…and now I don’t really want to go home. About 2 weeks ago I suddenly started feeling like someone flipped a switch inside me, and now I’m falling in love with St. Petersburg all over again.
It might be the weather: it’s finally getting warm-ish and I can even go without a coat most days. The weather changes pretty drastically within a day, though, and it still hasn’t gotten nice enough to wear shorts or a dress without tights. But we’re getting there.
It might be that White Nights are starting soon, and the sun is up from 6 a.m. until about 11 p.m. these days. It’s crazy and disorienting, but it makes me feel like I can’t just stay in my room.
It might be that tourist season is starting, and the streets are suddenly much more crowded. It’s not that uncommon now for me to hear English when I’m walking around Nevskii Prospekt. And there are plenty of giant, obnoxious tour groups to make me feel superior for being a local and speaking the language.
But for whatever reason, the city has transformed completely in my eyes. It’s almost like it was when I first got here. Everything seems beautiful and new again. My other friends on the program have noticed and commented on it too; there’s a certain vitality to the city these days. It’s like St. Petersburg has woken up after a really heavy sleep.
Some cool things I’ve done since this newfound love for the city hit me:
-I spent the good part of a day at a really great museum of contemporary Russian art called Erarta (http://www.erarta.com/eng/)
-I’ve been to the apartment-museums of Mikhail Zoshchenko and Anna Akhmatova, both 20th century Russian writers who lived in St. Petersburg and were persecuted by the Soviet government. Also amazing.
-We had a weekend trip to Pskov and its surrounding areas, including the place where Pushkin is buried, the place where he spent 2 years in exile and wrote some of his most famous works, and one of the holiest monasteries in Russia (famous for being one of the only ones that hasn’t closed at any point during its history, including during the Soviet Union). Here’s a few pictures from where Pushkin spent his time in exile (it’s called Mikhailovskoye):
It’s hard to capture in a few pictures, but it was really one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
-This weekend we celebrated my friend’s 21st birthday. A huge group of us stood on the banks of the Neva and drank champagne and recited toasts in Russian, and we watched the beautiful sky change colors as the sun was setting around 10 p.m. A true study abroad experience.
-Also (I hope this is blog appropriate), I went on my first and probably only date with a Russian, which included him reciting Pushkin to me on the banks of the Neva, going up to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and getting a panoramic view of the whole city, and walking around the park where the Bronze Horseman is. This can be a very romantic city, let me tell you.
-My program had a 19th-century ball for us and some Russian students who study in our department, and we all dressed up in period costume and waltzed, watched some people duel, etc. It was pretty bizarre but also fun. This is what I looked like:
I wish this love for SPb had come back to me a little bit earlier, though, because now I only have 10 days left here. Eeep! I’m going to try to make the most of it. I still have Victory Day (May 9) and a day trip to Peterhof (said to be the Russian Versailles) to look forward to. There will be many parades and fountains in my future.