Vyborg, a warm welcome

Vyborg is 130 km to the North of St. Petersburg, and only 30 or so km from the Finnish border. For a long time it was a Finnish/Swedish town, and it has a definite Scandinavian feel to it.




What attracted me there was the friendliness of two of its citizens, Tana and Mikhail. Tana was my first Russian tutor at LingQ. She sent me CDs in the early days, and really encouraged me in my Russian learning.

I took the Electrichka from the Finlandski station in St. Pete. Three and half hours on hard wooden seats. I occasionally stood up, ostensibly to let elderly passengers sit down, but really to give my back a rest. One of these kind elderly passengers for whom I stood up, as she was leaving a few stations before me,?? made a point of reminding me not to forget my bag when I got off.

The Vyborg tour was splendid. I was on my own the first afternoon as MiKhail and Tana had to work. I wandered around, and even found a little cafe where I had a delicious soup while watching Russian comic videos on the high definition TV.

That evening we had a lovely meal including a little vodka, some bliny with salmon roe, herring, and borscht if I remember correctly. This was followed by a walk in the midnight sun around the waterfront. (Water everywhere in this town).

The next morning we had a coffee in a charming coffee shop, visited a book store where I was given the interesting book I am reading (in Russian) , and then we toured the highlights of the town. These included a historic castle and tower where we saw local craftsment using ancient tools to fashion nails for the castle and other amusements.



We also toured the famous English garden called Mon Repos. We came across a wedding party there.


We finished our day with a lovely lunch of fish at the beach. Perhaps the most enjoyable of all was the constant conversation in Russian about all manner of subjects, in a constant feeling of friendliness and well-being, quite something for people that I was meeting for the first time.

On our way to the station we stopped an enormous supermarket. The consumer revolution has arrived in Vyborg. 32 cash register!!


I got on the Elektrichka again around 5 in the evening and returned to St. Petersburg, having been treated like a long lost relative by Tana and Mikhail. I look forward to reciprocating in Vancouver.

Travel to the interior

A person on the Chinese language Forum Westca www.westca.com asked about what to do around Salmon Arm and I gave the following answer which I though might be of wider interest.

There are lots of places worth visiting. You may drive the Coquihalla highway?? ??http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=Coquihalla&btnG=Google+Search&meta= up and return by the Fraser Canyon http://www.fraservalleyguide.com/Yale.htmljust to change the view.

As you cross the Coast Mountain range on the Coquihalla you will see the scenery change, from the big trees of the coastal rain forest you cross into the interior Spruce Pine Fir forests. As you descend from the mountains on to the Interior plateau you will find yourself in semi-desertic cowboy country with Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Fir trees and ranches with tumble weed. The first town you get to in the Interior is Merrit. There are ranches in the area. I would press on, either in the direction of Kelowna or Kamloops. Along the way there are lakes and camp grounds. You should make sure you have a guidebook with you. My suggestion is to go to Kelowna and then work your way North via Vernon, Enderby and then on to Salmon Arm.

There is a lodge near Salmon Arm owned and run by natives, the name escapes me. But if you get the BC Accommodation Guide you will find it. You can rent a small houseboat and just take it easy on Shuswap Lake. You can play golf. Tour around on the smaller roads just to get a feel for the area. It all depends on what you like to do. Then you could continue towards Kamloops and return to Vancouver via the Fraser Canyon.

An alternative would be to return to Vancouver via Cache Creek, Lilloet and Whistler, a spectacular route. All of these routes provide,. to the observant tourist, a panorama of constantly changing topography and vegetation. Plan to stop often by a stream or lake or mountain side just to enjoy the environment.


I still think back to our holiday in France. France is a wonderful country. We stayed in a little village called Brulons. We travelled by car and visited other small villages in the area of the Sarthe river. All the villages were charming.

We stopped in one small town, the name of which escapes me. There was a market in the central square. I chatted with a fellow selling cheese. He was from the Basque country. He had three cheese stalls in the Southwest of France and was now expanding to the Sarthe. He had great plans to cover the whole country. He liked selling in country markets because there was little overhead and good profits. A young businessman!

A group of four workers were doing some repairs to the road. Like municipal work teams all over the world, one man was working and four were watching. My wife and I went to the local restaurant and the work crew was there. We had a starter (in my case herring in a salad with warm potatoes and onions), a main course (fish on a bed of ratatouille), cheese and desert, with as much wine or cider as you wanted. Price, wine, service and tax included was only 10.50 Euros per head!

A river ran through the town. I guess it was the Sarthe. Old buildings, an old cathedral, narrow streets and a slow pace. Wonderful. Just before noon we saw people going to their homes with their french bread (baguette) under their arm. It was a lovely change of pace.

Travel notes

I was in Europe for much of June, in Sweden, London and then attending a conference on Language Instruction and the Corporate Sector in Duesseldorf. I also attended a wedding in Le Havre. France and then took it easy in a 500 year old house in a small village near Tours.

My wife and I drove around visiting small villages, eating four course meals with wine, tax and service included for 10-15 Euros and enjoyed the countryside. There was also a magnificent 27 hole golf course near by with nobody on it which we took advantage of.

The villages were delightful and as a result I bought an audio book of Proust’s Du Cote de Chez Swann which I enjoy listening to while driving around Vancouver. The village that figures prominently in Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu is located near where we stayed.

I heartily recommend audio books to language enthusiasts. Audio books can help you enjoy your reading, can allow you to access books that you find difficult, and as a result are a form of travel into an exotic world of language, history and culture of your choosing.

English culture

I was recently in London with my wife, visiting my son and his family. One day we took our two little grandchildren to a park outside London which offered a great variety of activities for kids. There were animals, boat rides, slides, mini-golf, trampolines and much more for a full day of things to do. There was a general admission fee and all events were free. One event was of a nature that I felt was very English.

An old and slow moving red mechanical harvester (farm machine) had been converted into a sort people mover. Parents and children stood on top of the harvester in a small group surrounded by a railing. The harvester shook and lumbered around a track about the length of the circumference of two football fields. It took barely five minutes. There really was nothing to see. The harvester was driven by a heavy set and jolly Englishman. Towards the end of the circular route there was a tree branch on which was attached a rod, suspended parallel to the ground. The rod had little holes in it and was connected to a water hose. When the harvester approached the tree the driver grabbed his umbrella and as the harvester passed under the branch, water flowed into the wand. The passengers on the platform of the harvester got watered down by the wand.

Everyone laughed, the passengers, the driver and the people watching at the starting platform and waiting to get on. The harvester then pulled up to the starting platform and the next group got on, parents, grandparents and children. They had about five minutes to wait to get wet.

Could such an event exist elsewhere other than in the UK?

Sprachen und Beruf

I just finished attending a conference on “language training and the corporate sector” which took place in Duesseldorf, Germany. As soon as I have good access to the Internet I will send some observations.

Two intensive days of discussion on language training in Duesseldorf only confirmed my conviction that language learning is all about communication and not complicated instruction of grammar, quizzes, tests, role playing and the rest. I do not agree with the comment below that you just need a good teacher, a good student and a good textbook. Most of all you need a motivated learner (and that is where the teacher can be the most effective, in motivating the learner), interesting authentic language resources and an efficient system to enable the learner to take advantage of these language resources.