Grüß Gott!

Hello there!

I have not written a blog post in actual months! So I thought that it was time to dust off the cobwebs, and start this back up again but this time from Vienna!

Having completed my first week here, I can confirm that I have already low-key fallen in love with this city. For starters the weather is so much better than in the UK. In the past week, it may have started off cloudy or drizzly in the morning but by the afternoon, the clouds have dispersed and the sun comes out. I will happily take that any day over four weeks of continuous cloud cover *cough* Russia *cough*. So before this become a really long post of me waxing lyrical about how much a love this city already, I’ll give you a shot run down of the things that I’ve noticed in my first week here:

  1. Everyone really does say “Grüß Gott” or “Servus” to greet you, in the shops, in the corridor of the building, in the cafes, everywhere! I just hadn’t thought or believed that it really was a thing. But I guess it’s just another way of greeting one another.
  2. They talk REALLY FAST! Such that it takes me a couple of seconds to process what someone has just said to me, before I can respond, and I’m there momentarily confused and assistant is looking at me like, “she is not ok” but then I respond, and then dialogue continues.
  3. Contrary to what I was warned would happen. They don’t all instantly speak English to you if you’re super confused or slightly hesitant. So that’s a huge relief and I hope that continues because I want to speak as much German as possible. I think the only place where they spoke English to me was in the phone shop, when I wanted sim card, and that was probably a good thing because I have not a clue how to ask for a sim-card in German.
  4. Also contrary to what I was told, all the people I’ve met are really really helpful! When I first arrived, I was understandably confused, and bewildered and half-asleep – getting up at 4am for a flight does that to you. So the first person I asked for help was very lovely, and reassured me that yes, my ticket was valid. The next person, was also really lovely and said bye to me when she got off at her stop of the U-Bahn. When I was in Starbucks and didn’t know where to go, the staff in there were also really helpful. When I couldn’t find something in the supermarket, someone pointed that it was over in that direction, when I ended looking in the wrong place, they came over and pointed at the item I needed. Maybe I have just been really fortunate in my first week, but it made a good impression on me.
  5. Vienna isn’t as busy as I anticipated it to be. Perhaps because I know how busy London is, and for some reason I thought that Vienna, being a capital city and also incredibly beautiful, would also be rather busy. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Also there are shops everywhere, which is great, because it means you don’t have to go to a specific place in order to buy something.
  6. However, being a capital city and being Vienna, things are that bit more expensive, especially when I compare it with what I was paying for my food in the markets and restaurants in Russia.
  7. I’ll end on a positive note. The architecture is STUNNING! The buildings are so unbelievably beautiful. And I also cannot get over just how tall some of the buildings are, it makes you feel so small because some of the buildings are just so grand.

 

I hope you have all had a lovely week! I better not make any promises, but I’ll try to post again in a week or so, we’ll see how it goes!

 

Also if anyone of you has been to Vienna or Austria and would like to give me some suggestions on good places to visit, or cafés to try out than let me know!

Loft Project Etagi – Husky Festival

Loft Project Etagi (Лофт Проект ЭТАЖИ) is an art space in the centre of St. Petersburg. There are a few eateries, every so often there are different exhibitions on the various floors, and it’s one of the few places here where you are able to legally able to walk around the roof top and view the skyline of the city.

Фестиваль Хаски – Saturday 12th November

Over the weekend there has been a “Husky Festival” happening at the Loft Project, and when I found out about this, I couldn’t resist going. It was a lot more crowded than I anticipated, but what do you expect when they have real huskies available for petting  ❤

For an entrance fee of 100 rubles you were given access to the exhibition, a postcard of a husky and little pieces of paper so that you could vote for your favourite husky picture.

picture of the white husky was my favourite
img_20161113_193041
I’m not you lapdog
img_20161113_193244
so fluffyyyy
img_20161113_212128
just majestic
such beautiful eyes!

I am so glad that I went to this event. What struck me was how the huskies were simultaneously so chill and calm, and so alert. Also, their fur is unbelievably soft and their eyes are just gorgeous!

My only suggestion for improvement. More huskies and less people.

Reading Week – Helsinki

Having had our hopes of travelling abroad during reading week diminished by the lack of returned passports, we were pleasantly surprised when they came back just in time for us to book a semi-spontaneous trip to Helsinki and then on to Tallinn.

