Saturday, January 28, 2012


Our new Consul General invited the Consulate to accompany him on a tour of Lenfilm back in December. Lenfilm, for those who don't know (I didn't) is a film studio in Petersburg that was basically Russian Hollywood. Every important movie was filmed there, and even actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda came through a few times. The studio only shoots about one movie a year itself, but its space, sets, props etc are used continually by other studios.

Terry can probably add more but I'll just finish with a few photos of the place.

The set of Sherlock Holmes (his study of course)

Original old films and some of the stars showcased in them (photos above)

Props, for when you need just the right old typewriter

Monday, January 16, 2012

Peter the Great's Original "Palace"

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day Terry and I decided to do a bit of touristing. One place we'd been meaning to see was Peter the Great's Summer Cottage, and as part of the Russian Museum it is open on Mondays (most museums are not).

I hadn't done my homework so I didn't realize the cottage was literally entirely enclosed in an "outer" brick building so I was surprised when Terry pointed it out and said it was the one (the cottage was made of wood).

Observation #1: The place is super, duper tiny. It's 3 small rooms, constructed in 3 days - although Terry noted there must have been many days beforehand spent cutting the lumber.

Observations #2: For the Russian price of 70 rubles it was totally worth seeing. For the foreigner price of 200 rubles, I'd have given it a skip.

We hadn't paid for the "photos permitted" ticket so I just got a couple of shots of the outside.

After the museum it was lunch time. We pretty much stumbled upon Troitsky Most, a restaurant that's been on the Consulate list of recommended restaurants forever and we never gave it much thought. It is vegetarian, so I thought Terry might not want to stay but he did and ... YUM. He even liked my mushroom plov. We'll definitely go back whenever life takes me to the Petrograd side.

Friday, January 13, 2012

the kindness of strangers

Russia observes New Year plus Orthodox Christmas over the first 9-10 days of January, depending on the location of weekends. When the host government is closed, generally, US Embassies and Consulates are closed too. So, we just had a great week's vacation without having to use annual leave.

Relatively early in the long week, I dropped my Russian identification card (my diplomatic ID). It isn't tragic - it meant I had to carry around my diplomatic passport for identification and when the Consulate re-opened apply for a new card. Carrying the passport is a bit of a hassle and a stress as pickpocketing is the most likely crime any foreigner is likely to encounter here.

In the morning of the first day back I get a phone call at the Consulate. The woman speaks Russian so my instinct, as usual, is that she has the wrong number. But I focus my attention on figuring out what she's saying and - yep - she found my card. She can meet me the following day to return it to me. At one point, when I couldn't understand the name of the metro station she was saying and I mentioned the station closest to my house to give her context on which line I would take, she said she was comfortable coming to my station. (!!!) When we met, she was exactly on time.

What I said to her as I thanked her profusely was that in the USA, nobody would have done what she did. Then I wondered if I was being jaded about my own country or just realistic. Then I read this Washington Post story.

My inverate skeptic

This Christmukkah Terry and I participated in a form of "direct charity" via a blog I have come to love, Rants from Mommyland ( The gist was that mothers in need wrote to the bloggers, and people who wanted to help also wrote in, and we were matched up. We sent store gift cards in whatever denomination we felt comfortable giving. It was a total exercise in trust and faith, perfect for the holiday season.

My husband is a skeptic and that's being gentle. Our compromise was that I'd sign up to help 2 people and we'd send each half of what I really wanted to send - that way we were a bit "protected" as it was very unlikely that both of our matches would be scammers.

Read THIS to see what happened to one of the bloggers in the aftermath of the experiment (warning, if you have any heart you'll tear up a bit).

In today's mail came a thank you note from one of our matches (the online store sites required a return address on the gift cards, so she got it there). My husband's comment was that it was no guarantee that she hadn't been a scammer. It kinda make me want to smack him upside the head, but instead I stared at him until he agreed that was ridiculous.