Tuesday, 15 May 2012

A trip to The Idiot, a nice chat and a bit of a ramble. Also I still do not like dill

My last few days in St Petersburg have been lovely. The weather is gorgeous and I am feeling significantly better than I was a week ago - slightly out of it, but I dare not skip even one tablet before I fly home, so the effects are tolerable.
I feel like St Petersburg and especially my frequented parts- Sennaya, Fontanka and Nevsky, are a home now. I never felt like that in Yaroslavl. I have made friends and know where is good to go for food, which shops to go to for slightly more obscure items, can avoid rush times at the checkouts, have options outside of the school set up in which to socialise and can, if I so wish, relax at someone else's flat, free of the babushka reign of terror. It's a nice, content kind of a feeling for someone who spends their life inwardly stressing and silently talking themself into jittery insanity.

Recently, someone who I have had indirect contact with for quite some years now, came to St Petersburg. It's their home turf, so it was nice to be able to spend time with them here. We went to a famous vegetarian restaurant, The Idiot, which is a gem if ever there was one. It's Dostoyevskian in theme and just like an apartment inside, with old furniture and book shelves and a deep, multi layered kind of atmosphere. I loved it. The food was amazing too, vegetarian options in Russia are not amazingly common, so this place is popular, but regardless of your diet, you would be pleased at the sight of the menu. What wonders can be made out of tvorog! My obsession with cottage cheese is no secret, but these 'Syrniki' - fried tvorog blini with raisins, honey and, of course, smetana, were delicious. Everything is served with smetana here-soup is rarely complete without it- its essentially creme fraiche, so it is fortunate that I do not view it with the same disgust which I reserve for that most Russian of flavourings, dill (укроп/ukrop). I still can not fathom the point of this inane weed, nor the apparent compulsion demonstrated by Russians of all ages to suffocate their food in it. Honestly, it's more like they flavour their dill with an insignificant side of pelmeni or drizzle it with a dressing of solyanka or borscht than the other way round.

*Sorry, getting a bit sidetracked here. Dill winds me up. Quite a bit. I was informed at the restaurant that the actual reasoning behind it is that it is full of goodness, and, to summarise, there wasn't a great deal of that going around for many years in Russia, which is fair enough I guess. But seriously, guys, move with the times. I don't want it on chips. I want you to learn the greatness of vinegar. And maybe even start stocking salt and vinegar crisps, instead of dill and pickle. Thanks*

So. Where was I?
Right. The food was amazing. I even had a pot of earl grey tea with lemon - I have neglected to mention my progress in the tea challenge, in which I was set to become suave and sophisticated by slowly working my way through liking tea and then coffee, so that when next invited out 'for coffee', I would actually drink some, rather than a pink and white foamy strawberry and cream iced drink. My discovery is that lemon makes all things better, and earl grey is rather palatable, so there I sat with my little teapot, cup and saucer, inwardly beaming and congratulating myself on something most achieve aged around 3. But you know, each to their own, at their own pace.
The vodka shot was good also, smooth and went down well. I felt particularly cultured and Russian that day as my kind host toasted to our health. I may not have spoken a word of Russian at the best opportunity I had to do so, but I did eat and drink very well.

It was nice to be able to chat about things which I've been unable to since being here and there is something reassuring in discussing domestic matters with someone you know speaks sense, as opposed to attempting to figure things out entirely on your own or with people who are just as clueless as you are. It also made a pleasant change to my routine, to go somewhere new and to speak of different things and switch into a different mode, if you will. Having been released from hospital the day before it was nice and gentle too.
Although I am starting to think that every Russian is infinitely smarter than I will ever be when it comes to matters of culture, history and religions. Some of the conversations are impressive! I need to read a book or something. (She says, as she downloads another Harry Potter edition on to her kindle to be read to her).

Going home on Wednesday. I'm glad I managed to meet finally, it was a nice way to round off the week and my stay here. A bit of familiarity and home in a foreign place which is also starting to feel like home. I wish I'd been to The Idiot sooner, but as with most things close by, you never get around to them, and at least I have been now.
Do I count as being cultured yet?

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