Thursday, June 14, 2007

Russian courses

It is summer and thoughts turn naturally to travel. One good way to keep costs down on a trip abroad is to study while you are there. The courses usually include low-cost lodging in a dorm, with a family in a homestay or in an apartment that is usually shared with other students.

I've done that on a number of occasions, most recently in Berlin last summer at the Goethe Institut and the year before that at the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia. If you study a language, and these are the programs that are most widely available, it can be very helpful for your subsequent travels.

I've been checking out Russian language courses on the internet, since I want to go back to Russia but it is very expensive. I found what seems to be a good deal in Moscow, studying at Moscow State. This is the university that is located in the hills that were first Sparrow, then Lenin and I believe are back to Sparrow again, south of and overlooking the city. The main building is one of Stalin's picturesque gothic skyscrapers. The company whose web site is offers group classes with accommodation in university dorms for three weeks for 560 euros, a very reasonable price in one of Europe's most exepnsive cities. In fact some accounts consider that Moscow is now the most expensive city in the world.

It is also possible to study Russian in other cities, including St. Petersburg. A program there offers classes in what used to be the Smolny Institute, the beautiful blue and gold consturction of Italina architect Rastrelli. Russia is a country where knowledge of the language is especially important, since not many Russians seem to speak English. I know only a few words, and have always found this a handicap in my travels there.

I haven't book anything yet, but wanted to let you know about what seem to be good deals. The Goethe Institute is more expensive, but is also a relatively good deal if you want to spend some time in a German city and learn something about the language and culture.

Friday, June 08, 2007

F1 weekend

Well, the transit strike is history at least for now, and the city is busy with visitors here for the Formula One race. Traffic is a nightmare because of at the same time, much of St. Laurent Boulevard is blocked for the street fair. Crescent Street is also pedestrians only, and the place to see some cool cars. I find I am less interested in F1 races since Michael Schumacher retired, but it is still a fun time of year.

There is not much at a budget level associated with F!, but if you happen to be on Crescent Street to see the cars and people watch, you can drop in at the Boss shop where the manager often brings her lovely Bernese Mountain Dog (named Bluey, because he has one blue eye.) Nearby, the Claddagh is a nice place to have a beer and enjoy some Irish stew. It is the gathering place of the Montreal Press Club, so you may spot some journalists there.

The St. Laurent street fair offers more at the budget level, although I am afraid my favorite place to shop, Welch's Book Store, has moved too far up the street to be included in the fair --will have to check that out. They used to offer lots of books for $1 and it was a great deal.