Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Petersburg Pt. 5

St Petersburg, Russia
Sunday, January 10, 2016

We were both relieved that we woke up alive the next morning. We walked over to Peter and Paul Fortress. It was a long walk for how cold it was, but I'm sure it would be nice in the summer. It was really cool to see the frozen river though. There were a lot of people on the ice and every time we saw them we would imagine what it would be like to fall through.

I liked Peter and Paul Fortress because it's where the Romanov family is buried.When I was in 9th grade I loved learning about the Romanov's and the Russian Revolution so it was really cool to finally be in a place that has history. When we left the church we were really too cold to see much more so we decided to leave and head somewhere else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

St. Petersburg Pt. 4

St Petersburg, Russia
Saturday, January 9, 2016

Durning the last few days I had kept my eye out for prices of souvenirs in the area because I knew I wanted to buy some. We first walked to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood to look at the souvenirs, but they stalls weren't open yet so we just walked to St. Isaac's Cathedral. Some advice: only buy tickets to see the views from the top. Don't buy it to see inside the church. The inside was beautiful and it kept us out of the cold for a little bit, but it wasn't worth it. Although, they will give you a discount with an ID. The views were spectacular and I felt like I was in a book. It's also kind of scary though seeing the view down to the bottom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

St. Petersburg Pt. 3

Pushkin, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Friday, January 8, 2016

We spent Friday by taking a day trip to Pushkin. We felt like we accomplished something by navigating the metro and bus system to get there. On the way we stopped by a Lenin statue and I was so excited to add another selfie to my #selfiewithvlad collection. The first place we visited was Catherine's Palace. I, honestly, wouldn't suggest going on the tour. It was really pretty, and it's awesome to see how they are restoring it, but the tour was in Russian, and it was super quick. Although, I would suggest bringing a college student ID with you because sometimes you can still get in to museums in St. Petersburg for a cheaper price. Sometimes!

Katherine said that the grounds are really pretty, but it was just too cold to walk around. Plus, there wasn't much to see since it was winter. I think it would be a good trip just to walk in the parks in the spring and summer.

Monday, January 25, 2016

St. Petersburg Pt. 2

St Petersburg, Russia
Thursday, January 7, 2016

The first Thursday of every month it is free to get into the Hermitage. Since it was the first Thursday of the month we decided to go. Everyone says that would should just buy the tickets online and avoid the lines. I would definitely suggest that any other time of the month, or if it is SUPER cold. Also, unless you go really early, you risk the chance of not being let in for free because there are too many people. We decided to go early and wait in line. It was fine until my feet started getting cold. I am used to being cold, and it honestly I can handle it to a certain point. However, we were standing in line on top of snow for an hour and a half.

There is nothing worse than your feet getting cold. I had boots (granted, they weren't lined with any insulation) but they had a pretty thick sole and I was wearing two pairs of socks. When you're feet are cold there really isn't anything you can do. Katherine kept asking me if I wanted to leave and go somewhere warm, but I just kept saying "no," because I felt bad we had waited in line so long. However, I just kept getting colder and colder. I'm almost positive I legitimately experienced a mild form of hypothermia. I have never been so cold or experienced such a sensation in my life. I was shivering and shaking then at one point I just stopped, I sort of tuned out everything that was going on, I felt my body get super warm, and if I had closed my eyes I knew I would have passed out. Katherine said it looked like my eyes were going into the back of my head. It was a few minutes after that point that I realized I couldn't stand in that line anymore. I started crying a little bit because I just felt so awful. I definitely owe Katherine for that one. Since there were so many people waiting to go in it was going to take another 30-60 minutes and I knew I could handle it. My feet hurt so bad as we left. We ended up going to Шоколадница near the Hermitage to warm up. After drinking tea and hot chocolate we decided to just buy tickets online because it wasn't worth dying from hypothermia. ;) But I do consider that my 5 year story.

