My second month in Saint Petersburg began way too quickly. I feel like I had just touched down at the Pulkovo Airport in Saint Petersburg, and it was already month two. My spring break occurred at the end of March, so there is a lot of traveling to report. By the second month, if you are actively trying to break out of your comfort zone, you will develop and pick up conversation. I’ve already learned more conversational Russian in the time I’ve been here than I did back in Alaska. Here are the activities and places I went to survive my second month in this beautiful, beautiful city.
One of my favorite excursions was the Artillery Museum. The museum sits opposite the Peter and Paul Fortress. There are two parts to this museum: the outside, which is free, and the inside, which cost about 150 rubles (about $3). The plaza houses several World War II military vehicles and artillery. Facing the entrance, the left side houses a huge assortment of personnel carriers and missile transport vehicles. The middle section displays missiles, and of course the missile launchers. For me, the tanks and artillery guns were the most interesting. It is possible to take pictures with some of the bigger artillery guns, which is a surreal experience when you think about the power and destruction they wrought. The museum is essentially a testament to the Russian army from its imperial stages forward. There are numerous exhibits showing Russian weaponry, uniforms, and strategies in numerous wars. This is a must see for any war history buffs.
Dostoevsky Apartment Museum
For the literary folks out there, I recommend visiting the Dostoevsky Apartment Museum, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s last apartment. If you are unfamiliar with Dostoevsky, you owe it to yourself to look into some of his work. The Idiot and Crime and Punishment are some of his more famous novels. Our guide told us some of Dostoevsky’s story, and being able to walk through the place where this literary giant lived and died was a very humbling experience. The floorboards you walk across are the same that he paced about, where he hugged his children or fought with his wife. It is a very small museum, consisting of maybe seven rooms, but it is still a very interesting site.
Pavlovsk, a city about 50 minutes from Saint Petersburg, is a very interesting place to visit. Pavlovsk was the palace of Paul I in 1777. Now, of course, it has been remodeled as a museum. The museum houses beautiful and intricate pieces, including many statues. One hallway, in particular, houses elaborate statues of the Greek gods. The park outside is very large, and worth a visit, especially in the summer or late spring. I would also recommend going in deep winter when there is a lot of snow. Unfortunately, our spring hit very early and by the time we visited Pavlovsk, the snow was breaking up. That being said, it was still very beautiful and I plan to revisit the park towards the end of the trip.
Siege of Leningrad Museum
One of the most emotionally challenging locations I visited was the Siege of Leningrad Museum. I absolutely recommend this museum, which pays tribute to the siege of Leningrad by German armies from 1941 through 1945. The beginning of the tour involves battle plans and weaponry used by both German and Russian soldiers. It explains the hardships that the citizens of Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) faced: starvation, constant artillery bombings, lack of clean water, and a blockade that separated Saint Petersburg from the rest of the country. It is a dramatic and important historical event, and something I recommend everyone include in his or her itinerary.
Take A Walk
Once the snow begins to melt and it starts to warm up, my utmost recommendation is this: walk around the city. The temperature rose to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit one day, so I took the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the city. I got off the metro at Ploshad Muzhestva and began my walk. I saw Saint Sampson’s Cathedral, as well as the statue of Lenin at Ploshad Lenina.
I walked south over a bridge crossing the Neva River and saw the Smolny Cathedral as well. Unfortunately, I could not go in as there was some sort of event going on. However, the outside of the church is beautiful and worth the visit. Finally, I ended my journey at Nevsky Prospekt. In total, I walked about 10.2 miles. If you’re like me, walking can be a great way to alleviate stress. Just make sure you know where you’re going, make sure you have a way of contacting someone, and go out during the day when it’s nice and warm.
Saint Petersburg has been kind to me. If I had to describe myself and my transformation here in one word, it would be: efficacious. Living here and living abroad in general forces you to grow up. Yes, of course you have fun. But you grow as a person and start to see the world in a different way. Just remember to push yourself out of your comfort zone. One of the best ways to avoid the dreaded culture shock is to do new things every day. Find a museum you know nothing about, go to a ballet or the circus, or find some cultural event that you find interesting. You are only here for a short time after all. And I can attest to the fact that time goes by so much quicker when you are abroad.