Russia top, Germany flop… But great world cup!

And so quickly is my time in St Petersburg over and it’s time to go home… Just like for ‘Die Mannschaft’ 🇩🇪 yet in a completely different mood. I want to express my gratitude to Russia 🇷🇺 for a truly perfect organisation of FIFA18 and to my friends for many moments with great emotions that will life on forever. Ahead lie 2,5w in London, motorbike license and more refurbishing work before I finally get back outdoors. First up is project ‘Canoe 🛶 Elbe: Usti n.l. ➡️ Cuxhaven’. Much to prepare.

School – much to learn still… 🤓

School was ok though it is also clear that from B1 level its gonna be a long and hard way to progress. Textbook suggests 320h towards B2 in total – I have barely 50h behind me. Let’s see how far Skype classes get me. Definitely need more vocab though grammar is beginning to make sense. The improved language skills this time definitely suggest its worthwhile the effort.

An epic thursday night prevented me from any other studies than how to recover. But given it’s the only day I skipped, its ok. Also managed to catch up with my Skype teacher Daria last week in a nice Georgian restaurant (and thankfully with signficantly less impact on my ability to attend school the next day).

More football – WTF Die Mannschaft! 🇩🇪 

Amidst a lively week only one thing remained consistent and was sadly the poor performance of the German national team. No hunger, no pace, no ideas… In a way I am glad its over. It was really hard to watch for any football fan.

Well done to Sweden for a convincing performance against Mexico and to South Korea for laying bare how bad the German side was. Well, at least Colombia 🇨🇴 went through.

Russia 🇷🇺 kicking a$$ – Защищай 🔫 

The complete opposite was the Russian team that gifted me and my friends an unforgettable last night in Russia by kicking out Spain. The level of the game was low. Russia defended with all they had, Spain had few ideas to break that iron curtain… And lost on penalties.

Emotions in our favorite football venue, the corner pub, went wild. Even more on the underground and on Nevskiy Prospekt later on. Memories forever. Bodo & Steve saw the game live in Moscow before taking the night train over to St Pete.

Felix the beast & Russian rugby

Felix plays in a St Pete rugby team for a few years now. To most of my Russian friends the sheer existence of this sport in Russia was surprising. So we took Felix up on his invitation and watched the battle of the titans. Despite our full support they lost. Well, a liter of beer will help Felix to get over it 🍻

Bit of sightseeing as well

It was not all about football, rugby or school though. Apart from hanging out, watching football and school I also managed a bit of sight-seeing. It was a cold saturday morning, but enjoyable to refresh some city facts in the busiest free tour I have come across.

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Back in St. Petersburg

Hello Russia, hello FIFA 2018 world cup, hello friends! The first week flew just past me over here amidst a mix of a heavy school schedule, two live matches, many good friends to catch up with and time with the grandparents of my son. Sightseeing simply has to wait.

Mexicans everywhere…

Arguably i was a little tired on the red eye flight over from Ibiza, a party skewed weekend and an unexpected loss of Germany. It didn’t exactly boost my mood that I had to skip my connection to St Petersburg in Moscow due to luggage transfer delays nor did the Mexican’s everywhere help. Thankfully I was undercover in my Zenit shirt 🙈🙉🙊.

Russian welcome: Olivier & Cognac

I am staying at my son’s grandparents this time. Helps the progress in Russian, time to watch football with Viktor (even Larisa is interested) and gives us some time to talk as far as my Russian capabilties allow. First evening as usual a big dinner including the traditional salad olivier and, of course, cognac. Good to have Russian meals back on the menu.

School – starting at B1 level

I have, at least on paper, by now reached B1 intermediate level in all three languages in have studied since last year July. Arguably I struggled most to get there in Russian despite the tremendous patience and weekly skype efforts of my teacher Daria who I have weekly skype classes with. Thanks to the unnamed soldiers for their help with the tests 😎.

On top of the weekly efforts, the extra exposure to spoken Russian with family, friends and ‘farm’ people in Issad have problably made a difference. Grammar still needs a lot of work, but i am hopeful as progress feels very good and I feel comfortable in class by now despite a certainly narrower vocabulary than most of my classmates.

My group consists of mainly US students (most of which have been at the language for almost 3y). First test (mainly dative & instrumental cases as well as public holidays) also went well with 87% score. I miss my group from last year though. Its not as much fun though more intensive owing to lower student count (partly seasonal, partly due to prohibitively priced accomodation during FIFA18).

Football in large daily doses

First up of course very enjoyable live matches – Russia / Egypt (3:1) with Ekaterina & Hadley and Brasil / Costa Rica (2:0) with Yuri & Daniel. All is very well organised here, transport infrastructure more than capable of dealing with the many visiting fans and athmosphere very nice (especially around Nevskiy and Rubishteina).

Besides live gigs, we meet regularly to watch games together – be it at home, in retaurants or bars. Germany’s last minute win still weighs on my voice. Great times, great guys. Really makes a difference to know people on the ground (eg the complete opposite of my early days in Amsterdam).

Enough for now. Germany 🇩🇪 is playing soon. Auf geht’s Jungs!

