The excitement increased by leaps and bound when I was informed that I was selected for the course amongst the other applicants who had applied. My conceptions about Russia were based upon the narrated experiences of my relatives and acquaintances. Saint Petersburg they described was like a fantasy land with amazing architecture, priceless museums and an abode to create memories. All these fuelled my desire to fly to this wonderland and experience the Mecca of History.
When I first arrived here in st Petersburg it was early autumn. The fascinating city was shining like a pearl. The first impression of the city was captivating. On my journey from the airport to my hostel I witnessed grand monuments reflecting the rich history of this place. All those narratives which I had heard back in Kolkata were taking a form right in front of my own eyes. I must admit to the fact that it took considerable time to grasp that I finally made it to the Window of Europe. The whole journey from airport to my destination was a visual treat as it was a complete new travelling experience. The hostel was welcoming and warm. However, I did face a strong obstacle in front of me- the language barrier. Ninety nine percent of my hostel mates spoke in Russian and little knowledge of English language.
I slowly found myself isolated and unable to convey or express myself to the wider mass. Homesickness began to set in. But then I realised that I am here for a reason- to experience new things, to study and learn more about my subject and be a better individual. That’s when I decided to step out of my room and go for a walk around the city. With the help of Google, I found myself on a bridge on the Neva River. The huge body of water and the strong winds washed away my loneliness and made me far more determined to learn the language of this beautiful city. The events which followed henceforth were nothing short of a dream. I visited a lot of museums and I fell in love with the Hermitage. I was right in the middle of a piece of history and began to feel like a part of it. I visited a few palaces, churches and forts. All of them immensely increased my love for this city. I realised that humans are capable of anything- if they can create such magnificent monuments then I can overcome my personal difficulties and emerge a better human being.
The most magnificent places to sees lies on the central street named Nevesky prospect. The great churches such as Kazan Cathedral, Church of the saviour of split blood and Issac’s cathedral are all situated in close proximity. For travellers the city is a delight in summer and spring when the sky is clear and water is blue. On the other side of the Neva lies the Peter and Paul fortress which houses the graves of all the Russian tsars. The botanical parks and art galleries serve the needs of all visitors alike. The city is home to more than 300 museums which range from various topics such as art, politics to metro. I never experienced for a second that this was not a part of Europe as everything resembles the streets and decors of Europe. Peter the great created this awe-inspiring city from getting inspired from his trip to Europe.
The next important thing for me was the food. Here again you get a taste of the international cuisine be it Chinese, Russian Asian or European. You would love to try swarma and remember the heavenly taste of borsch or piroge. The people around the streets are always welcoming strangers just as the city welcomes you with open arms. Before knowing it, I fell in love with this city. Moreover, st Petersburg offers a perfect stop to travel to the frigid north to cities like Murmansk to catch a glimpse of the northern lights or visit an urban space like Moscow.
Living in St. Petersburg for the last 2 years while traveling around Russia I realized that I have already learned a lot of new things- academically and philosophically. This experience is nothing short of a wonderful dream and an enlightening experience. With each passing day, I try to live every moment in this beautiful city to my fullest. I am grateful that such a welcoming unprecedented event happened in my life. Although Russia is cold but the memories I am making here are warm. I hope that more people visit Russia, discover it and in a way, it would help them discover themselves.