We still had to wait inline a little bit but not nearly as long as we did the first time. People kept trying to cut in front of other people. It was such a mess. Eventually, we got in, and at that point they were only letting those people who bought tickets into the museum. The museum was so beautiful, and as you can tell I was fascinated by the ceilings!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

St. Petersburg Pt.1

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Two days after I got back from Madrid my friend, Katherine, and I made a trip to St. Petersburg. The only city I have ever been to in Russia was Ufa (I never even had a layover in Moscow or St. Petersburg), so I was really excited to experience a different city for a change. There are so many cities in Russia that I want to visit and St. Petersburg was definitely at the top. You just hear so many stories about how amazing it is, and I have to agree, it was REALLY amazing. Honestly, it's worth the hassle of getting a visa to visit. It is probably one of my favorite cities ever (and that's coming from someone who got hypothermia at the Hermitage). It was that great of a city.

Katherine and I woke up at 4:30 that morning and took a taxi to the airport. The flight was not too exciting, but I did see one of my students and we did have a layover in Moscow. That was pretty exciting... When we arrived in St. Petersburg we wanted to get a taxi through Rutaxi, but we couldn't figure out how to change the city, so we ended up just taking a taxi from the airport. DO NOT FOLLOW OUR MISTAKE. If you have a Russian number download Rutaxi onto your smart phone, or figure out another alternative. We took the taxi to our hostel, Apple Hostel. It was a nice hostel, with a good English-speaking staff, in a great location, but we had a really creepy roommate who I will talk about later.

Since we arrived around 12 pm we decided to decided to just walk around, and not really plan the day. St. Petersburg is SO cold. Everyone tells me that it's because it's so humid that it makes it feel so much colder. It honestly was the coldest I've ever been in my life. I suggest if you go in the winter that you bring good, warm boots, a decent winter coat, and a scarf and hat. Seriously though, spend the extra money on lined boots and wear double socks. Boots without any lining will not cover it. Although most things were cheaper and there wasn't a lot of tourists I wouldn't suggest visiting in the middle of winter. ;)

We first walked to the Church of our Savior on Spilt Blood because it was about a four minute walk from our hostel. This is definitely one of the iconic spots in Russia that you have to see. We didn't pay for the tour inside but it was just worth the look from the outside. Plus, when you are on Nevsky Prospekt you can see it and it's just so magnificent seeing it in the distance.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Madrid Pt. 7

Madrid, Spain
This is my last post for my Madrid trip, although I'm considering writing a post as a travel guide so I can have the links and suggestions all in one place. I don't know yet. I still have to edit all my photos from St. Petersburg. :(

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Catherine and I started the morning by taking Andazi for a walk. I felt bad because I was always lazy and would get ready for the day while she took the dog for a walk. On my last day I decided to be less lazy. ;) When we got back we cleaned the apartment a little bit because their landlady was coming over. I like to clean, so I didn't mind that they put me to work. (But to clarify, I offered to work).

Afterwards we went back to Las Ventas for a tour of the stadium. It was really interesting, but it was so cold! Not as cold as St. Petersburg though, which I will later learn. At one part of the tour I was sitting in the stadium and I looked down at the dirt. Someone wrote, "с новым годом," which means "Happy New Year" in Russian (you can see the picture below). It's kind of cool when you start learning a language and can see and understand it in an entirely different context. When the tour finished we spent a few minutes in the souvenir shop so we could warm up.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Madrid Pt. 6: New Years Day

Madrid, Spain
Friday, December 1, 2016

Once again most places were closed, including restaurants and stores. Catherine and I just walked around and saw a lot of outdoor things. She took me to Las Ventas, which didn't even cross my mind as something to see while in Spain. I actually wanted to go on a tour of the Royal Palace, but I decided to go to Las Ventas again because how often do you get to go on a tour of a bull fighting ring? Since it was closed on Friday, we just walked around and I took some pictures.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Madrid Pt. 5: New Years Eve

Madrid, Spain
Thursday, December 31, 2015 

I love Mexican food. Ever since I arrived in Russia I have been craving Mexican food. We decided to try a place out, but since it didn't open until 1 or 2 (Spanish eating habits are very different from what I'm used to) Catherine and I decided to pass time in the morning souvenir shopping. Afterwards, we met Ben at Tepic. Tepic was an amazing restaurant.  The food and decor were great! It was kind of pricey, but definitely worth the price. I'm not a foodie, and I usually like to eat at the cheapest places, but I'm glad we went here. Our waiter was really nice too, and he was from Mexico! If you happen to find yourself in Madrid and choose to eat at Tepic you must try their margarita. It's more of a smoothie and absolutely delicious. It was also very big!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Madrid Pt. 4: Segovia

