by Martina Migliorati
Martina with her friends taking a photo near the Bronze Horseman monument in St. Petersburg, Russia.
I’ve been in St. Petersburg Russia several times, but my last trip has begun in the summer of 2014 and end up before the start of autumn of the same year. I went there to learn Russian language, but also because of my strong desire to come again into contact with a world that had always fascinated me since the first time I read Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’.
The first weeks were not as easy as I thought. Despite being regarded as the most ‘Western’ city in Russia, it is undeniable that Saint Petersburg still preserves a very strong identity and culture, with which I had to deal with all by myself. However, my initial frustration in trying to adjust to a culture I had only seen represented in books and movies until that summer was quickly soothed by the beauty and fascination I met during my daily strolls on the magnificent Nevsky Prospekt.
As Gogol once said “There is nothing better than Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg” and indeed he was right. After Rome and Paris, only in Saint Petersburg I experienced the pleasure of walking in a city center surrounded by beautiful Neo Classical Palaces .
From Ploshad Aleksandra Nevskogo to Dvortsovaja Ploshchad (Palace Square) - where lies the famous State Hermitage Museum – some of the most beautiful and interesting treasures can be found. The Alexandrinskiy Theatre, the Kazan Cathedral, the Singer House and the Stroganov Palace are only some of them. There are also hidden gems like the Russian Museum, the Summer Garden, the Church of the Savior of the Blood, Yusupov Palace and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral which you can found along each side of Nevsky Prospekt.
Though in the city of St Petersburg you can find many things to do and see, I was keen to explore this city as much as I could, so during my weekends I also went to visit the beautiful summer residences of the Tsars, such as Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof. I didn’t take a tour to go there as I was on a budget trip, so I just went there with local friends.
However, my curiosity was not limited to palaces and museums only. As an Italian, I could not avoid trying typical food and dishes, which are a mixture of the different cultures that have always coexisted in Russia. I always remember with huge nostalgia my visits to some of the grocery shops in the city like ‘Produkty’ or ‘Grastronom’, and to markets and stalls along the the streets.
Russian Food , such as dumplings, soups, salty and sweet blini (Russian pancakes) and pierogi became part of my culinary exploration, which are still on my lips. Moreover, I could not miss a visit to the numerous Georgian, Armenian or Kazakh restaurants. I would highly recommend them to any honest foody going to Russia!
Some of my best memories are also linked to the people I met. Despite the widespread cliché conception of Russian as being cold and detached, I have met some of my dearest friends during my staying, including teachers. By chance I also met Davide and Anastasia, founders of St Petersburg Essential Guide , two nice people who shared with me their website, which I found very handy during the planning of my city activity. Honestly, all the people I met have played a significant role in giving me a deeper insight of the country and its culture.
It is thanks to some of them that I discovered for example why Russians don’t smile the way we would like them to or why there are myriads of flowers shops not only in St Petersburg but across the whole Russia. It is through them that I got to know the unconventional 80’s with all their artistic background a field I have always been interested in.
The legendary band Kino became my soundtrack during and after my stay. I found myself becoming one of the numerous fans of the band, whose songs can be heard playing at every corner of the Nevsky Prospekt by young supporters (for those interested, I suggest doing a visit at the museum of Viktor Tsoi, called ‘Kamchatka’).
In conclusion, my travel experience in Russia was great, and Saint Petersburg it is truly a lovely and friendly city that left me with so many memories and the constant desire to go back again and again. Sure I will go back soon!!!
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