It’s All Greek to Me

When we visited Russia and Greece this fall, we struggled with signs, since both languages use letters unfamiliar to many English speakers. Consider this street sign for Nevsky Prospekt, a major street in Saint Petersburg. The top two lines show the street name in Russian Cyrillic, while the third line shows the street name in latin alphabet based on the corresponding sounds.

In ΠΡOCΠEKT from the sign, the Π is a capital pi, and the P is a capital rho, where both letters are from the Greek language. Substituting the sound for each letter yields PROSPEKT. Happily for us, Russian incorporates some French words spelled out in Cyrillic — Hermitage, cafe, restaurant, for example.

Most signs are only in Cyrillic. We learned enough Cyrillic to get by, so we didn’t get too lost wandering the streets. You can order quite a bit by pointing, holding up fingers, and smiling. A couple used a calculator app to find out the cost of a bus ride (extra charge for oversize suitcases).

Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius

In Moscow we learned that the Cyrillic alphabet was developed by a pair of Greek brothers who, as Byzantine Christian priests, developed the Cyrillic alphabet. The brothers took the names Cyril and Methodius, and the Cyrillic alphabet is named for this Saint Cyril. This statue in Moscow’s Slavyanskaya Square honors the brothers.

Learning to read some Greek letters helped us when we went to Greece, as did taking math and science courses. For example, the Greek  Σ (capital sigma) is used in math for summation.

We hadn’t learned about this linkage between the Russian and Greek languages before planning this trip. We had planned to visit Turkey and Greece, but we changed our flights and lodging during the summer. Here’s where we visited. fall-2016-vacation

our fall 2016 vacation


Published by


I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s