Day 1 – St. Petersburg to Helsinki

I got up super duper early on Wednesday morning in order to make the 6.40am train to Helsinki.

20161102_053934

It meant getting on one of the first metros of the day, which was kind of strange. We arrived in Helsinki at around 9am Finnish time with the whole day ahead of us, but also with heavy rucksacks on our backs. And so obviously the first thing we did was get coffee and croissants. They’re just not the same in Russia. And it was a no brainer for me to order a chai latte at the first opportunity (my ultimate weakness).

20161102_092556

20161102_102049

When we left the main station it had begun to snow pretty heavily so we walked around in the hope of finding somewhere warm and dry and interesting, which is when we stumbled across the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum.

img_20161102_171330

It’s a very interesting museum/gallery and had some thought provoking exhibits, such as an exhibition titled “After the Turmoil” http://www.kiasma.fi/en/exhibitions-events/meeri-koutaniemi-arman-alizad/ which brings to question how one moves on and carries on living a normal life after a traumatic upbringing or traumatic event occurs in their lives.

 

20161102_121312

Then, in an attempt to find the bus station to go to the hostel, we were blown around in the snow and sent around and around in circles by the signs, until we finally figured out that we needed to walk a distance from the actual central bus station, in order to find our bus stop. We were so glad to be able to collapse onto our beds in the hostel after such a chilly, snowy and busy day!

img_20161102_172355

And what would be more suited than finding the local Chinese cuisine and enjoying the authentic dishes for dinner. I went to bed content with tofu, satay sauce and jasmine tea in my stomach.

 

Day 2 – Helsinki

When we woke up on Thursday morning, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and we’d bought croissants the previous day so we were sorted for breakfast. It had snowed even more that night, and everything was coated in this layer of icing-like snow.

20161103_085639

After taking the bus a little way into town, we got off and upon seeing a cute stationary shop, we felt obliged to go in and pay them a visit.

20161103_112613

We then found our way to the Sibelius monument. We felt like children in the snow, because it was just so unbelievably beautiful.

20161103_113123

img_20161104_082108

After admiring the monument for a suitable amount of time, we made our way towards the city centre, where we stumbled across the Finnish Museum of Natural History, not before pausing at another cute cafe for a delicious pecan and caramel cookie and of course, a chai latte again.

20161103_121104

20161103_121047

If you’re ever in Helsinki, the museum is well worth a visit. Admittedly all of the information is in Finnish and Swedish, so we didn’t really understand anything, but it is still impressive! And I did learn one thing because someone kindly translated what was written about the now extinct “sea cow”.

img_20161104_083537
fancy staircase
Sea Cow
Furuhjelm’s Sea Cow – One of the most complete skeletons of the extinct Stellar’s sea cow

20161103_143248

After that museum we took a walk around the city, and looked at the various points of interest, and after much walking and walking we found a delicious sushi restaurant. Safe to say that day two was a good day.

20161103_163350

20161103_162925

img_20161104_084322

img_20161104_085012

img_20161104_090602

Day 3 – Helsinki…

As it was our last day in Helsinki, we had to be checked out by eleven, meaning that we carried around our luggage for the whole day, but it was nonetheless a good day. We spent the time we had left in Helsinki walking around, looking at buildings that we hadn’t seen before, and then we made our way to the ferry terminal, not before finding some cool graffiti!!!

img_20161104_151928

So that’s all for Helsinki, my top five suggestions or tips if you’re going to be visiting Helsinki are:

  1. Figure out how the public transport system works either before you go or as soon as you get there – there is a transport office in the basement of the main station with lots of information leaflets.
  2. The Finnish Museum of Natural History – you won’t be disappointed.
  3. Walking around the city is great for orientating yourself, and you see so much more than getting the bus everywhere
  4. When you’re in a cafe with WiFi, check your route to your next destination and make all of the screenshots, because the WiFi in a lot of the shopping malls doesn’t work.
  5. If you’re a student, ask if they have a student discount for items, because we were told a bit too late that a lot of places do really good discounts for students, so it’s worth an ask.

The next installment will be about Tallinn! It is so beautiful there and I can’t wait to share with you the pictures from the Old Town.

Ziferburg – Цифербург

Ziferburg: noun a very German sounding name, a difficult place to find, very pleasant to work in, well worth the twenty minute hunt for exactly the right place.

