I had already fallen in love with St. Petersburg when I visited the city 3 years ago. My second trip, in late March of this year, proved that there was still much more to see and experience. Although I have decided that Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia’s two capitals, do not deserve to be compared and fought over, there really is something a little magical about St. Petersburg. It is whimsical, fresh, modern, classical, trendy and timeless at once. Stories of tsars and artists intertwine and diverge along canals and over bridges and you cannot fail to feel inspired by the beauty that surrounds you. On this occasion in particular, I was really able to appreciate the juxtaposition of modern life against the background of a city that truly breathes history. Continue reading “St. Petersburg”
Russia is a vast country. This vastness remains incomprehensible until you actually endeavour to travel within the country itself. Distances become entirely relative of course, and I would think nothing of taking a 16-hour journey for a weekend trip to another city. But whilst the train is still a fairly inexpensive mode of transport, airlines like Pobeda are offering great low-cost domestic flights that take a fraction of the time. So why is train travel still so popular in Russia, for natives and tourists alike? Continue reading “By train or by plane?”
Discussing corruption in Russia isn’t as difficult or as taboo as one might think. In fact, people are pretty open about it. A theme that spans so many areas of life in Russia today, it is one that seems to be accepted, or at least tolerated, as part and parcel of living here. Continue reading “The C word”
Think of art in St. Petersburg and you will undoubtedly imagine the Hermitage, architectural splendour, cathedrals and Neoclassical mansions lining the Neva river. Whilst these classical monuments are unquestionably worthy of our awe and attention, the modern art scene of such a city can often be overlooked by visitors. Indeed, my friend and I had intended to pay a visit to the Russian Museum last Monday morning. Continue reading “Эрарта”
Returning to a place you once called home can be strange. You return to find everything so familiar and yet so distinctly foreign all at once, to find changes that have taken place in your absence and make this place no longer ‘yours’. It has evolved and become somewhere new, these small differences every bit as striking as the memories that are evoked as you walk the same streets you once knew, and you come to realise that what has changed the most, is you.
It seems like no one wants to talk politics here. Okay, not no one, but, often, if I try to instigate a conversation that involves politics, or make a comment deploring the current rise of the right-wing across the Western world, people will proactively suggest “let’s not talk about politics”. When figuring out which topics appeal to my tutees, a reply that I have had on more than one occasion is “anything but politics”, as they crinkle their noses at this, a most dull and uninspiring subject. Continue reading “Why does no one want to talk politics..?”
I stumbled across the Moscow Museum of Modern Art [MMOMA] one snowy day in December. That day happened to be New Year’s Eve, a national holiday in Russia, but I felt so drawn to this place that I made the effort to return a few days later, when I was lucky enough to get free entry (for a week during the New Year holidays many public museums and galleries in the city offer free entry, and entrance to MMOMA is also free of charge on the 3rd Sunday of the month). Having previously explored the big names like the Tretyakov Gallery and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, I wanted to find somewhere that branched away from the vast murals and gilded icons that featured on the walls of such classical galleries, and MMOMA did not disappoint.
I have been converted. Having visited Moscow on several occasions when I lived in nearby Tver, I never felt particularly drawn to the city. I tried to love it, but each time I went I was let down. Face-control snobbery, expensive food, too big to properly get to know in one weekend, grey… Moscow had always seemed to me to be a very superficial and money-driven capital, the antithesis of the beautiful and culturally superior St. Petersburg in the North. But a recent visit to Moscow over the New Year completely changed my mind. Continue reading “Re-exploring and re-evaluating: Moscow”
New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in Russia. The equivalent of the British Christmas, New Year is a time to be spent with family, eating a lot of food and a time to look forward to the excitement of a fresh start when the clock chimes midnight. Christmas itself is celebrated on the 7th January, according to the Julian calendar, and is not regarded as the main holiday as it is in the UK, rather being celebrated as a religious holiday. And whilst the 25th December is just an average working day in Russia, I took advantage of my dual-holiday opportunity and attempted to create my own Christmas also. Continue reading “Celebrating the festive season”
Sochi, a city rebuilt for the 2014 Winter Olympics, is now a sunny beach holiday destination for many Russians. Situated on the coast of the Black Sea, close to the Caucasus mountains, the balmy climate and beautiful surroundings would suggest on paper that Sochi’s charm might last beyond the Games. But when I visited the city last weekend it struck me as something of a mirage – beautiful but unreal, and another superficial attempt to prove something about a nation’s economic status. Sochi is, in my mind, a perfect example of the hypocrisies and paradoxes that exist in Russian society, and indeed in many countries across the globe. Continue reading “Sochi”