share your city or travel destination please send me an e-mail at From there I will send you more information on requirements for posting.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Women's Day Celebration

The Friday before Women's Day (March 4) was a day of celebration in a lot of work places. The school I work for organized a little staff meeting where we ate dessert, drank some champagne, and received flowers and a little glass jar. I wasn't expecting to do anything in my Intermediate adult class that night, but my students had another idea.

I was waiting for everyone to arrive when they came in with a bouquet of flowers for me. It was SO sweet. I felt guilty that I hadn't planned anything for them. We started the lesson as usual, and about 30-40 minutes in they started acting weird. I was having them work on an activity that required partner work, but then all of a sudden they were all talking to each other in Russian. I heard a few words like "cafe," "tea," and "she." Then they asked if they could take their break (our class is 2.5 hours long). I said sure because I didn't care. They kept talking then we went back to the lesson but they all seemed so restless. Then at about 8:30 they told me they had a surprise. They whipped out a cake and tea and we had a celebration for all the women in the class.
Slava, being the only guy, had to give a speech to all of us which started out in English but then he switched to Russian because it was much easier. I guess it's a thing for guys to make speeches to all the women thanking them. This class was my very first class ever at this school. People came and went in the class and although it was a challenge at first I think they are one of my favorites. We spent the rest of class eating cake, drinking tea, and trying to talk in English.
I had a student from another class come and take the group pictures, but I took the rest. I realized how terrible my indoor shooting is. I guess it's something I really need to focus on!
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