When I wrote this post, it was going on 9:00 at night here, and I had just got back from a lovely evening stroll. Yaroslavl is far enough north that sunset doesn’t set until almost 11:00! It’s definitely messed with my sleeping patterns and productivity levels (I have plenty of time to write this essay! It’s only–oh. Oops…), but at the same time it’s a refreshing change from the short, cold winter days.

After actually managing to finish a final paper on this bright, beautiful day, I decided to take advantage of the surplus sunshine and stretch my legs. I headed to the center and went of my favorite walk, one that starts on bustling downtown streets, winds around cathedrals and memorial statues, rambles through parks, and follows the banks of both the Kotorosl and Volga Rivers.

Here, my friends, is what I saw:

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I hope you get to enjoy this beautiful stroll! It really was one of the most special parts of Yaroslavl to me.

Sincerely,

Sarah

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A Word of Advice

May 18, 2012

For all you students coming to Yaroslavl next September or in semesters to come, here’s some advice from a девушка who just finished Middlebury’s Yaroslavl program today! These are based off of personal experience and observation during this long, lovely year abroad. Sorry, boys–a bit of this is lady-specific, but there’s plenty in there for you, too!

  • Don’t bring: ski gloves (unless you’re actually going skiing), long underwear (buy it at the market here for 5-10 USD per pair), open-toed shoes (you’ll only wear them for a cumulative month, and that’s if you stay all year), school supplies (you can get them here at least as inexpensively as in the States), shampoo/conditioner/hairspray/etc (it’s just more stuff that’ll explode in your suitcase and you can buy it here), shorts, a hairdryer
  • Do bring: an adaptor or two (they’re hard to find here and VERY important!), your laptop (despite what the handbook says, you’ll need it for papers and powerpoints), a host gift (something from your hometown is always nice!), little gifts for future friends (small tourist paraphernalia from your hometown are great New Year’s/Birthday gifts here) a pocket dictionary, pajamas (another thing that’s just sort of important ;)) tops that you can comfortably wear by themselves and under layers, lots of sweaters (you’ll wear them every day inside the university in winter), a pair of black pumps, one nice outfit for going out at night, close-toed and maybe heeled shoes or boots (you’ll wear them all fall and spring), wool socks, your make-up (it’s a bit pricey here), your vitamins, standard medicine (Tylenol, cold medicine, etc), and a sense of humor! This isn’t a complete packing list, but it covers the essentials
  • Looking stylish and being warm are not considered mutually exclusive in Russia. If something doesn’t look “put together”, expect to stand out. If it isn’t very warm, don’t expect to wear it in the winter.
  • If you’re planning on splurging on a winter jacket or pair of boots before coming to Russia, stop! Don’t do it. Use the money in Russia to buy something that’s actually fully suited for the weather and that will help you to look less foreign. If you already have something, then bring it. There’s no point in spending more than you have to! And on that spending note, remember that when shopping, you can spend money, or you can spend time looking for something that costs less.
  • Be very careful of crossing streets here. You’re just as safe jaywalking as crossing legally–though jaywalking might actually be safer because you’re more likely to pay attention to cars.
  • Watch out for potholes. I mean it! They’re often sunken in, unattached, breaking, or not there. Don’t become the front page of your school paper because you weren’t looking where you were going.
  • Be polite but honest with your host family. If you can’t possibly eat another bite yet they present you with plate upon plate of food, praise their cooking and emphasize how well they fed you when you turn down round 8 of your babushka’s pelmeni!
  • Remember that you’re not abroad to preach the American way to the Russians. You’re there to study and learn about them. While this will be hard during the culture shock phase, keep things in perspective and keep an open mind. You don’t have to agree with everything people say, but at least give them a chance to say it.
  • Anticipate that people may have a different sense of personal space, idea of polite topics of conversation, and meaning of ‘privacy’. Respect their culture, but do still make sure that you’re comfortable. Assuming that everyone will just start doing everything your way (because it’s obviously better, right?!) is how you become “That American”. That isn’t a good thing.
  • Stay active! If you’re doing some sort of exercise, you’ll be happier and healthier. I loved my dance classes here, and they presented a great opportunity to meet people.
  • Stay busy! It’s harder to be homesick if you’re too busy to remember to be homesick. You can meet people, volunteer, do an internship, explore with friends…. There’s no limit to how busy you can be!
  • Get internet asap. I would recommend skylink. For details, check my post on How to Get Internet in Russia. I have instructions on how to get skylink written in the comments.
  • Just roll with it. It’ll all be good!

Enjoy the city!
Sarah

The Volkov Theater (Театр Волкова) is located in Yaroslavl’s downtown, and just so happens to be Russia’s oldest theater! The theater was founded in 1750 by Russian actor Feodor Volkov. Since its founding, performers such as the world-renowned Constantin Stanislavski–whose name leaves every actor today trembling in admiration–and revered Russian singer Leonid Sobinov have graced its stage.

