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It is a little known fact that, in the North Russian province of Karelia, there lies a small town named Petrozavodsk. As you race past Russian countryside on one of the infamous night trains, you realise how rural a landscape surrounds Petrozavodsk and it is therefore no surprise that the town is quite small. There are, however, several activities to keep you occupied, including trips to the cinema and the utterly surreal puppet museum, filled with imaginatively dressed characters from Russian folklore. Despite occasionally having to refuse offers of strangers’ vodka on the water’s edge, the nearby Lake Onega is also a fantastic location for swimming and, Russian weather being gloriously hot in June, it’s a great place to top up your tan. In addition, there is a smattering of bars spread throughout the town yet they’re more akin to a small Flares than Gatecrasher. They do, unfortunately, retain the drinks prices of the former.
After a few days, it becomes clear that one of the most amusing pastimes in Petrozavodsk is simply spotting various cultural differences. The most notable is the driving and, on one occasion, we witnessed a driver disregard his brakes and simply stop his vehicle by slamming into a nearby parked car at 40mph. He then proceeded to get out, laugh and begin his afternoon shopping. The famed Russian consumption of alcohol is also notable and it felt odd returning to England and no longer witnessing anyone stumbling out of the local supermarket drinking a beer whilst clutching a 6-pack at 9am.
Visiting Petrozavodsk is ultimately a rewarding linguistic experience as hardly anyone speaks English, and the people are far warmer and more hospitable than the Russian stereotype might suggest. Although the town is of a modest size and fairly dull at first glance, looking closer and finding the quirks and nuances of Russian life makes a trip to this little known part of Russia truly worthwhile.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham