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Visiting St. Petersburg

Posted by robogeek on March 2, 2007 at 2:29 PM PST

I mentioned in my previous blog entry that I attended the FOSDEM conference last weekend. That meant traveling from Silicon Valley to Brussels. I took the opportunity for travel to make an almost around-the-world trip.

The first stop after Brussels is the Sun office in St. Petersburg Russia. Sun, being an international company, has offices all around the world. The Java SE Quality Team has people from around the world, in Santa Clara CA, Ft. Lauderdale FL, Burlington MA, Dublin Ireland, Grenoble France, St. Petersburg Russia, Bangalore India and Beijing China. That's globalization for you ... and I've decided on thing globalization means is the opportunity for, er.., junkets, er.., no, not junkets, business trips.

I've been here since Monday (for 4 days) and I'm due to leave on Tuesday. Yes it's a short stay in a country like Russia, but this trip has so much jammed in it that I unfortunately cannot spend too much time in one place.

The office itself is more or like any office building in the world ... this one is a refurbished clothing factory which was gutted and converted to being a modern office building. Once inside the office building the walls have the same posters we have in other Sun offices, my employee badge worked to open the door, etc.

The nicest thing about being here is the opportunity to meet the people in person whom I've been talking to over the phone for a couple years. It's easy on teleconferences to think of those voices on the voices as just being voices, but they are real flesh and blood people. That's why globalization means junkets because we are first and foremost people, and it's best if you're working with someone to know them as a person.

I've learned a few things about Russia from being here ...

The thing that stands out the most is the language. I hear it on the street, in the hotel, at the office, and I see it on signs along the streets. In the Santa Clara we've had a couple Russian speakers there, so I'm accustomed to hearing the language, but it's a bit different to be immersed in a city where this is their native language. The sound of Russian has always seemed like it's encrypted, as does the writing. But with this immersion I'm beginning to get a little bit of the sound and the writing. I've figured out which street signs say "Coffee Shop", I figured out that "PECTOPAH" means "restaurent", and have been a bit astonished over how "Mc Donalds" (as in the restaurent chain) is spelled in Russian.

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St. Petersburg is a city that remembers the French invasion of Russia .. as well as the German invasion during World War II.

St. Petersburg was cut off from the rest of Russia during WWII, with the Germans laying seige to this city for three years.

Today I visited the summer palace complex at Pushkin. Very stunning and very ostentatious and very richly decorated. Most impressive was the Amber room, a room decorated with carved and cut pieces of Amber. However the Germans stole the original amber that had decorated this room, the original amber was never recovered, and what's there is a recreation of the original based on photographs. Whether original or memorex it's stunning all the same.

UPDATE: Kirril made a couple comments about the spelling of PECTOPAH ... I've changed the spelling, and did not realize it was important for them to be capital letters.