Ibiza: Friends & Burglars

Stag weekends are not something that warrant too detailed blog posts – be it that we were probably way too well-behaved for such a big occasion. Sean is gonna marry his Jen this year and it was a great occasion to meet many of the faces that make up his large group of friends.

Sean & Jen: Picture from our Ascot outing in 2016

Laptop preferred to stay in Barca …

My journey to Ibiza didn’t start off too well, as I somehow managed to leave my laptop in the security area at Barcelona airport. Well, it has thankfully been recovered.

Nice villa, nice vibes…

The flight was only an hour and upon arrival I right away joined the guys at the beach. Most didn’t look too bad after the previous night and many only made it to Ibiza that day (well, apart from one whose plane got hit by a lightning). The beach atmosphere was great as you would expect in Ibiza. A bit of music, drinks and nice weather. Cant ask for a lot more. The boys also picked a nice Villa so we all could stay in the same place, talk, get a few drinks, BBQ and occasionally sleep.

Burglar alarm!

Aside from the party aspects, which I will skip here, the biggest highlight was an attempted burglary at our residence. Thankfully we had a by now heroic fellow staying behind and nothing got stolen. Subsequently police joined us for a while to record details.

What happened here? MEX-GER 1:0

My personal low point of the weekend was certainly Germany’s world cup opening match against Mexico. We played poorly and lost deserved 1:0 (at the time of writing we have at least managed to beat Sweden and now have our fate in our own hands again).

Great weekend! Thanks to the organisers. See you all in Scotland!

Barcelona: Hasta Pronto!

The second week in Barcelona went even quicker than the first one after an eventful weekend outside the city. Days pretty busy at school, evenings often in either Born or Gracia barrios – usually after a brief and well deserved siesta. Highlights included a really nice dinner at Carpe Diem, visits to Monjuic fortress, Tibidabo and La Boqueria market. Russia was also off to a spectacular start at the world cup. Next stop is Ibiza for Sean’s bachelor party after saying goodbye to Laura who returned home. I certainly need to come back to Barcelona – two weeks don’t do this great city any justice.

La Boqueria Market

I love hanging out in this market be it that its central location make it pricey and a rather popular tourist destination. Felt a little bit like our outdoor spanish class in Medellin’s Minorista market to train fruit & vegetable vocab. You can sample all sorts of fruit, jamon and other artesian stuff at La Boqueria. I wouldn’t recommend coming here for your weekly shopping trip though :o) anyway, a beer with a bit of serrano always lightens up my mood.

Tibidabo

Tibidabo is the highest mountain in the city (512m) offering superb views. There you find the pretty Sagrat Cor church and, if you are into this stuff, an amusement park (felt pretty deserted compared to the masses of tourists elsewhere in Barcelona).

Monjuic fortress

Hidden well behind the more prominent National Art Museum of Catalonia lies the historically important Barcelona fortress. It is very well maintained, offers great views over port as well as downtown barcelona and it worth a visit.

Inside you find pretty informative rooms laying out the history and importance of the fortress to Barcelona and Catalonia overall. There was also an exhibition on the history of education in Spain and Catalunia with some interesting facts. Not quite the size and prominence of my home town fortress, but really well maintained and worth half a day of your time.

This fortress is to Barcelona what the Bastille was to Paris or the Peter and Paul fortress to Saint Petersburg.

– Joseph Kessel, Argentina

Spanish school finished

Admittedly my spanish has come a long way in the past two weeks as grammatical options as well as vocabulary stepped up a level. It was also great fun and well organised… I really recommend Camino Barcelona school!

 

Dali museum & afternoon in Girona

Given the great weather in Barcelona throughout my two weeks stay, I visited museums a lot less than I did in Holland. However, a chance to visit Salvador Dali’s hometown Figueres and a stroll around nearby Girona were tempting enough.

Figueres & Dali museum: Slightly disappointing

It took about 1,5h to Figueres where Dali was born 1904 and died 1989. His crypt is part of the museum actually. I booked tickets a few days before. You purchase specific entry time slots – already an indication that it is quite a well frequented place. And so it was… literally filled up with busloads of tourists.

At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since.

– Salvador Dali

Inside, you have some 3-4 floors with mostly Dali art, but also other artists Dali worked with. On display are drawings, wall paintings, sculptures etc reflecting Dali’s manifold interests and skills. However, I felt some of the more well-known works were not on display there and are probably on display in some of the larger galleries in the world.

Overall a little disappointing after the great visit to the van Gogh museum (Vincent van Gogh: A fascinating story) where the curators managed to combine van Gogh’s life story and his art so incredibly well. In Figueres it felt quite crowded in the way the art was on display and I found it hard to link it to Dali’s personal background and life story.

Back in Girona: This time at day time…

Last time i was in Girona almost exactly one year ago. I was start and finish of a circular hike i did around the wedding of Marta & Tom in S’Agaro (Hiking the Circular Ronda (Girona/Costa Brava) & a wonderful wedding).

This time I could explore the city a little more though also not in huge amount of detail. The one sight that jumps straight into your eye is the Cathedral, a magnificent building overarching the city and offering fantastic views. There is also a white basilica nearby.

Otherwise Girona is a cosy little town with decent food options. Signs of the ongoing independence movement are as present here as elsewhere across Catalunya. Worth a visit anytime.