Learning Russian in Russia
I was fortunate this summer to have had the opportunity to travel to Russia for the first time. I spent two weeks learning Russian in a language school in the lovely lakeside city of Petrozavodsk in the Karelian region of north-west Russia.
I found myself straightaway drawn into the rhythms of everyday life in this small provincial Russian city. Natasha was my Russian teacher. I opted for individual lessons. This meant I could move along fairly swiftly and cover two levels of language in just two weeks. The staff at the school “Enjoy Russian” have produced their own quality textbooks with particular emphasis on the city and citizens of Petrozavodsk. I liked very much the teaching materials and the intriguing insights into life in Russia which Natasha enjoyed sharing with me.
I stayed with a warm, hospitable family. They were very open to cultural exchange and curious to find out more about me and my life in Ireland. Of course I got to experience Russian food. Ба́бушка (grandmother) prepared the meals and every evening had a different dish ready. I loved the soups, especially borscht , both the hot and cold varieties and the homemade pelmeni . On my final evening there was a special farewell meal with many kinds of fish and salads. During meal times Ба́бушка loved sharing stories about her former life in the Soviet Union.
I was surprised at how quickly I felt at home in Petrozavodsk. The transport system is excellent and easy to use. The weather was exceptionally good and I loved the embankment walk along the shores of Lake Onega with its many interesting sculptures. I visited the imposing state university of Petrozavodsk, a Russian баня (sauna) and the local history museum with its very fine exhibition of Karelian artefacts and reconstructions of life in Karelia in past times. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the island of Kizhi, an open-air museum with more than 80 historical wooden structures and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Most of all I liked the people I met. They were practical, down-to-earth and hardworking. They made me feel welcome. I savoured every moment of this Russian adventure.