St. Petersburg

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”

Advertisements

By train or by plane?

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?”

Эрарта

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 Tver

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.

Continue reading “Returning to Tver”

Re-exploring and re-evaluating: Moscow

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”

Celebrating the festive season

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

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”

Touchy Subjects

“If a girl is fat, guys won’t look at her” – Why should a women’s appearance be dictated by the desire of a man?

“Gay marriage is unnatural, bad for demographics” – So if you prohibit gay marriage, do you think that homosexuality will cease to exist?

“Black Lives Matter activists are terrorists” – In fact, the majority of terrorists in modern-day US are white men, and the Black Lives Matter movement comes as a result of a long history of racial inequality and police brutality against black people that is still present today.

“Have you noticed all the Caucasians here?” – ….

Some words that I’ve heard so far that have stood out to me. Continue reading “Touchy Subjects”

Second First Impressions

Being here in Rostov-on-Don is both totally new and extremely familiar at the same time. Since I have already spent time in Russia, there are many aspects of life and culture here that I don’t find so surprising this time around. Compared to my Spanish colleagues, for whom this experience is their first time in Russia, our ‘first impressions’ somewhat differ. I already feel used to life here, and think the city is pretty great so far, but my comparison is Tver, not the West. It’s interesting to compare my own impressions of the city with those of other foreigners, and reminds me of my initial reservations and culture shock I had 3 years ago. Continue reading “Second First Impressions”

Anushka

I arrived in Rostov-on-Don a week ago now. The journey was long, and something was different from before. Before, when I lived in Tver. I spent 8 months in Russia in 2013 for my year abroad, and since then Russia’s relationship with the West has changed somewhat drastically. When I told people that I was going to Russia then, the reaction was bemusement. Now it’s more incredulity. Why would I go to Russia at all, never mind consciously choose to spend another year there? Continue reading “Anushka”