Erasmus Oulu – Finland

Bernd Verhofstadt and Tom Mampaey

GRAND RUSSIA TRIP!

здравствуйте ! (zdrávstvujte)
This trip was absolutely amazing! I don’t know where to start! Unforgettable!
The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) organised this trip to give us the opportunity to go to RUSSIA in a safe, easy, instructive but mostly AWESOME way!

The planning was so full with amazing things that I can’t even articulate every -thing/day!
Prepare yourself for one hell of a blogpost, and prepare yourself even more for a load of information and pictures when I’m back in Belgium!

After all the paperwork was finally done and my international passport arrived at Helsinki I could step on the bus to Helsinki with a safe but excited feeling! When we had arrived at Helsinki I already had some nice new friends to go aboard the ferry/cruise to St. Pete!
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St. Petersburg


After a great night, and already some typical Russial cocktails, on-board the ferry we arrived in St. Pete where we had our first and very interesting tour of the city. St. Pete already had a great impact on me! What a beautiful city !!

I also went to a typical Russian dinner night (inc. Russian dance and music) and of course all the shots of vodka they drink with their meal! (You always have to make a toast for something when drinking alcohol at a meal  otherwise you are considered alcoholic).
St. Catherine palace was also soooo amazing, and so huge! There were strict rules and we even had to put protection over our shoes!  Also went to the 120 meter deep subway where you can take the metro for less than 20 cents!

Then also THE HERMITAGE! (WAUW!) What a huge (but seriously, very huge!) and beautiful museum! We walked around there  the whole day and we could only do a piece of the first floor (but we did the most interesting things).  Filled with amazing stuff like a statue of a peacock that moves mechanically depending on the hour of the day (early 16th century and still working!), amazing mozaieks, …  They say if you want to study every object in the Hermitage you could easily spend 10 years there (not hard to believe).

3D paintings from Leonardo da Vinci aren’t even very special here! Also some nice paintings with optical illusions! e.g.:

I also went to the famous and really beautiful Giselle Hermitage ballet. We really got silent of it.

And of course, we can’t forget that we are students (!) and we are in Russia! So we had a limosine-tour at night that stopped at the most beautiful places in St. Pete @night! After this the limo dropped us off at the biggest club of St. Pete (with three floors), but I’ll spare you (most of) the pictures of this 😀 (pictures are as hazy as the night was)

Novgorod


A free translation of ‘The new city’. An awesome fact about this city is that it rose more than 9 meters in the last years because they are always putting new layers of (wooden) streets, garbage, sand,… You can even find some houses and churches where you can only see the roof. This is also one of the places where a friend and I went to look for the ‘real Russia’, not the tourism parts, but really how the Russians live.

MOSCOW !


YEAHH! Moscow was sooo amazing and so huge (over 9 million inhabitants) ! Actually I can only show it with pictures! It was so amazing! Moscow started in the Kremlin (translated fortress) where Putin is working (not living, he lives 20 km’s further and goes to work by helicopter quite regularity). Next to the Kremlin there’s the beautiful ‘RED SQUARE’ with the St. Basil church(es because actually it is 9 churches in one), city-shop and there museum. Red square is called like this because beautiful (красивый) and red (красный) are very similar in Russian, that’s also the reason why they wear red wedding dresses.
Putin really is a hero here, you can feel that everywhere and in the Kremlin he also made his own rules like you can only walk on that color of stones (and policemen are watching you strictly for this).  The most beautiful subway of the world is also really spectacular , it’s a museum on itself!

More info about some activities I did!

After Moscow we head back on the bus for a trip of 32 hours and lots of strict Russian border controls (yes, I was the one that was picked out) with only 2 bus-drivers (no guides) that didn’t speak one word English and had kind of a Russian temperament. So they dropped us way too far (refused to stop) but he stopped at the (really really really, 5 times more really) CHEAP tax-free shop at the Russian border!! I sure got my ingredients for my Black and White Russian cocktail!

I can tell you so much more about this trip and I have so many more photographs to show you back in Belgium! Russia is such an amazing country and it really is much more peaceful than I expected. I understand that there can be some disagreements but you really should have been there to feel how it really is. OK, I saw some monkeys on chains (really sad), guns and knives sold on the streets, they smile with their harts instead of their faces and they may get really angry real quick if you are trying to get something of the price. But after-all it’s such an amazing and beautiful country and they really are kind people! I had such a “safe” and blissful feeling there!

Really a trip that I will never forget! I will end with a nice quote of our awesome guide:

"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!"
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Tom • 26 april 2015


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