So, it’s finally come to an end. As I sit in the Heathrow Airport, I’m looking back at some of the great things I did during my last month and a half in the city I’ve come to love so much. This last stretch following Estonia and Finland ended so quickly, I still don’t fully understand that I’m done.
If you’re a fan of theatre, there are a plenty in Saint Petersburg. The most famous, of course, is the Mariinsky Theatre. However, it’s very prestigious and expensive. A great alternative is the Mikhailovsky Theatre. We watched a rendition of Don Quixote, and the performers are true professionals. I wasn’t exactly a fan of theatre art, but I was definitely impressed and captivated by the performances. These theatres have a special Russian flair about them that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Another palace we visited was Yusopovs Palace, the site where Rasputin was murdered…several times. The palace itself is very beautiful, a pretty common sentiment for Russian palaces, but the history is the important part. It is full of creepy wax figures of prominent Russians including Rasputin himself. You get to see the places where he was shot, poisoned, shot again, etc. It is a very interesting and almost comical visit.
If you’re a sports fan, please go to a Zenit game. European football games are famous for their rowdiness and intensity, and this was no different – especially because it was Moscow versus Saint Petersburg. The game was very fun, with Saint Petersburg winning by a few points. However, the real treat here are the fans. Surrounded by their rival fans, the two-bleacher sections of Moscow fans began throwing flares and smoke grenades onto the field. It was pretty wild, to say the least.
A few hours away from Saint Petersburg sits the oldest city of Novgorod. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an historically important city in the early development of Kievan Rus’, the city is famous for its medieval buildings, some of which date to the 10th century. History and architecture buffs will get a kick out of this. Much of the “museum” is outdoors, where you can see the old wooden churches and homes. Most of these buildings you can even go inside, and see how Russians lived so long ago. It’s a very fun excursion.
Bibliophiles rejoice! The Russian National Library is a massive library, with so much history it’s hard to retell all of it. The Russian National Library is a very popular student hub, and has an impressive collection of books and tomes. They hold a collection of Voltaire, which includes several of his manuscripts and journals. Even just walking through the library, you get a first-hand look at the vast amount of knowledge this building has collected over the past few centuries.
The naval city of Kronshtadt is one of my favorite ventures on the trip. Kronshtadt has a revolutionary history. These sailors began fighting back against the Bolsheviks in 1921, but were ultimately defeated. This led to the loosening of economic control under Lenin, and his NEP programs. The island itself is beautiful, with the Naval Cathedral being the absolute most important sightseeing point. This massive cathedral towers over the surrounding square. The interior is beautiful as well, and is a definite must for anyone interested in religious architecture.
Peterhof is also a must-see, but try to do it during the summer. During the colder months, the fountains aren’t running which is really what Peterhof is about. There are dozens of absolutely beautiful fountains that dot a massive park surrounding the palace. You can easily spend several hours at Peterhof simply outside, walking through the forests and the many fountains. If there was one place that really shows how beautiful Russia is, it’s Peterhof.
As I’m writing this, I still haven’t come to terms with the end of this semester. I keep expecting to wake up and be sitting in my dorm room at IMOP, with Grazhdansky Prospekt outside my window. Strangely enough, these signs in this airport, all in English, don’t comfort me as I thought they would. Although I long for my home in Alaska, it is a bittersweet feeling knowing that my study abroad experience is done. Of course, all things end at some point. I have seen incredible things, things that most people don’t get to. I’ve experienced so much that words cannot do justice. Russia has taught me so much about myself, I don’t think I’ll ever repay her for it. I’ve made friends I will never forget, who I know will go on to do amazing things.
If you’re on the fence about studying abroad, please read what I have to say. It isn’t easy. It’s not for people who don’t want a challenge. It’s not for people who are afraid of leaving their comfort. It is a challenge. It will push your patience, your emotions, your mind. You will see the world differently, more consciously. It will leave you in a state of emotional exhaustion quite often, and you will end up frustrated many times. But you will grow, and you will become a better person. You’ll find memories and friendships that can never be taken from you. The world is a huge, beautiful, complex place, and you owe it to yourself to see it for yourself.
До cвидания, Russia. What a crazy, beautiful country.