So, sadly but truly, I had to leave Russia one glorious sunny Sunday a week ago. I enjoyed my time there so much, made real Russian, German, Swedish and Canadian friends, had a lot of blini (the blog name has to be fulfilled, after all) and did improve my Russian quite a lot, so I was pretty sad to leave, but also glad to see my family. I have to say that Russia was a lot less sketchy, more friendly, and more metropolitan than I expected, though the last part might just have been because it was Petersburg. My impressions here might have sounded a little more mixed, but that is just because the interesting things to write about are the things that are not what you are used to. Had I reported about street cafes, bridges that go up at night, shopping streets (shoes!!) and students sunbathing in parks for days at a time (no, no we were studying! Hum-hum), it would have sounded less like Russia and more like any awesome study trip. Which it was. The white nights especially was amaaazing - they made your days so long, and seeing the sun set at 11.30pm and a night sky filled with red clouds from the sunset at close to 1 am is simply breathtaking.
But of course the sketchy things are more fun to write about, right? So here one last Russian impression before I hit German ground and was back in the orderly, boring world of Western Europe:
My flight from St. Petersburg to Moscow went through Pulkovo 1, the domestic airport of St. Petersburg. And to people complaining about Pulkovo 2, the international one, let me tell you - you ain't seen nothin' yet. At a certain point, I had to cross a concrete tunnel with one of those horizontal escalators that probably hadn't been renovated since Brezhnev's time. It felt very foreboding, especially since I was the only person in the whole thing. Tunnel into the underworld or something like that. But then I came to my gate and the underworld had a whole new face: While we were waiting for our gate to open, me and two American ladies were watching our plane. All of a sudden, 3 police cars and one unlabled white van come swerving around the plane and halt with screeching wheels in a line, blocking some of the view on the airplane. The doors of the van open and 6 or 7 SWAT - looking people in balaclavas, with kalashnikovs, bullet-proof vests and all in black stormed out and surrounded the plane. Then, somebody with a black hood over their face was led into the plane by three bald-headed guys in crisp white shirts, the SWAT team stayed there for another 10 minutes (one of the balaclava-wearing people was looking and pointing his gun in our direction, kinda scary), and then they all ran back into the van and left. Then, the stewardess announced that we could board our plane. And who would've thought, the black-hooded guy (prisoner? principal witness?) and his three bald companions were sitting in economy class next to all the vacationers and even got the same lunch as us. When we left the plane in Moscow, I turned back in the terminal just in time to see the whole action in reverse happen to get him or her out of the plane. Mind blow. Especially after the huge spy-exchange between the US and Russia was just announced. Maybe I was on the plane with some American FBI agent???