Another week has passed already. Incredible, how fast time flies. Yesterday morning, we arrived in Moscow with an overnight train from St. Petersburg. But, first let me tell you what the highlights were of our last week in St. Petersburg.
This week was mostly dedicated to business visits. On Monday we had a very busy day with three meetings. In the morning we had the chance to talk to Patrick Naughter who is the General Manager of the St. Petersburg Courtyard Marriott as well as the Renaissance Hotel. Mr. Naughter, talked to us about the hospitality industry. As an Irish man he has worked in Turkey, China, and Russia. His vast experience and knowledge was a valuable resource. After a quick lunch break we had a meeting at International Paper Inc. which is one of today’s biggest paper producers—worldwide. Mr. Munson form International Paper talked to us about sustainability in forestry. It was highly interesting to hear how a large non-Russian company operates in Russia. For example, International Paper is not allowed to buy agricultural land. All agricultural land must be owned by Russia (the motherland). Instead, International Paper can only lease the land for maximum ten years. This means that it is not worth for companies such as International Paper to make big investments in infrastructure, such as building roads or power lines, which Russia needs so urgently. Last but not least, we got the chance to attend a lecture that was co-hosted by Prof. Slava Tkachenko and Prof. Bill Coyle. The international relations class was about Russia’s oil reserves, Europe, and political power. It was fascination to hear the opinions of the Russian diplomacy students. One of them praised monarchy as the best form of government and not out of ignorance, because a few of us talked to her afterwards, and no doubt she was a very intelligent person.
On Tuesday morning, we wrapped up Prof. Seitz’s class with the movie “Burned by the Sun” which was a very impressive film that talked about suppression during the Soviet Union under Stalin’s reign. In the afternoon we went to the museum of the siege of St. Petersburg. During the Second World War, St. Petersburg was under siege for approximately three years. The numbers differ, but probably close to 1 million people died of starvation during that period. It was moving to see the museum in memory of the people who died.
Tuesday evening was one of the week’s high lights. Together with Sergei, the guide that had showed us around for the past three weeks, we went to “banya”. Banya, is Russian sauna. It is more humid than the sauna we know, and in the banya Russians beat each other with twigs of birch tree. That’s what we did too, and we had a lot of fun.
On Wednesday, we visited Baltica, the biggest brewery in Russia. To see the grand scale on which they produce beer was incredible. Baltica, ships out 10 million liters of beer every three days. After the tour we got the change to taste some of the beer. We enjoyed that part the most.
The last highlight that needs to be mentioned is the Mariinsky Theater which we visited on Friday. The Mariinsky is on the world’s greatest theaters. Even though they were just finishing up summer renovations it was wonderful to see the theater and to go to the back of the stage.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were writing days. We had to finish up some forty pages of essays. Then Monday night we took the train.
Now it’s 7:30 am. I am sitting here in the Soviet style hotel Vega, in one of some 3000 rooms, looking down on Moscow. The sky is cloudy and the next day is about to start.