06 August 2011

CRF: Russia

"CRF" is not a crime show you've never heard of, it stands for "Cutting Room Floor." Below are some of our favorite pics that never made the blog. We figured we'd reminisce a little while we're home for a visit. (Back in Europe August 16th).
Udelnaya Fair in Saint Petersburg is one of the most photogenic places we've ever been. Everything there, inanimate and animate, was intriguing. At the time, we were bummed that picture taking was unwelcome - something we understood through the hints thrown at us by vendors with varying levels of adamancy. Even still, we managed to click more than we could use in our post about the market.
Most of our time in Russia was bleak (weather wise) and the majority of our memories are snow covered. At the market, some vendors packed snow into the shape of a table and threw their inventory right on top. Every now and then, you'd see a doll's head or antenna poking through some freshly fallen snow. None of it seemed to deter people from coming to sell, buy, swap and mingle. I suppose, it's silly to think that they wouldn't just be used to this sort of thing.
To get out to Udelnaya we took the metro, which was an experience in and of itself. Open since 1955, the Saint Petersburg underground is the 13th busiest in the world. More impressive than the volume is the depth. We boarded this escalator to go down to the train and kept going and going...and going... and going. Video screens provided some eye candy for your journey, along with the optical illusion of watching people move diagonally in the opposite direction. The stations in the city are particularly deep (the deepest is 105 meters below ground) because, during the Cold War, they were made to double as bomb shelters. That, combined with the Stalinist architecture and sheer size of the stations make the metro sort of mind blowing.
Above ground, it continued to snow. Our time in Russia was limited to Saint Petersburg, due to our Russian language class and, yet, we still don't feel like we have a real grasp on the city. The icy sidewalks, which women traversed in stilettos with remarkable skill, made it difficult to move around and cyrillic alphabet kept our noses in the books. It would be nice to revisit it defrosted.
Yes, we went to Russia in January knowing full well that it would be Russian in January. So, we really can't complain about the extreme cold or white landscape. We were there for the Russian Orthodox Christmas., which wasn't celebrated all that much but did keep the Christmas markets open a little longer. After some cozyness with our families at home, we arrived just in time for it - and since carols and hot alcohol (wine and beer) are perfect cures for the doldrums, we were happy for the holiday extension.
As soon as the day passed, the breakdown began. People pulled their struggling vehicles into the area which had been closed to traffic for weeks and loaded their trunks. The sheds were stripped of their wrapping paper and, just like that, the city resumed its regularly scheduled programming.
Once it was all cleared away, the all-year street vendors looked a little lonesome. Fewer people walked up to their crowded little windows for fruit or a pastry or a beer. They just shuffled by toward the nearest subway station - the holidays all packed up and put back in the attic until next year.
And then there were the pigeons.

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