The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the USSR

Exterior of the Grand Choral Synagogue

Even though Russia won on the poll -it was only by one point (place number two isn't even a real country . . . come on people!) . . .

Anyhow, I'm sure you know the drill, click on the link to read on (and to see the pictures . . .)

So I'm back in Russia, for the first time. An odd statement, I'm sure, but I can think of none better to describe what it's like to be here.

Most people, those of you who are long time followers of this blog I'm sure may be amongst them, seem to think I've been to Russia before. When I was growing up in Los Angeles local Russian immigrants used to think I was Russian -an elderly lady from Odessa once asked me if I was practicing my English . . . which was surprising, as I didn't know a word of Russian at the time -but I digress.

People seem so convinced that I lived in Russia, because for a considerable amount of time, I lived around Russia -in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, all places associated (and to a certain degree, historically so) with Russia (the later two having large Russian speaking populations) . . . After that year in Eastern Europe, I left with a kasket (Russian flat cap) from Poland and a smattering of Russian from Lithuania, but having never stepped foot in Russia proper. I was thus more then intrigued when I was offered the chance to help out with the influx of summer tourists visiting the city of S. Petersburg (formally Leningrad, formally Petrograd, formally S. Petersburg) . . .

Which is why I'm back in Russia, for the first time -on one hand everything feels very familiar, on the other everything is new.

Who ever says Communism is gone has never crossed the Russian border . . . My passport, admittedly well used, did have room for a few more stamps (ok, two, but that should have been enough to go in and out of a country), but a Russian Visa requires two empty pages. Thus off I went to Boro Park, where for the delightful fee of $60 for the additional pages, and $150 for a three day rush, I was able to add the needed space. When my passport was returned, I received a leather passport cover (they're all the rage in Lithuania), and a travel kit that included a sleep mask, ear plugs and one of those fancy blow up neck pillows . . . I'm still debating if they were worth the cost. To apply for a Visa I needed to write down every country I had been to in the past ten years . . . not an easy task when you've just run out of space in your passport!

All of this seemed like more then enough to enter the country, but upon reaching passport control I was asked to fill out a "Migration Card", in duplicate, which wanted such details as my given name(s), birth date (in day/month/year format), purpose of visit and patronymic . . . which got me worried, as I don't officially have a patronymic.
In any event, I managed to get through the border and was greeted by the sights and smells of the City of White Nights.

Arriving in the Yeshivah, where we will be staying for the next few weeks, we were given something to eat.

Nothing says Russia like borscht and potatoes . . .

The Windows of the Imperial City

Compare to this building in Vilnius

Inside the small Shul

Sam and I

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Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

The colors in these photos are beautiful. I like the city photos. Looks like you're on a nice adventure :)

Anonymous said...


I figured that Corellia is a misspelling for Karelia LOL :))). That is not the Choral Synagogue I remember from 1992-2005; it was still being redone when I left Moscow.

Nemo said...

I thought "next" meant next after Russia. Didn't you already announce you were going to Russia, or was my perception of what was said on the blog somehow confounded by too much time spent with you in 770?

Nemo said...

When I first arrived in Ukraine - sorry, re-phrase that ...

About half a day after I arrived in the Ukraine, we were offered our first sustenance, which consisted of very similar food-types (there must only be four vegetables available around there) and it happened to have actually tasted really good on first try.

Anonymous said...

Always a Beatles fan!
good luck to y'all
some of your pics look quite blurry

Anonymous said...

WOW! Your pictures are wonderful! Thanks for sharing. Your blog is certainly one of my favorites!!

Mottel said...

-Chaviva: Thank you very much . . . keep coming back, as I hope to have many more!

-Itzhak: They done a great job of restoring it here in Petersburg.

-Nemo: you're mixing my 770 life into my blog life -they tend to diverge slightly . . . The food is pretty good, but it's rather dull and can become very repetitive after a while (In Poland we would often say: What's for Potatoes today?)

Yankel: What's with the Anonymous comments? And don't criticize my natural light photos -let's see some of yours!

Gruven Reuven: Thanks! As well, you blog is becoming one of mine (I've since added you to my blog roll) As I told Chaviva, keep coming back for more pics!

Anonymous said...


Peterburg - THAT explains it! I haven't been there in ages and do not remember the main shul at all - but when I saw the pics of the small shul I should have known it was not Moscow (where the choral synagogue is not Chabad so that I visited it only a couple of times in all my years there)!

Anonymous said...

you know my natural light pics kic yours!