Dorry in advance, but yhis post is very jumpy. I took notes as ee went placed today and ss our guide told ud yhings. I cannot format on this at all so you get what you gey until zi hsve time on a resl computrr. Today wss day one in St. Petrrsburg and it wss quite a day. Apartments are very expensive. 22 room apartments are common but they house 50 people with one bathroom and one kitchen. Each family has their own toilet seat hanging on the wall that they pull doing when using the toilet. Nesting dolls are called ‘Babushkas.’ Alexander Nevsky was a Russian war hero by 20 years old. I don’t know what war, but we heard his name a lot today and Alexander is the most popular male nsme in Russia. St. Petersburg has changed names multiple times. It was last changed in the 1990s, though it used to be called that once or twice before. We drove past Egyptian sphinxs, about eight feet long, that are 3000 years old. We drove past where Pavlov did his famous experiments. Economy and law are currently popular to study. Students have to pass five exams to get free courses and a living stipend. If you don’t, then your parents have to pay and you take night classes and work during the day to help pay. It costs $2000 per semester for popular classes and $1000 per semester for other classes. The average monthly salary is $800 per month.Teachers make $250 per month. A Laga is a local car that is cheap so many drive it. We drove across the lover’s bridge where couples throw a key into the water. I’m a sucker for lover’s bridges. It costs more money for forgeiners for education, theater, museums, etc. because we have substationally higher incomes. Middle class makes up 40% and upper class makes up 10%. We drove past an impressive dark red building that is a jail that is 100 years old. I think the guide told us that it holds 10000 prisonets but they want to shut it down and turn it into a 5 star hotel. It does look like it would be something fancy and it sits right on the wide river. The guide said that she needed $100 to live on each month, 20 years ago. Now she needs $3000 per month to live. 100-3540 We drove past a bridge was designed by the same person who designed the Eiffel tour. People lived in a communal flat until 1991. Then they could own there room for free (at least, I think that’s what she said. She was a good guide but I didn’t quite catch everything). There are 35 sunny days per year in Russia and a third of the days it rains. They call June the ‘white nights’ because there are 23 hours of light. January is called the ‘dark days’ because it is light out from 11am to 3 pm. Russian Orthodox is the most common religion. The church was stunning. I am at a loss for words. It was such a beautiful, peaceful experience. We were there during a service. They drew a rope across the back quarter to let tourists view it. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, which I am disappointed about because it was incredible and I want to remember every detail but I was grateful to have to stop and take it all in. The whole building smelled of incense and it was lit by 100s of candles. There were about eight men who were a part of the service. They sang in deep voices and eore fancy, heavy looking robes. There were no seats so people stood spread out around the ornate pillars and the candlesticks. The eldery did not sit either but they leaned against the pillars or held onto the railing around the pillars. I don’t think that they sang along or did any call and response but they frequently did the sign of the cross. All of the prayers and readings (I’m assuming, since I don’t know Russian) was all sang by one of the religious clergy man, but not the one who was dressed the most fancily. It was beautiful and magical and calming. I feel so blessed to have gotten to experience it. I did take pictures of the outside. It was fabulous- a large sky blue building with bright white molding and cherubs over the windows. Then we went to a cemetery that holds famous Russians such as Dyvoyeksy and Tchsikosky (I realize that those are probably incredibly butchered, but sound them out and you’ll know who I’m talking about). Then we headed to the Hermitage museum. It was one of the former palaces (apparently there are many) and it was filled with art, originally by Catherine the great. Tangent- wouldn’t it be fun to have ‘the great’ after your name? And, female czars are called ‘czarinas,’ my new favorite word. Okay, bsck yo the Hermitage. The outside is a beautiful white and green, but the inside architecture was stunning. Every ceiling was so beautiful and ornate. There were tons of chandeliers (another thing that I’m a sucker for- chandeliers). We saw works by Renior, Rembrandt, VanGogh, Matisse and others. We saw some pieces from the 1400s. The Hermitage is so large that it would take NINE years to see every work of art. It sounds like they are all on display, but they house the most popular ones together. There were many religious pieces and I always love the ones of the Madonna and Child the best. After that, we returned to the hotel. This hotel buffet has the least amount of food, but probably the best quality. So, there’s day one of Russia. It’s already been incredible and I am excited to see the rest of the country. I will likely not have internet until we land in Germany on Sunday. Lori, I think that you are reading this… will you call Caroline and let her know that we are arriving in SD on Sunday night at about 10:30? I will call her from the D.C. airport to confirm. Love from St. Petersburg Oops, I wrote more. Sorry it is so out of order! A little moe: On May 9th, the Russians were victorious over Hitler. Millions off Russians died during WWII so it is a big celebration. We saw the last practice before the big parade on the 9th. It was awe inspiring. There were 100s of Russian soldiers lined up and the military band played. They were waving the flag and driving military vehicles. It was an amazing sight and another thing that we were do lucky to experience. There were over 400 churches before the Communist government but only 10 after. In the last 20 years they have gotten back up to 200. Random fact, I think that there has been an Irish bar in every country that I’ve ever been in. We even found one in Egypt and there is very little drinking there. Our guide said that people often pray to St. Nicolas for their prayers to come true. I’m guessing thay he is the country’s patron saint.