Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Random Russian phone notes

The White Lake, from Kirilov

I was pottering about on my phone the other day - the sort of thing you do while sitting on the ferry - and discovered the notes I'd made randomly during our Russian trip. As the notes were made on the hoof, as it were, they are necessarily brief, and some of them so obscure that they fail as prompts. But I thought in a last roundup before I finish off a possible slide show for the new year, I'd recall a few of them.

The first one reminds me that in St Petersburg they can expect to see 20 - 30 sunny days per year. How lucky were we, then, to have sun on three consecutive days of our stay there? Let alone that early October sun being warm enough for me to sit on my balcony for an hour with a book?  And I was told that St Petersburg stands on no fewer than 42 islands; I suppose a close look at the map would have helped me there, but it's a lot of islands - and a lot of inland waterways and bridges. Later, presumably in a restaurant, I was told how to say "Just a little" in Russian - it's  чуть-чуть, pronounced choo-choot.

On another day, another note, in Yaroslavl, I was shown the church of St John Chrysostom, where the congregation are Old Believers. You can read a daunting history of that schism here, but briefly it seems to have arisen over the influence of Greek Orthodoxy and the Latinising favoured by Peter the Great which the schismatics disapproved of. I think. We also heard of how during the siege of Leningrad cats from Yaroslavl were sent to hunt the Leningrad rats, and their descendants now live a privileged life in the Hermitage.

I dare say that I could spend time reading history and guide books, but at this stage I have found that the stimulus of being there and having odd bits of information drip-fed in situ makes a far more lasting impression. I have a suspicion that this may always be the case. It would certainly transform history lessons.

As a result of the phone revelations, I have revised my post about Julia, our little onboard guide. On the last day of sailing, when some of the young interpreters told us about their lives, she revealed that she was a Kalmyk. There was never quite enough time to take it all in - but I'm catching up.

No, I shall never forget Russia.


  1. Here's a sentence you won't often see: When I was shopping for a shirt in the Emirates Mall in Dubai, the lady who assisted me was obviously Russian (of whom there were lots in Dubai).

    I tried my three useful Russian expressions ("Please", "thanks very much" and, inevitably, "I don't speak Russian") and when I tried to indicate the smallness of my knowledge by putting my right index finger in very close proximity to the dexter thumb, she spoke in fluent English and told me that the Russian for "a little bit" was "shoo-shoot". The Russians, like the British, do not always pronounce letters as you might think they ought to sound.

    In case you were wondering what my useless Russian expressions are, they include "my sister is singing", "that is a river" and "that is a chair". Try having a meaningful dialogue with these!!

    1. Interestingly (or not ...) I know that's how you pronounce чуть-чуть, as I had written it thus in my notes. I looked up the cyrillic on a website and used their suggested spelling in case I'd not thought clearly in the rush of blood to the head that merely being in St Petersburg brought on. Do come and share orally the other things you know - we could try our phrases out in public ...