One of the most fascinating cities of the world for me still is St. Petersburg where I spent three weeks in 2002 during my 1-year-sabbatical. At that time, I took daily private lessons in Russian which is a comparatively difficult language with its different script, complex grammar and many exceptions. Yet my Slavic language background played into my hands with a natural advantage. Also I really loved the city for its very unique flair which is by far much more soaked in living culture than fast-paced Moscow. Also a phenomenon that stunned me at that time was that from 5 pm, half of the pedestrians on the main boulevard "Nevsky Prospekt" would drink from an open bottle of beer. No matter if the 60-year-old alcoholic or the 16-year-old pretty girl.
And, St. Petersburg, tomorrow I'll be back. For the whole week till Monday, this time for the European & African Conference of our Entrepreneurs' Organization. Our hosts have put a phenomenal programme together, about doing business in Russia, general learning events on entrepreneurship as well as the very unique exploration of the city's culture, cuisine and clubbing.
What is more, next Sunday I am super-happy after six years to meet my Russian family again, the family that hosted me and where I in fact not just started to talk Russian, but felt deeply embedded into daily Russian life. So till today when we have been in touch via E-Mail, Igor calls me "my son" :-) And the best of all that on Saturday, the Telnjashka-Event is on again!
The Telnjashka is this typically blue-white striped shirt of the Russian Navy. In the annual tradition, Igor (in the cap front line), his family and many friends would do a march through the pretty cold sea, carrying food and drinks (basically Vodka and beer only) and have a BBQ in a forest adjacent to the city. I remember the event with memories about the best what Russia has to offer: happiness combined with hospitality. The other picture which I just dug out from 2002 is me in Telnjasha (right side, now the cap in on my head) trying to balance my "opponent" out on the tree.
The end of the story: The "opponent" outbalanced me effortlessly and the only thing I could do is find comfort about my bitter defeat in Vodka galore ;-) Na zdarovlje (=cheers)!