I successfully made a weekend trip 400 miles north to the incredible city of Saint Petersburg. The city felt about how I had expected and it was encouraging to see that there are personalities to each city in Russia. I would love to visit some of the cities in the East but there is just not enough time or money at the moment. I know that a lot of Russians don’t even make it across the Ural Mountains because it is expensive and just really far! So, I am really happy that I got to see another city in the West and see that it is completely different from Moscow. I don’t mean to say that I don’t like Moscow, but Moscow is definitely the business city, where people make and spend the big bucks, where the politicians use police lights on top of their cars to slither through traffic, where the quality of fur you wear allows you into a night club, and where you can do or buy anything for money. Saint Petersburg, while I am sure also possesses the money-hungry citizens, has a feeling of anti-conformism. It was home of Dostoevsky, Gogol, Nabokov, and Tchaikovsky and if you have ever read or listened to any of their work, you can see mild if not overwhelming cases of depression and longing. I was only there for three days but to me, the city still has that sense of depression. The buildings are dark and ornate, the clouds are dense, and the wind from the water (Saint Petersburg is on the Gulf of Finland and the Neva River runs through it) makes you want to bury your face in a blanket as you hurry down the streets. There are many poets, musicians, and authors who still live in Saint Petersburg because it is still that haven for inspiration. Unlike in Moscow where every other person I have met has been an economist, banker, or accountant, in Saint Petersburg I met guitar players, photographers, and lyricists. I have never been really interested in music or art (mostly because I am not good at it), but I am attracted to this type of city and its lifestyle and I can see why it charms so many people. Before going, I said that it might resemble Prague and yes, I can see that too. They are both melancholy and historical, intriguing and romantic, and they breed drunk musicians playing in the streets. I can definitely see myself living in this city (not as a drunk musician playing in the streets) temporarily but I think the lack of Vitamin D shining through the clouds would deter me from purchasing a flat overlooking the Neva.
As you can imagine, because of their differences in lifestyle and their similarities in history (both have been the capital of Russia), Moscow and Saint Petersburg citizens are at a constant butting of heads. Nothing serious or literal, but I feel as though I cannot get an impartial response to the question, “Which city is better?” I want to ask someone who has lived in both places for extended periods of time and who now lives elsewhere because maybe they would be completely unbiased. But I have not been able to find anyone like this, I have only found people who live in Moscow and have very strong opinions against Saint Petersburg and people who live in Saint Petersburg and have very strong opinions against Moscow. By the end of my weekend I even found myself thinking, “How can you live in this bone-crushing wind!?” yet it really wasn’t that bad, the sun was shining for most of my time there. I have also been told that people know immediately when they go to either Moscow or Saint Petersburg if it is the city for them. The explanation I got from a Saint Petersburg fellow was: “If you spend a night on a roof in Saint Petersburg and you don’t fall in love, then this city is just not for you.”
Unfortunately, I do not have any photos to share with you. I have the worst luck with cameras! I brought my old camera to Russia and of course it broke (I think it is like the first digital camera model ever made so I don’t blame it, it had its glory days) and I have been using a….disposable camera! It has been quite fun actually, to see the reactions of strangers when I pull out the disposable and ask them to take my picture. I guess you can say I have gotten over my fear of what people think of me. And hey, instead of twenty-nine photos at different angles of the same building or fountain, I just have one at the perfect angle (or what has to be the perfect angle because I only have one). I have one week left in Russia though and only eight photos remain! I will have to choose wisely. A lesson on self-restraint. Again, sorry I don’t have any visuals to share but maybe when I return to the States and go to a CVS, wait one hour, scan the photos that may or may not be developed successfully, and upload them to a computer with internet, I will place them here in the blog.
One week left in this crazy country, I better get out there.