Post-Program Reflections

  1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA Grant experience. 

Spending time in Russia allowed me to make such incredible language gains as I never would have anticipated. The classroom instruction contributed to this hugely, as my classes were so incredibly small and we received instruction exclusively in Russian. When I did not understand a word, it was explained to me with the definition or other Russian synonyms, which expanded my lexicon hugely. It was also phenomenal to be able to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it immediately off campus at the grocery store, restaurants, social contexts, etc. Engaging with the local people and their culture allowed me to further practice my language and learn nuances and slang that are only available to native speakers who evolve with and help shape their language. It was a privilege to learn from my Russian peers and professors, and I believe their guidance helped me reach the benchmarks I set for myself before this experience on the route to achieving language fluency.

  1. Reflect on your SLA Grant experience overall.

I find that this experience has given me a more multidimensional understanding of Russian culture and mentality. Through conversations with natives, I heard a variety of perspectives about topics ranging from the economy to pop culture to Putin. From a linguistic standpoint – I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it was to hear the language spoken as it was intended on a daily basis. I was able to correct many mistakes I had no idea I had been making and drastically improve my accent because of the language immersion. It is important to take full advantage of such a rich experience and not be afraid of making mistakes in speech. Without leaps of faith, there can be no progress. Such is with learning a foreign language.

  1. How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future? My summer experience has already begin to pay off in the Fall 2016 semester. As I have begun my Advanced Russian class, many of the skills of language learning I developed over the summer have been useful. Additionally, literary topics discussed have already overlapped, and I have been able to bring in information about Golden Age figures like Turgenev and Dostoevsky that my teachers in Russia shared with me. Stronger speaking and writing skills have served me in the classroom, but the improvement of my reading comprehension has allowed me to look at some primary sources in Russian at the library. This will be especially important to me as I move forward in my academic career and build a thesis. Research skills in my target language will give me access to a greater range of resources and perspectives. I can’t wait to continue building my language competency in Russian and very much hope that it will bring me back to the political capital of the country, whether it be for research or in my professional life. Regardless, I will use the skills acquired over this summer to be the best cultural ambassador that I can be.

Post Program Reflections

1. Reflect on your language learning and acculturation during your SLA Grant experience.

Perhaps most importantly I realized while abroad how many gaps in my language skills there were. My expectation had been that at the very least I would be able to function in day to day life in Moscow. Upon arriving, I all at once realized how very little I knew, especially with day to day tasks like ordering a coffee. However, it helped me realize very quickly what I needed to focus on while studying Russian which I would not have figured out in the States. Additionally, I discovered that the Russian I had been learning in class was very different from spoken Russian. I picked up on nuances and how Russians thought by the phrases I kept hearing over and over. For example, when I understood something, I wouldn’t say “I understand” but rather “[This is] understood”. Over the summer, I acquired a bunch of stock phrases; some of which I am still not certain how they’re spelled but I know how to pronounce and use. At the beginning of the summer, my goals were rather nebulous but my progress is certainly what I wanted it to be.

2. Reflect on your SLA Grant experience overall.

Although my bank account is now almost empty, I am very glad I went to Russia. Even though it was only a short amount of time, I made sure to experience as much as I could. At times Moscow seemed like such a foreign, fairy tale-esque place and at other times it seemed as familiar to me as my own hometown. The most important insight I gained was simply how to exist so outside of my comfort zone and away from a support system. It’s something one can never really prepare himself or herself for and it’s something I would recommend anyone planning on studying abroad to fully embrace. Something I didn’t expect to learn was to appreciate how difficult it is to learn a new language as an adult. It helped me appreciate even more the struggles my parents have gone through as immigrants. Not being able to communicate can be so frustrating and isolating at times but also allows room for creativity. In addition to fully embracing the foreignness, I would also recommend anyone planning to study abroad to stay away from English speakers. It can be really easy and comforting to only spend time around English speakers, but one will lose the mentality of the other language and waste the time of being abroad. Furthermore, as far as language acquisition is concerned, one will pick up more language walking around and being surrounded by the language than locked up in a room, studying from books. One can do that back home; but the constant environment isn’t so easily replicated.

3. How do you plan to use your language and intercultural competences in the future?

As soon as my Advanced Russian class started this semester, I was so grateful that I had spent the summer in Russia. I would never have developed the listening comprehension to feel comfortable with the fluid Russian. Even having only been in the States for a few short weeks, I can already feel the Russian slipping away (although I still sometimes accidentally thank people in Russian) but I make sure to keep up with my Russian friends and Skype them on occasion. As I get more settled into a regular schedule, I plan to incorporate more movies and music in Russian into my daily life to at the very least to try and recreate the background Russian I was so used to in Moscow. I look forward to someday returning to Moscow (preferably sooner than later) and incorporating the language in a professional sense, whether that be when treating patients or in the international research community.

Little Victories

As my flight back home comes closer and closer, the more reluctant I am to leave. I knew the summer would feel short, but I didn’t realize how much I would feel at home in Russia. While my Russian still has a long way to go, there are a few events that have proven to me that I have improved despite still feeling utterly incompetent.

