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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

"Toto, I Don't Think We Are In Kansas Anymore": First Impressions of St. Petersburg

RUSSIAN FEDERATION | Sunday, 12 September 2010 | Views [2162] | Comments [1]

St. Petersburg is one of the coolest cities that I have ever been to. I have also never felt more dumb in my life.

Let me explain the former first. I was fortunate to be able to arrive in St. Petersburg as the sun was setting and got to take in all of the sights as I walked down the main touristy road, the Nevsky Prospekt. As usual, I rocked on up to St. Petersburg with no real idea on what the major sights were. I figured that I would see them or hear about them from the crowd. Boy was I right. 10 minutes into my walk I crossed an intersection with gorgeous cathedrals to my left and right. To my left was the Kazan Cathedral. To my right was the Cathedral of Our Savior (Church of Spilled Blood) that is the famous church everyone thinks of when they hear St. Petersburg. I turned to my right and got a better view of one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen in my life. The architecture and the colors were phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it. I was overcome by a sense of awe as my eyes darted over the impressive towers. I knew that I would have to go inside when it was open.

I then went the opposite direction and went into the Kazan Cathedral, which is massive! I would describe to you what it looks like but you really need to just see it for yourself. I was able to get inside and was overcome by a sense of humbling awe as there were many people inside paying their respects. The sound of faint chanting could be heard in every corner. The candles crackled as they burned around religious pictures. Going into this cathedral left me with a sense of inner peace, and again I was flabbergasted.

I then continued on the Nevsky Prospekt and passed the Hermitage as I made my way to the river. That museum is another story in itself, as I cannot even describe to you the beauty that the building contains. I used to think that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the greatest art museum ever….boy was I wrong. When I did get to the river the sun was starting to hit the tops of all the cathedrals in St. Petersburg. What you need to know is that most of those tops are covered in gold, and thus they were set afire during the sunset. I positioned myself so that I could see the buildings glow and hear the water lap up upon the stairs. Never in my life have I truly felt the beauty of a city like I have here.

The people are also something to see as well. As an admirer of fashion, I really appreciate seeing what some of these girls are wearing as they walk down the street. First off, I don’t know how they do it with such high heels! Second, their coats and skirts are simply marvelous. I think that the men in this city do have some eye candy to appreciate. I also find it amusing that a lot of them hold hands/arms with each other as they walk down the road.

But now we get to the latter part of my original statement. As much as I love being here, it is extremely frustrating at the same time. I can’t read anything because it is all written in the Russian alphabet. I studied the alphabet for a few weeks and I can do pronunciations in my head but I am no expert. I did get excited when I walked down the street and was able to read the signs that said “McDonalds” and “Subway” in English. (no, I haven’t been to either, where would be the fun in that?) I have to gesture a lot when buying things like food because people either don’t speak English or they are not very helpful in English. They get an attitude when I can’t communicate with them. To be honest though, I don’t blame them. I would feel the same way if I was working at a store and someone just assumed that I spoke a language that was not from my country. This is why I feel dumb. I can’t read the language and I can’t speak it either. I have had so many people start talking to me in Russian on the street and all I can do is shake my head and walk away. They must think that I am either a bitch or a dumb tourist….I am not really sure which one I would prefer to be thought of either! I have learned since this started the expression “I don’t speak Russian”. I also learned “Do you speak English” pretty quickly but have usually not received the response I would have liked!

This sounds like it frustrates me but it is all good fun. I feel more immersed in culture now than when I was in the rest of Europe. I think things might have been too easy then. I walked around Europe with this sense that I could assume most people know English. It’s not like that anymore. Too be honest, coming to Russia has been a humbling experience.

In the cathedral I sat and I prayed. I thanked God for giving me the chance to live these experiences. I prayed for protection and strength to carry out the rest of my journey. It’s going to get hard for awhile before I get to Australia. But I will be so incredibly proud of myself if I can adapt to this environment. Thank you Russia, for putting me in my place as a clueless tourist.

Tags: russia, st. petersburg



Don't worry, Russia is probably more difficult when it comes to language as it's rare that people speak English. China will be better (a little) but then you'll have hell trying to read things.....but hey, that's where it all gets a little more interesting.

  Kem Sep 12, 2010 11:46 PM

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