Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's startling how much western influence you find when walking around St. Petersburg.  Everywhere you go there are signs for McDonalds, KFC, and upscale Western European designers, while every neon light and road sign is printed in both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabet.  Many of the young people speak English, as we discovered in our quest to find the metro station, and it was impossible not to notice the various English words that have worked their way into the Russian vocabulary.

But then what can you expect from St. Petersburg?  It was a city built to imitate and impress the west, to prove that Russia, too, is a high culture.  The buildings remind me of those that I saw in Vienna.  Traditional Russian architecture, such as the multicolored copolas any westerner would expect, is hard to come by.  The western influence is most evident in the Hermitage, Russia's most famous art museum, an astounding palace built by some of Russia's greatest rulers, with rooms of breathtaking architecture and design, all filled with (wait for it...) western art.  Of course, there were works by Rembrandt, Raphael, and even Leonardo DaVinci (not to mention a few of the impressionists tucked away in the old servant's quarters), yet not once did I see a work by Repin or Perov.

The western influence is less visible in Vytegra, and for that I am rather thankful.  I feel that I am in the true Russia that I have read so much about in Chekhov and Gogol.  The snow glistens across the roofs of wooden houses with piles of wood outside, the city stands quiet, lacking the bustle of St. Petersburg (in the most wonderful way).  But still, the west works its way in in the most surprising and interesting ways.  Today at one of the schools, we had an extensive conversation about Star Trek and Doctor Who with one of the students.  Earlier that day the student's and performed for our enjoyment a lovely adaptation of Cinderella (they acted and spoke wonderfully!), with a soundtrack of American music, none of which i recognized, though I think most of it was from the eighties.  It surprises me to see what music makes its way across the Atlantic.  I once heard Rick Astley playing in a bathroom in Prague.  It seemed so out of place at the time, but I laughed it off.

On a side note, the bus broke down in the night on the way to Vytegra.  It was up and running again quite quickly, but that time time we had sitting in the middle of the snowy road, talking, staring into the sky, and debating weather it was worth it to go through knee deep snow drifts to find a suitable tree, was probably the best part of that bus ride.

1 comment:

  1. I love the last picture of Vytegra in prestine snow and bright sunshine. It reminds me of Russian winters of my childhood.