Shamefully, I recently visited Munich for the first time. I use the adverb advisedly because I spent six months living in Bavaria, as part of my language degree back in the 90s. Yet, unaccountably, I failed to spend any time in Germany’s third-largest city (aside from using the airport at the start and end of my stay).
Quite aside from being an enriching travel experience – the first overseas trip I’d taken since before the pandemic – it reminded me of how important it is to refresh my language skills in the flesh.
Shops in Russia – even a major city like St Petersburg – were an oddity. Not their existence, rather what they sold.
There wasn’t much originality in shop names in 1992. For example, there were numerous places called ‘Moloko’ meaning milk. The irony was that milk was almost never on sale in these shops – in fact, the primary product available appeared to be cognac (the Russian version).
Looking for items of food was always a major element of our excursions into town. Certain items were always available: every second shop’s window display was stacked with jars of pickled goods.
A recent conversation reminded me that it’s almost 30 years since I spent a winter in St Petersburg. As a modern languages student in the early 1990s, I was lucky enough to spend six months in newly-minted Russia.
It was a magical time and one that I still recall with great fondness, so I thought I’d relay a few of those memories. These particularly relate to how alien the country felt to a callow British 20-something. I’m starting with how we got around.
Every morning we would have Russian classes, allowing us the afternoon to explore the city – something we did without question.
Although we could walk into the heart of the city, it was close to an hour-long trudge, so the trolleybus was a regular option.