The inside of the theater is even more beautiful than the outside, featuring marble staircases, statues, sculpted ceilings, and exhibits. One of my favorite exhibits is on the second floor, hidden in a little nook in the wall: it’s a desk and mirror set up with old photos and odds and ends just lying about–you feel like you’re peering through time into an actress’s dressing room! Other exhibits include photographs from past productions, as well as miniature displays of past sets. It’s a theater lover’s paradise!

I have now seen two Chekhov plays at the Volkov: Three Sisters and Untitled (also known as Platanov). I would particularly recommend Three Sisters. It was a masterful, emotional show with spectacular acting and sincerely phenomenal technical backing. Untitled was a good show as well, but I would recommend it more for those with a serious interest in Chekhov and higher level Russian skills, as it definitely is a bit slower. I also had the fortune of seeing Hanuma (Ханума), a play written by Avksenti Tsagareli in 1882 that feels like it was written yesterday. If you’re looking for something, comedic, colorful, and musical, definitely see this production!

Naturally, all shows are in Russian! If you’re worried about your language skills, try reading a plot summary of the play you’re going to see beforehand. If you are here as a tourist with no Russian at all, I would recommend going to one of the concerts that are frequently put on at the theater. This way, you can experience the Volkov theater’s atmosphere without a language barrier.

Performance Schedule

You Want to Go? Not Surprised!

To buy tickets, I would recommend that you simply go to the box office. Enter the front door of the theater and you’ll find the ticket касса on your right. The cashier will help you pick your seats, make your payment, and get your tickets right on the spot. Make sure to show your student ID! With it, you can see a show for as little as 5 USD whenever you’d like. Floor, balcony, and box seats are all available for varying prices.

The cashier’s area is the only inner part of the theater visible if you’re not buying tickets, but it’s still worth a peek. You’ll find a list of shows and performance dates for the current month as well as the next, and there is a video on repeat showing teasers from current and up-coming productions.

Useful Information:

Address:
150000 Ярославль пл. Волкова, д.1
Building 1, Volkov Square, Yaroslavl, Russia 150000

To visit the theater’s bilingual English/Russian website, click here!
People who enjoyed this post may also enjoy Hillary’s posts on her time at the Moscow Bolshoi in Tickets, Tickets, Tickets, Hillary Goes to the Theater, and Bread, Beer, and a Bolshoi Ballet.

Wistfully counting down my hours left in Yaroslavl,
Sarah

I grew up knowing that walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, or having a black cat cross your path were supposed to bring bad luck. While admittedly I might meander around a ladder instead of diving beneath it when given an option, I hardly believed any of those things were true!

Living with my host mother Galya, I’ve encountered a laundry list of new superstitions. It was definitely a surprise, however, when I realized how seriously she took them! For the purpose of entertainment as well as education, here are five solid ways to ward off bad luck, evil spirits, death, etc.–all according to a Russian babushka!

1: Say, “Hello, Sarah!”
If you forget something (say, your cell phone or wallet) and have to return to your house, be sure to greet your reflection. The first time I had to return home for forgotten goods, Galya instructed me to look in the mirror. I had thought I must have have something on my face. I looked in the mirror and then at Galya, confused, then continued my search for my misplaced phone. Galya came over and patiently led me by the arm back to the mirror. “Скажи: привет, Сара!” “Say ‘Hello, Sarah!'” she instructed, sternly, still holding my arm. I looked at Galya, then the mirror, back to Galya, and then, hesitantly, to the mirror: “Привет… Сара?” Contented, Galya let me resume my search.

2: Cold drinks
Indulging in cold drinks will make you sick. When I came down with the flu last semester, I had the misfortune of being spotted with a bottle of water the night before. “You shouldn’t drink that cold water! No wonder you’re sick. Нельзя! Never again,” Galya scolded, concerned. I’ve since read that having cold drinks can in fact be detrimental to your health, but supposedly that’s only if you eat a lot of greasy, fatty foods. It shouldn’t give you the flu, though (she says, stealthily sipping cold water in her room…).

3: Tfu tfu tfu!
Spitting over your shoulder (or, a little more hygienic, just saying “tfu tfu tfu!”) is the equivalent of knocking on wood. Galya and I have had moments when, simultaneously, I knocked on the kitchen table and she went “Tfu tfu tfu”! Hey, no one wants to get jinxed–regardless of their cultural upbringing!

4: Even numbers of flowers
Bringing a bouquet when someone invites you to dinner is a splendid idea, just make sure that there’s either an odd or uncountable number. In Russia, even numbers of flowers are for funerals, and bringing them to someone for any other reason will bring them bad luck. When I gave Galya flowers for Women’s Day, I counted the roses twice!