Segovia, Spain
Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On Wednesday Catherine and I went to Segovia. She bought tickets on the fast train via Renfe which was worth the price since it wasn't much more and saved you about and hour and a half. Catherine and Ben said they have been debating how long to spend in Segovia, and I agree with them, you need about 4-5 hours max there. The town is really small, so you walk around really quickly, unless you're a foodie and want to try different restaurants.

When we arrived we packed into the bus that would take us from the train station to the city. The bus was packed! I was convinced I was going to fly out the door because I was standing right up next to it (you know in the area you aren't supposed to cross while the bus is in motion) and I didn't have anything to hold on to because there were too many people around. That meant I fell into Catherine one too many times. First, we stopped into Dunkin Donuts (or Dunkin Coffee as it's called in Spain) so I could get a muffin because I was super hungry. Then we walked around and I took pictures. The Aqueducts are so cool to see! It's impressive that they were built without any cement. The city was just so cute.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Madrid Pt. 3

Madrid, Spain
Tuesday, December 29, 2015

After walking through Retiro Park Ben left us because he wasn't feeling well, so Catherine took me on a walk around the city. In Madrid you need to pay to use most public bathrooms so we stopped at McDonalds and got some coffee while we were there. I'm convinced that McDonalds in Europe are 10 times nicer than the ones in America. Their interiors are so cool.

We walked to Sol and Plaza Mayor, and saw the giant Christmas tree they had up for the holidays. I think that is one of the perks of being in Europe in the winter, the decorations and lights are so pretty! One thing I was not expecting was the temperature. I just packed my jacket thinking that anywhere was warmer than Russia, but I should have packed my winter coat and scarf!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Madrid Pt. 2

Madrid, Spain
Monday, December 28, 2015

I left for Madrid early Monday morning, and like usual, I was worried about the taxi ride to the airport. I had to ask the driver, in Russian, if he had change, and that was the start of long trip speaking more Russian abroad than in Russia. I arrived at the airport and had to go through three security check points. THREE! Then the guy at passport control asked me in Russian if I spoke Russian, and I actually understood what he was asking.

I had a 3 hour layover in Istanbul, and not much happened. I don't get it. It's 2016 and airports still don't have free wifi. I guess it was good though because I spent time reading. I did manage to get wifi in a weird spot so I could message my cousin and tell her where I was at since I forgot to message her when I was leaving. I flew Turkish airlines, and I have to say that they are a pretty good airline! I highly suggest taking them if you get the chance. The food was really good, and they had a good selection of movies on my flight from Istanbul to Madrid. I think I watched The Martian. The lady next to me on my flight to Madrid only spoke Russian and I could say a few things to her, but I think she kept forgetting I didn't speak Russian because she kept talking to me. Luckily, the girl on the other side of me was Russian too so I just pointed over to her. I don't know how people can speak multiple languages. I just kept answering and speaking in Russian, even when my English speaking flight attendant asked me a question. This happened A LOT in Spain, even though my Spanish is a million times better than my Russian.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Madrid Pt. 1: Madrid Street Art

Madrid, Spain
My three favorite things to take pictures of are street art/graffiti, buildings, and abandoned places. While in Madrid we didn't realize every thing was going to be closed for New Years Eve and New Years Day. While we were sitting around on New Years Eve I looked up places for street art in Madrid and it happened to be right near where my cousin, Catherine, and her husband, Ben, live. So, we took the dog, Andazi, and went for a walk through the Malasaña neighborhood. These pictures were taken on two different days because it started to get dark, so I wanted to walk through again to retake some pictures with better lighting. I also really like some of the store fronts in the area so I took pictures of some of my favorites. The one good thing about everything being closed was that you could see a lot of the art on the window coverings that you would not have seen if it was open.
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