Hi everybody!

Since today I’ve been in Saint-Petersburg for exactly a week and it’s amazing what this city has done so far. Let’s see whether it managed to do some more today.

Today we had to get up in time because we there was a group excursion today, all day long. We had to be at the metro stop Moskovskaja at ten, meaning we had to leave home at nine to be there in time, which meant getting up early, at least early for it being a Saturday.

Especially after yesterday it was hard to get up at eight. I was still so tired and my feet and legs still hurt so much, but I absolutely did not want to miss this excursion either, so I just ignored the pain and got myself out of bed. I have been sleepy all day, but it doesn’t matter, it was worth it. And I still have slept more than Sasha, who only slept one hour tonight and she did not complain either.

So, Moskovskaja is one of the last stops of the blue metro line, which meant we had to travel quite some time to get there. Even though we left home an hour before we were supposed to meet there we only made it there just in time. Yeah, distances are difficult to estimate here. We were the last ones to get there, but no problem. Everyone was still getting things to drink and all that so we still had to wait a while before we could finally go.

We went on our way then, eleven people, towards the buses that would bring us to Tsarskoe Selo. Tsarskoe Selo was the first summer residence of the tsars in Saint-Petersburg to be built. It was not Peter the Great’s favourite summer residence (obviously they had more than one), but this one is very important because at the lyceum located here Alexander Pushkin studied and therefore Tsarskoe Selo is very well-known in Russia and important.

To find a bus you just have to walk to their gathering place and there’s many buses there that all go to Tsarskoe Selo as it is one of the favourite places to go. Those drivers all do this on a private basis, so when they saw a group of eleven people all wanting to go there they all got really enthusiastic. It wasn’t hard for us to find a ride, that’s for sure and for 35 rubles… It’s basically nothing when you know it’s a 25 kilometer drive.

And then we arrived in town and could start our excursion. As I’m the only one that actually speaks some kind of fluent Russian most of today’s speaking happened in English, which was a pity for me, but well… I speak a lot of Russian during my private excursions so I didn’t mind too much and it’s not like I didn’t get any practice today, so it was fine.

You had to pay to get entrance to the park, which was a little problematic because I only had thousand rubles and they did not like that, so then I had to buy tickets for everyone and they paid me back as it was the only way that woman would accept the thousand ruble bill, but well, we got there eventually. Everyone got a ticket and we could enter.

We mostly walked around the park, which is very big and there’s a lot of buildings and that sort of things, so there was quite a lot to see. Sasha said we’d better see the actual palace lastly and see some of the beautiful but not as beautiful as the palace buildings first, because they would look like nothing if we had already seen the palace. That was fine by us all, so we started walking around, enjoying the beautiful park and just having lots of fun.

In the park there are a couple of translations of famous paintings into statues. They are very beautiful. There is the Night Watch by Rembrandt, which was first standing in Amsterdam, but which has now been moved to Tsarskoe Selo. Miriam said it was strange to see something she saw in Amsterdam and which then suddenly had disappeared appear here where you don’t expect it. I can image it is. There also was a painting of Pieter Brueghel the Old and one of Dürer.

And then we got at the palace which is absolutely huge. Not as huge as the Hermitage I guess, but still huge and very impressive to see. It’s stunning. It was very beautiful as well. You just have to look at it and not think too much about how much money has been invested in these things because I think the sums are enormous.

You can visit the insides of the palace as well, but the line was quite long and as I was still cripple from yesterday I did not feel up to standing in a line waiting to see another bunch of hallucinating richness for at least an hour. Some people of our group did want to see it though, so we split up. Five of us went to visit the palace, the other six went to have something to eat as we were all quite hungry.

We went to a kind of restaurant and according to the waiter Stella Artois and Hoegaarden are the same kind of beer. Now, I don’t know much about beer, but as a Belgian I am quite sure that they are quite a bit different, silly Russians. Eventually, Christiaan did order the Hoegaarden and Peter just went for an average beer. After a while we had all gotten our drinks, apart from Christian. And when he hadn’t gotten his drink twenty minutes after we had gotten ours we decided to just ask the waiter when the Hoegaarden would come. We thought it was quite strange when he answered “that they were preparing it and it would be ready in two to four minutes”. What the hell do they do with their Hoegaarden? Especially as it was from the tap, one would think that is not so difficult. So, a couple of minutes later the waiter comes back with a bowl of some sort of soup with large pieces of fish and potato in it, which was when Sasha realised what had happened. Apparently, there is this Russian dish called “Oecha”, which is pronounced exactly the same as the “Oegaa” in Hoegaarden and the waiter had mistaken them, which is very strange as seconds before Christiaan had ordered the Hoegaarden the waiter himself had still mentioned the name of this beer. Okay, problem solved and eventually he got his Hoegaarden, half of liter of it.

So, then we ate and we decided we still wanted to see the lyceum of the town, which is where Pushkin studied for six years and where he wrote over 130 of his poems and one of his famous works: Ruslan and Ljudmilla.

On our way there we met the others who had just gotten back from visiting the palace and they decided to come with us to the lyceum as well. There was only one problem: You could only visit it with a guided tour and the guided tours were only in Russian. No problem for Sasha and Sacha, but a little more problematic for the others, but all of them decided they didn’t care and so we went on the tour.

Now, I say that it was no problem for me, because it just wasn’t. I was very surprised to notice that I could just understand what that woman was saying and could follow and that was just so brilliant for me. I could understand it very well and it made me so happy. It indicates exactly how much my Russian has improved. It’s amazing and I’m in heaven about it.

The story about the lyceum was quite interesting, but it wasn’t like there were many thinks especially related to Pushkin. They did tell about his life. Anyway, the lyceum was for rich people. Only one person got in there just because he was smart. Pushkin himself was not the best student. There were only two courses where he was the top student: French and the course where they had to write poems. Apart from that he was just an average student. We did see the room where he slept while he studied there, but apart from the name plate above the door there was nothing that actually showed it was Pushkin’s, it was just the same bedroom as all others. His bedroom had number 14, for those who are interested.

But still it was quite impressive, to stand in those rooms where Pushkin had spent so much time, to walk the corridors he walked, to walk on the stairs he walked, for me it was quite special. I’m quite sensitive to that kind of atmosphere that hangs there, as if part of those persons still lingers there, so for me it was quite special and quite the experience.

Then we went back home, because it was already late afternoon and most of us were tired and we had seen most of Tsarskoe Selo. On the metro we decided we would still all have dinner together. Meaning, we ate pizza, again. But it was just great to go out together (apart from Sasha who went home to sleep, Peter who had to have dinner with his host family and Camille who was tired as well). We had lots of fun, talked some more and just decided on things we might still do this week.

And then we all went to the supermarket, because we all needed something from there and it’s just very sociable to go together and we laughed some more and had some more fun and that’s basically everything I’ve done today. Back home I sat down immediately and I don’t plan to get up unless to get ready to go to bed, because I’m really so tired.

The weather today: It started out brilliant, very hot and sunny like yesterday, but in the afternoon it rained. Not all afternoon, it was rain and then sun and rain and sun at the same time and a little bit of everything and then in the evening things cleared up again and it became sunny again, so not that bad at all.

And that’s all for today folks!