In my last post I mentioned that in one of our guide books, a cafe named Ziferburg was supposed to be opposite Gvostiny Dvor, but on my explorations I discovered that the location had run into disuse. I also mentioned that online, they apparently had relocated, and on Tuesday, Kelly and I made it our mission to hunt down this place and try it out.

img_20160914_220144

First of all, I feel you should know that it was honestly one of the most challenging places to find yet. The address given on their website is indeed correct, but the actual cafe is in a building that isn’t well signed, and it is on the first floor (in English terms)/second floor (in Russian terms), and then when you get to that floor you have to distinguish between two different cafes and various other rooms!

We made it in the end. The person behind the till explained to use exactly how the place worked, and we got to choose our own clock as a way of identifying us, then all we had to do was ask for a latte, pick somewhere to sit and start working.

img_20160914_002757

The atmosphere in the room which we were in was kind of strange. There were a group of people conducting a sort of photo shoot, but very quietly. There were another group of four people playing a card game in one corner. And then there were people sat out on the mini balconies just chatting. Then there were others, who like us had brought work to do and were sat very studiously scribbling away at whatever assignment had fallen their way.

img_20160914_220341

In the two hours that we were there I had a latte, a couple of biscuits – which were pretty nice – and then in the last hour, the cafe staff broke out a watermelon, which we accompanied with some herbal tea – I went for green tea, whilst Kelly went for a hibiscus tea (каркаде).

img_20160914_220005

Ten out of ten would definitely go back there again of an afternoon. It’s a great way to break up the day after having classes all day, and to rewind, get the homework done, but also chat and relax a little, without the constant pressure that someone might want your seat having bought some beverage slightly more recently that you.

Ah yes, I forgot to mention, that this cafe works on the basis of you pay for the amount of time you stay there. So you can help yourself to tea, ask for coffee or cocoa, and then also help yourself to the items of food that were on the table.

img_20160914_221927

I have added a link to their instagram page if you click on the word, because their website is rather confusing. There are a couple of linked cafes of the same style across Europe, and on the main website they list out the various towns which they are based in, so it will be interesting to visit the equivalent cafes but in the different countries at some point!

First Week in Russia

Just a catch up, so it might be a bit of a long one.

I’ve now been in Russia for a week! The weather is just as temperamental as I remembered, the Russian language is still hard to get your head around and the buildings are still just as beautiful!

The day we arrived was a beautifully hot day, so wearing a thick pink coat on the plane and then lugging a suitcase up and down subways was not a smart choice, but nonetheless one that I made and followed through.

view from aeroplane

The following two days it chucked it down with rain, but we started our university course in the buildings surrounding the stunning Smolny Cathedral.

Smolny Cathedral

At last on Wednesday, we had some beautiful weather so after lectures, it was nice to go out and explore the city a bit. Hopping on the metro is not a task for the uncertain. The acceleration and deceleration of the trains is enough to make you wonder if the train driver forgot that there’s a station coming up, but the speed of them is necessary for getting you from A to B in the least possible time. You just have to keep in mind that the escalators down to the platforms, although also very fast, they are incredibly long, and for some lines you have to even take two sets of escalators. It’s all worth it, because you come out of the metro station, and the building is pretty impressive.

IMG_20160901_000651

Ploshad Vosstaniya is at the Moscow Railway end of Nevsky Prospect, and is a stone throw away from Galeria, a huge shopping mall that’s almost always packed full of people. Having visited there on Thursday for a few essentials, we made our way home, picking the worst time: rush hour.

 

Then on our day off from lectures, we visited Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and saw the graves of many famous Russia people such as Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky.

IMG_20160902_155634

IMG_20160902_160538

And of course, what graveyard would be complete without the pensive cat…

IMG_20160902_163242
“Why don’t I have a map of the graveyard??? Now I’ve got to read all of the stones!!!!”

Just around the corner from the graveyard, was the actual monastery and they did some bell ringing for nearly twenty minutes, which started off quite nice and pleasant but after a while, it kind of felt like you were in some really intense movie with a really huge scare coming up, so I wasn’t such a huge fan of that.

This is already a pretty long post, so I’ll wrap this up here. We did visit Peterhof on Saturday, but I’ll post a little later the pictures from that stunning place of many many fountains and much much gold.. wow