The weather where I am right now is hot so let’s talk about a cooler place. St. Petersburg, Russia was cool, no downright cold (I wore on a daily basis long underwear, hat, scarf, mittens, and two coats) in March when I traveled there with an assortment of students from universities throughout England. Despite the cold, I was super stoked to even be in Russia. Nothing could bring me down, not even when things got frustrating or didn’t turn out as planned. I recall there being this one 24-hour period when nothing seemed to go right or come easily. (Insert transition to daydream sequence).
My friend, Diana, whom I had met on the plane to Russia, and I set off after our morning lecture to see the State Hermitage. This place is massive and houses everything – antiquities, arts, crafts, jewelry, and armor to name a few. The line was long was we were happy to finally be admitted. The afternoon prior we tried to make it to the Kunstkammer, where Peter the Great kept his curiosities of science. We arrived just a few minutes after the last ticket time.
Knowing full well there’d be no way to see all of the collections, Diana and I narrowed our list down to a few select categories. On the top of our list was to see the Impressionist collection on the second floor. This sounded easy enough and with map in hand we headed into the depths of the Hermitage.
According to the map, the stairway to the second floor was locatable. However, the twists and turns through the collections felt more like a labyrinth with moving hedges. Every time we though we were where needed to be on the map, there were no stairs. We had read that the Impressionist paintings aren’t always open to the public, but we double and triple checked that they were accessible on this day.
Finally, after about an hour, we finally found the stairway. And compared to the rest of the building, this stairway looked so inconspicuous, if we weren’t looking so desperately for it, we might have thought it was for employees only. Seeing the Van Gogh and Seurat paintings, among others, and not being forbidden to take pictures of them was definitely worth the search. Plus we got to see parts of the Hermitage that we probably wouldn’t have had the stairway to the elusive second floor been easier to locate.
After the extended tour of the Hermitage, Diana and I hopped on the Metro to visit the namesake of the reason for my wanting to see Russia. Metro Stop Dostoevsky made me fall in love with Russia. And now here I was. Having arrived at Dostoevskaya Metro Station, I felt I was on personal hallowed ground. The Dostoevsky Museum was just a few blocks away. Though I had not, by that time, read one of his books, I had to go. Unfortunately, it was closed and we wouldn’t have time to come back another day. Dejected, we soon returned to the city center.
In honor of our never giving up or letting our missed opportunities get us down we thought we’d check out the Palace and canal area where the infamous holy man Rasputin was allegedly lured, poisoned with no affect, subsequently shot four times, and again after not dying was beaten, wrapped in a carpet, and thrown into the canal where he broke free but eventually drowned.
(Return from daydream) Sigh. That was 24-hours of not winning. But we kept going. Regardless, nothing could really get me down. I was in freaking Russia!