5: The cold, hard ground
If a girl here sits on concrete, people will be alarmed. They’re just concerned for her health–the cold ground will freeze her ovaries! And don’t even think of getting caught in the house without slippers. If Galya catches me snagging a midnight snack barefoot, she’ll go into a panic and run off to find my slippers so I don’t get sick. When I wanted to lie out and take a nap outside at the dacha, Galya was shell-shocked that I was going to sleep on a towel. She then surprised me by setting up a cot so that I wasn’t on the “cold earth”!

Good luck, and Happy Mother’s Day!
Sarah

Hooray! It’s almost the weekend! What do you want to do? No matter what it is, I’ll bet Yaroslavl has it for you. A lot of friends who’ve visited Yaroslavl have been really surprised about just how active our nightlife here can be. Okay, we’re no Moscow or Petersburg, but Yaroslavl still holds its own when it comes to bars and clubs, especially if you know where to go. Plus, you don’t have to deal with the expenses or intensive face control that the bigger cities have, so in some ways, I’d argue that it’s even better!

Мед
“Myohd”, “Honey”
Dancing, drinks, restaurant, unique location

This award-winning club is located literally on the Volga! It’s a floating club that has a fantastic dance floor and good music.  Look up and you’ll see dancers on pedestals and on platforms suspended from the ceiling! There’s a restaurant as well as a bar here, for those who are feeling hungry after hours of dancing. This is definitely a place you shouldn’t dress down to go. Мед is only open on Fridays and Saturdays.

Король Королью
“Korol Korolyu”, “King of Kings”
Dancing, drinks, wild decor

This is one of the most fun places to come on a weekend night. This two-story club has been decorated like the inside of a cave–every last inch of it! Walk down to the bottom floor and you’ll find a dance floor centered around a stage with a wrap-around bar.  This stage hosts dancers dancing to the music with you, and occasionally full-on dance performances.

Тобаско
“Tobasco”
Drinks, hookah, snacks

Тобаско has a cozy atmosphere and lots of recurring customers. It’s a great place to relax with friends or to meet new people. The hookah is especially good here!

Коктейл
“Cocktail”
Drinks, food, hookah, dance floor

Cocktail is another great local hang out. The walls and ceiling are decorated beautifully with a cream-colored mosaic. Dancing is on the second floor, though bars can be found on both floors. The sushi here is particularly tasty and well-priced. Cocktail is open during the day as a restaurant as well and has a full menu of decent food.

Бристол
“Bristol”
Drinks, dance floor, food

Right across the street from Cocktail is Bristol. Bristol is a quieter spot, with more secluded places away from the dance floor for large and small groups to sit, talk, and eat. The dance floor is decent, though it’s not my first choice  if I were planning on dancing. Bristol is open during the day as a restaurant.

Расстагаев
“Rastagayev”
Drinks, food, hookah

This is just a great spot in general. You won’t find any dancing here, but this restaurant has really tasty food, drinks, and hookah for unbeatable prices. To top it off, it’s clean and pretty enough to bring a date! If you stop by, try the blinchiki. They’re 2 USD and absolutely heavenly with chocolate sauce, condensed milk, or a variety of other toppings! It’s also open during the day as a restaurant, and I would highly recommend it during that time as well.

Your Бар
“Your Bar”
Drinks, dancing, food

If you want to come here on a weekend night, you might want to reserve a table! Your Bar just opened up about a year ago and is booming with business. Thursday Flirt Nights are especially entertaining, with the waiters wandering around dressed as cupids delivering anonymous messages from table to table. Good drinks, fun dance floor, and great atmosphere!

Tips for Going Out:

  • If you’re planning on being out late, get a cab ride back to your hotel or apartment. Always settle the price of the ride before getting into the cab.
  • If Yaroslavl is unfamiliar territory to you, as with any new place it would be wise to watch your drink intake more than usual.
  • Dress up. While you may find this silly, you and your friends are more likely to be let in if you look like people who have enough money to spend on drinks. Also, the locals will all be dressed to the nines.
  • Women usually get in everywhere for free. This is not always the case for men.
  • It shouldn’t cost a thing to  just get in the door. If a bouncer tells you otherwise, he wants a bribe. You can argue with him, but that’s admittedly a much easier task if you’re a girl.
  • Brace yourself for a cloud of cigarette smoke. The idea of a smoking “area” doesn’t exist in any of these clubs or bars.
  • Especially if you’re a girl, bring friends with you when you go out. It doesn’t hurt to be safe.
  • If you want to check out any of these places for yourself, just google the addresses. You can get to them by foot from most Yaroslavl hotels, but again, it’s best to take a cab home.

Have fun!

Sarah

Happy Victory Day to one and all from Troika!

Today was a day full of parades, dancing, and celebration from the Red Square in Moscow to every corner of the Russian nation! May 9th is Victory Day for the Russians and marks the end of World War II, known here as the Great Patriotic War. This day is used to celebrate surviving veterans of the war, as well as to remember the millions of casualties from Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union. On Victory Day many Russians attend local festivities, watch the Red Square parade on TV or in person, or go to their dachas with friends and family.

С праздником, наши друзья!

Troika