I haven’t been updating this blog as often as I’d like lately, but I thought I’d update on a few things I did this week. On Monday, I went to Република Кошек (Republic of Cats)– St. Petersburg’s first cat cafe. There, for a mere 200 roubles (a little over $6) you can spend one hour with 19 cats. You get a little passport into the cat republic, and enter via a wardrobe in the cafe itself. I did not venture into the Cat Republic this time, but spent the afternoon doing homework in the cafe proper, where I was entertained by the pun-filled menu:
(Puns in Russian and English!) I will definitely be back to snuggle with the cats in a few months when it is still winter and Demi doesn’t like me anymore. Luckily, it’s maybe a five minute walk from my school.
Later in the week, I made a visit to the Pushkin museum/apartment. For those of you who may not know, Alexander Sergeivich Pushkin is essentially the father of Russian literature, even though he is not as well known outside of Russia as, say, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. Part of the reason for this is that his poetry is incredibly difficult to translate effectively. He lived and wrote in St. Petersburg from 1799 to 1837, when he was tragically killed in a duel. His untimely death is basically the greatest tragedy in all of Russian literature.
Now, going in to this museum visit, I knew Russians take Pushkin and his works very seriously. But I was not quite prepared for how serious the people at the Pushkin museum were about Pushkin. From the attitude of the woman giving the tour, you would have thought Pushkin had died last week and not almost 200 years ago. She spoke in hushed tones as she described how Pushkin was brought back to this apartment after the fateful duel, as if he were at that very minute upstairs on his deathbed, and got a little choked up towards the end. I wasn’t sure if it would have been appropriate to offer her tissues.
Our guide also spent the whole tour referring to Pushkin as “Alexander Sergeivich,” instead of just “Puskin,” which seemed oddly familiar to me. Now, in Russia, referring to someone by their first and middle name is much more formal than it is in English, but I couldn’t get over the strangeness of our tour guide and Pushkin being on a first name basis. Finally, while the entire tour was conducted in Russian and was therefore somewhat difficult for me to follow, it was made even more difficult by the fact that our tour guide would constantly insert various quotations from Pushkin into her spiel without introducing them at all. For example: “And here in we can see a painting of a view overlooking the Neva. I love you, Peter’s creation/ I love your strict, elegant, appearance/The Neva’s sovereign flow/ her banks of granite. And then here by the window we have his desk.” (Apologies for my poor translation.) Once I figured out she was doing this, the tour began to make more sense, especially our tour guide’s use of the first person when recounting bits of Pushkin’s life.
All in all though, it was great to see people who are so genuinely excited about Pushkin, and it was really cool to see the early editions of his books they had, as well as pages written in his own hand. What can I say, I’m a bit of a fan-girl. I’d be happy to lead English-language tours of the house.