Justine in Russia: Leisure Time

I wanted to talk about how people are quick to assume that Russia is extremely archaic and still lacks things that the rest of the world (or the U.S.) has. Friends back home always are in awe when I talk about eating somewhere or at a local event. Even after all the pictures and stories, there is still a belief that Russia is just full of snow and vodka. People believe there is an absence of events or anything fun in this country. I acknowledge that I am in Saint Petersburg, but I am speaking from the idea that people can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact that a city like Petersburg or Moscow actually has things going on.

Earlier this week, I was in Moscow and visited the Botanical Garden of Moscow State University. I was lucky that the weather was wonderful and the botanical garden was already set up. My friends could not seem to believe that there was actually a botanical park in Moscow or even plants in Moscow. May 1st is Labor Day in Russia, so people do not have work or school. The botanical garden and the space around it was filled with families and children trying to enjoy the nice day out.


The Botanic Gardens of Moscow State University – in Moscow


The Botanic Gardens of Moscow State University – in Moscow

The weather has been extremely kind to us this semester. This spring has been one of the sunniest springs in decades. One of the program directors once approached me in the morning and started talking about how he has lived here for all 28 years of his life, but has never seen so much sun. This only makes the outdoors and leisure time even more exciting. My host mom transitioned from going skiing every Saturday to going to her friend’s dacha (country house/cottage, usually about an hour or two from the city) every Saturday. The sun sets at approximately 10pm here, so people are out taking walks at night.


Taking a walk at 10pm in Moscow.


Taking a walk around 9pm in Saint Petersburg.

The other day, I went to this part of the city that has a little beach-like area and there were a bunch of people there enjoying themselves. Some people brought their tiny barbecue sets and were making food. Some others were just enjoying the weather.


The sandy stretch on Vasilyevsky Ostrov. The giant tower in the back is the new eighty-six story center that is being built.

In Moscow, a lot of their new spaces for food, art, shopping, etc. are being build in giant abandoned lots.


“Xлебозавод” in Moscow. An art space with stores and restaurants. This was once an abandoned lot.

Meanwhile in Petersburg, everything is found in a dvor. A dvor is roughly translated in a merchant yard of some sort. This makes things hard to find, but if you come across a dvor, it usually means that everything in it is really cool and interesting. I remember I was walking somewhere with my friend and we came across this dvor. My favorite Russian clothing brand has a store there and there is also an amazing pasta place in this tiny space.


My favorite dvor in the city!

One thing I appreciate most about Russian people is that they take advantage of their free time no matter the weather. My host mom always has activities lined up daily. When the weather is not so great, she goes to museums, shows, etc. She still goes skiing every Saturday, but now that the weather is getting nicer she goes north to the country houses. This goes for the general population too. When it’s winter, people go skiing or go to the outskirts of the city to do winter sports. In the spring, people go on walks at all times of the day, go to parks, visit gardens, etc. Staying home all day is not exactly ideal. My professor once said being outside is viewed more as a freedom rather than being home. There is always something to do here and I am not only saying this because the city is big. Sometimes I struggle to find things to do when I am in the states, so I end up doing nothing. I found myself here to be much more productive with spending my free time because there are so many new things always popping up in the city.

Even right now, I am getting ready to go out and go to all the remaining spots in this city since I have only a week left here…however, not even once was I bored with this place! (even when it was 10 degrees out)

До следующего раза (until next time)

Justine G.

Жюстин, usually Джастин, Жастин, or Жустин.

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