Appreciating the Arts in Russia

Aug 21, 2019

by Emily Carbo '20

Back in May, seven FSC students, including me, and our chaperones began the journey for St. Petersburg, Russia. The trip took about 24 hours, starting from FSC traveling to Tampa, then to Germany and then to Russia.

Emily '20 in front of the Catherine Palace.
Emily Carbo '20 in front of the Catherine Palace.

The flight was a little rough for me, as the longest I have ever flown is about four hours. In comparison, the plane ride from Tampa to Germany was about 9-10 hours. After such a long trip, I hadn't realized I was in Russia until the cold air hit my face and I heard no English. I admit that it scared me a little, knowing I would be completely lost without our translator.

Before arriving to St. Petersburg, I had no idea how much of the arts it had to offer. Throughout the trip, we visited the Catherine Palace, the Peterhof Palace, Peter and Paul’s Fortress, the Church of the Spilled Blood, a few cathedrals, the Hermitage, ballets, an opera, and a few Russian restaurants.

Each location was quite beautiful and all the walking was worth it. In each place, I had to interact and converse with the Russian natives. That was a serious problem as they always assumed I was Russian and in many cases, they did not speak English. I managed to communicate by pointing at pictures or writing numbers. It was an eye-opening experience because, in the USA — especially Florida, there are so many tourists who do not speak English.

This whole experience changed my view of the world by forcing me to be open-minded and learn to adjust quickly. I knew no one would learn English for me, and instead, I had to learn some basic Russian phrases.

The Nikolayevsky Palace.
The Nikolayevsky Palace.

I also learned to recognize symbols and compare the Russian alphabet to the English Alphabet. By this, I mean that the Russian “P” is read like the English “R” and the Russian “C” is read like the English “S”. Slowly, I could read certain Russian words and therefore figure out where I am. The word that was the most important is “PECTOPAH” — or "restaurant" — as that is where the food is.

The food was an interesting experience as I found few traditional Russian restaurants. We found a Gregorian, Chinese, and a Mexican restaurant, but of course, with a Russian spin. As a chicken lover, I tried to eat at least one dish with chicken at every restaurant and one thing I noticed is their dishes with chicken come dressed in thyme or rosemary. It was tasty but not something I am used to back at home.

Another dish Russia takes pride in is meat and potatoes with borsch. Borsch is a soup made from boiled and pureed beets, lard, and sour cream. I am not a beets fan so I did not try the dish, but the other students said it was delicious.

The folk show Emily '20 and other FSC students on the trip watched at the Nikolayevsky Palace.
The folk show at the Nikolayevsky Palace.

Another difference in the restaurant service is the way the food is cooked in the restaurants. In America, it is customary to keep all the food hot and crispy but not so much in Russia. I would see microwaves everywhere and did not understand why until I tasted the food. It was cooked but very cold, hence the microwaves. I found out that these restaurants had no intention of keeping the food warm. Once it was put on the buffet line, it stayed there until sold. I did not see heat lamps or candles and hot water keeping the food warm like in Wynee’s Bistro.

Toward the end of the trip, I could see myself living in Russia, as I had learned a bit of the language, I loved the weather, and the food is relatively cheap. I will admit though, I would miss my family and friends. Homesickness did hit after a while. Communicating with anyone back home was impacted by the seven-hour time difference. But I would love to return to Russia with family or friends.