Saturday, June 17, 2006


Friday was nearly as cool as Thursday's adventures in the storage area. I woke up ridiculously early to meet the other art students at their dorm (it takes me about an hour to get there from my dorm), then we all got on a bus and drove for three hours to the city of Novgorod. Novgorod was once a capital of Russia, and its historic area has one of the largest concentrations of early orthodox churches in the country. This is because it's locations high in the European plains of Northwest Russia made it difficult for the Mongolians to attack, so it survided their invasion centuries ago. And though a lot of the city was destroyed during WWII, many of the early churches are still standing, and you can still see a lot of ancient icons and frescoes. I can't remember the names of all the churches we visited, but it was definitely awesome. One of them wasn't an operational church anymore, but they were excavating (I think that's the right word for what they were doing) inside, and we got to go in and see the frescoes that they had uncovered. Theodoros the Greek was documented as the artist commissioned for the frescoes, and it was neat to see them uncovering some of the more important images in Russian art history.
We also visited the Museum of Popular Wooden Architecture, which is this open-air museum where they've gathered together a bunch of examples of wood churches and houses from the 16th to the 19th century. They built these buildings without a single nail! It was awesome.
From there we walked across the river to the Novgorod Kremlin and visited the Museum of Russian Icons. That was really cool - they had the oldest surviving icon on display.
There was so much to see in Novgorod - we only spent 8 hours there, but we saw so much. And I felt like we got a lot of behind-the-scenes view of some of these places.
Hopefully the rest of our excursions will be as cool as this one! We still have a trip to Moscow in a few weeks (that will be a full weekend) and trips to Peterhof and a couple of other places. Everyone needs to visit this city at some point - it is simply fantastic.
Now I'm off to watch an airshow - the Red Bull plane is supposed to be flying here tonight!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"what a difference a day makes" part two

This afternoon totally made up for yesterday's mess. First of all, I sort of figured a way out of my scheduling nightmare (though I'll have to wait til Monday to make it official since no one here seems to think it necessary to hold regular office hours). The problem is that I was somehow signed up for about 24 hours worth of classes. Hmmmm, not this little Texan. I'm going to switch to a 6-hour independent language study class for the remainder of the art program, and then join a 20-hour group class for the last four weeks of my stay in St. Petersburg.
After clearing up that mess, I headed to the Hermitage for today's class - French Art of the late 19th and early 20th century. I was sort of expecting it to be a bit tiresome, seeing as how that's not my favorite period of art history. But it was fantastic, on a number of levels. First, we spent two hours up in the painting galleries with Misha, one of the curators for French art. It's funny to hear someone say, "We only have 6 of van Gogh's paintings." That seems like a lot to me. Of course, they have 15 Gaugains of display and even more by Matisse. It was really neat walking through with someone who knew the different phases that each artist went through and how they influenced one another. We took a break for lunch (yay for beef stroganoff), then Misha took us down into the print storage facility to look at a bunch of rare lithographs and other prints from the same period. WOW! We spent a good two and half hours down there. Interestingly enough, while the Hermitage has a great Impressionist collection, they have no paintings by Eduoard Manet - they only have a bunch of prints, all of which we got to see. He showed us the original prints Manet made to illustrate Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, as well as art books by Matisse and other famous artists. I could have spent much more time in there, but I think we may have zapped Misha of all energy.
I'm so glad I skipped my language class today to come to what I thought would be another routine day in the museum. But suprises are everywhere!
Tomorrow we're heading to Novgorod for the day. It should be a nice little daytrip.
I'm in the process of loading pictures on flickr right this minute, so check that out too.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stupid people ruin my day again...

Against my better judgement, I feel the need to update my blog, seeing as how I've not been doing a very good job of communicating with everyone back home.
This weekend was pretty calm. I didn't get to the university in time to register on Friday, so they told me to wait until Tuesday (because Monday was a national holiday and everyone was gone). That left me with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs until then. Soooo, I did what I have been doing the whole trip when I have time to kill - I wandered about the city. I figured out which bus to take to get to Nevsky Prospekt (their version of Fifth Avenue), and it just happens to be the same one that goes to the University from the dorm. I walked the entire length of the street (not a short walk) and back, then found out how to get to the museum and the Youth Center and all the other places I need to go while I'm here. I even found a good book store that sells books in English.
Tuesday morning I was supposed to meet up with the rest of the group at their dorm (why I'm in a different one I still haven't figured out) at 10 am. Nastya met me at the metro station (FYI - don't take the St. Petersburg metro during rush hour) and showed me how to get to the dorm. Then we all hopped on a bus for a riding tour of the city's architecture. It was like having class on wheels. It was sort of fun, but I think we all got a little bit overheated. There was no air conditioning on the bus and the sun was very bright. After that I had to split off from the group again and head back to the University to continue my mission to get registered. The associate dean was back from the holiday and told me to go take a language assessment and take the results to another office to get into the right class. I did this, but the lady said I could only be in the class that meets at 12.50 each day. Completely impossible, since my art classes don't start until 11 am and usually last a few hours. And when would I eat lunch?
I tried to go back to the dean this morning, but the lady told me he wouldn't be in until 11, and I had a class at the Hermitage at 10. I went to the art class, then left early to go to the language class, and by the time that let out, the dean had already left for the day. His secretary told me he won't be in tomorrow until noon - and I have two classes at that time! I can't be in two places at once, much less three, so I have no idea what I'm going to do. I left there and headed to the Youth Center (to check my mail and what not) and there I ran into Elena (the program coordinator here in St. Petes). She freaked out when I told her my story and that I hadn't eaten anything but a slice of pizza (last night) in the last two days. She sent me straight to a cafe with a promise to help me fix things up afterwards. Hmmmm. I guess I need to find her again.
Confused yet? Not nearly as much as I am, I assure you.
What am I doing?
I have faith that things will work out, I just don't know why they have to be so complicated.
I'll try and keep everyone up to date on how it turns out.
Oh, and I'm going to buy a cell phone sometime this week, so you can all call me. :-D