A Final Word

  I took a Russian literature course in college taught by a visiting professor from what was then the USSR. With an authoritarian teaching style that was a marked contrast to the American liberal arts approach I’d become accustomed to, he interrogated us with questions like, “What’s the one word to describe Raskolnikov?” A student brave enough to posit an answer was pronounced, “WRONG.” I sat in silence, fearing humiliation and fuming at the poetic injustice of a question that […]

The Fountain of Bakhchisarai

  We saw “The Fountin of Bakhchisarai” at the Mariinski Theater in St. Petersburg, a ballet based on an 1823 narrative poem by Pushkin. The ballet debuted in 1934 in the same theater, which was then called the Kirov (and St. Petersburg was called Leningrad).  Alison, Mark, and Shaw have already posted vivid descriptions of the opulent theater and the gorgeous ballet. I’m adding on in an attempt to capture a thought-provoking conversation with Alison the next day. One of the great benefits of traveling with Davidson professors […]

We’re in St. Petersburg

  We took the high speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg this morning. Maybe it was the smooth traveling, the precipitous drop in temperature (from high 80s to high 40s), or the delicious lunch we had a cafe Amanda took us to when we got here, but we were quite giddy in the van on the way to our apartment. The driver told Irina (in Russian) that we were a “joyful group”: “you ladies are a fun bunch, so […]

Pushkiniana: “that’s a story”

  Our Moscow guide speaks excellent English, with a delightfully idiosyncratic vocabulary. He speaks of “impudent” paintings and “violet” buildings in the skyline. As we approach the White House, he quips, “the closer you get to the government, the more forbidding the signs.” He’s studied English all his life, but he acquired his marvelous vocabulary from an elderly Englishman who hired him to teach him Russian in the early 1990’s, when the USSR had dissolved and Russia was opening up […]

Moscow’s Wide Streets

Here’s picture of the building we (the women in the group) are staying in, taken from across the street. Further down, you can see the Foreign Ministry, one of the “Seven Sisters” buildings constructed under Stalin, which we affectionately call the Ministry of Magic. You can also see that the boulevard is extremely wide, with several lanes of traffic in each direction. To cross the boulevard, you have to walk to a corner with an underpass. This boulevard is one […]

Museum Feet

Today we had a great day of museum going, starting with a four-hour guided tour of the State Central Museum of Contemporary Russian History.  Here we are outside the museum. After lunch at a nearby cafe, several of us decided to forgo the Metro and walk along tree-lined boulevards to the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum. We went to the twentieth century building, which was the perfect sized museum, the fine arts equivalent of Alison’s ideal play length–70 minutes without intermission. […]

Women and Self-Fashioning in Moscow

  Amanda had warned us that women in Russia tend to dress up and dress fashionably. When we first got to Moscow, I didn’t notice the difference, because I was distracted by the wide variety of fashion, ranging from elegant dresses to jeans and even shorts. I couldn’t detect any dress code. But the more I people-watched, the more I was struck by the care and attention the women devoted to fashion and grooming. The high standards were most clear […]

“Everybody is wrong”

  In the weeks prior to our trip to Russia, the political crisis in Ukraine was front page news.  US coverage of the tensions between Russia and the Ukraine led me to believe that: Most Ukrainians desired independence from Russia. Aside from right-wing hard-liners, most Russians were (secretly) aghast at Putin’s despotic machinations (even if they are afraid to admit it publicly). Russians were as preoccupied with the East-West conflict as we were, if not more anxious and dismayed. Now […]

At Charlotte Douglas Airport

We are at the airport, reviewing our updated itinerary, learning key words like “mozhno,” and figuring out how to log into our blog. I also followed Mark Sutch’s lead and ordered a green apple salad, which is beckoning me, so this post will be short. I’m relaxed enough now to register my excitement about the trip to come.