  • Being able to order a meal. It’s not just about the language skills, although this is an important part. There’s a very different set of rules in Russian cafes and restaurants than in America. Waiters and waitresses are to be addressed as “young man” or “girl” which I’m still not entirely comfortable with. There are five or six different ways of ordering, depending on the impression one wants to give. Additionally, one rarely has to pick up one’s tray, even in a fast food place. The system of etiquette goes on and on, and I’m happy to say I can navigate it without too much trouble. I think back to the first meal I ordered and what a mess that was and am astounded at the ease with which I can do it now.
  • Successfully giving directions. Learning a new city is hard enough without the added difficulty of not being able to speak the language. I tried to visit some place new every single day, to facilitate my learning the city and to see as much of Moscow as possible. During my first week in Moscow, a woman asked me for directions. Not only did it take me a while to understand what she wanted, but I also had to explain it was my first time in that particular Metro station. I frequently get asked for directions, but by this point I not only know where the place is located but have developed the language skills to explain how to get there. I always get a surprised look from the Russian when they first hear my accent (Oh no, I’ve asked a foreigner; they won’t know) but in the end, they understand me and know where to go. It’s something I never thought possible so soon.
  • Getting my bag repaired. Moscow can be pretty hard on clothes, shoes, and bags. I’ve lost a pair of shoes, an umbrella, and various other things to this city. At one point, one of the straps of my bag ripped off. Fortunately, one of my professors was able to recommend a repair shop not too far from the university. I was successfully able to discuss the repair and price with the repairsman, all in Russian, without any outside help. It was one of the first things I did independently, and I was so satisfied to get it done without too much difficulty.
  • Holding conversations with Russians without disrupting the flow too much. I can really only do this for two or so hours at a time until my Russian starts to really degrade. All the members in my group had ‘tutors’, who were Russians who were interested in culture exchange and were willing to show us the city, have conversations with us, etc. I used my tutor primarily as a conversation partner. We would walk around a park and chat about our lives and studies. The last time I met with her, we talked for a little more than two hours and I didn’t once not understand her or have to stop to look something in a dictionary. This more than anything really shows me how far I’ve come.

Although my time in Moscow has come to an end, I intend to keep practicing regularly and someday return to Russia. I’ve seen sights I’ve only ever read about, traveled outside of Moscow, and now have an idea of what Russia is really like. It’s not the foreign place it was not so long ago. I can’t imagine not ever coming back.

Tea on the train from St. Petersburg

Tea on the train from St. Petersburg

Finally becoming a Russian grandmother.

Finally becoming a Russian grandmother.



Moscow has countless parks from small neighborhood parks to former palace grounds. Tsaritsyno is one of the former palace grounds. The palace was built for Catherine the Great but ultimately she was unsatisfied with the results. Today, it’s a sprawling park with several small museums and a large forest park.

One of my Russian professors had recommended Tsaritsyno as part of a list of places to see in Moscow that only Russians usually see. I wandered through the park’s entrance and immediately was handed a bottle of free grapefruit juice. For some reason, there was a line of workers handing out bottles of grapefruit juice. When I left four hours later, they were still handing them out with no sign of stopping.

After walking past the first square, the first thing I saw was a large fountain with alternating bursts of water. I sat there and people watched for a while. I witnessed a wedding party taking photos at the fountain while I fed some pigeons. By the end of the day, I would see some thirty different wedding parties. This only attests to the park’s beauty. Eventually, I got up to continue my wandering. I decided to see only the grounds and not buy tickets to see the inside of the palaces since the insides were deserted. I doubted there was anything particularly interesting if no one was in there.

The next three hours were a blur of wandering around forests and palace grounds, coming across the strangest and most wonderful things. There was a chess tournament set up but few people playing; however a giant chess set was located in the middle of a meadow with a game in full swing. In the nearby forest, I came across statues of Greek gods and lampposts randomly scattered about. There was even a ruin crumbling away on a hill.

My favorite was an arch with Greek inspired designs and Sphinx statues in front. There wasn’t really a purpose to this open air hallway. It was just kind of there. I couldn’t find a single sign to identify it. It took me a while to find my way out of the forest, and I never did find the end of the forest. Part of the park’s allure is the fact that all the buildings match- they’re all the same coral colored stone with white trimmings.

To end my day, I got a late lunch at a little cafe on the palace grounds. It served traditional Russian foods and had an open air patio. So much of the time, I’m constantly running around Moscow, trying to see as much as I can since time is short, and often I’m with a group as well. It was nice to take a relaxing day by myself to explore on my own.

Taking Tests & Being Tourists – 6

Tomorrow marks the end of my language study in Russia. Although I am sad to leave, I know that I will come back to ND with a much different perspective on Russia, its people, and language learning. It has been a busy week, full of hard work and celebrations for completing said work.

Our group took the TORFL Russian language certification exam. It was a grueling two-day process, but we all successfully passed the exam that consisted of 5 parts – writing, reading, listening, grammar, and speaking. The experience of living in and moving around Moscow made day 2 (listening and speaking) much easier than I anticipated because immersion allowed me to make great leaps on the path to fluency. I had two small victories in language acquisition this week when one girl mistook me for a native speaker and a waiter in a restaurant complimented my accent.

After passing the TORFL, we allowed ourselves some time for final tourist attractions. First on the list was visiting Lenin’s mausoleum. This was on my list of must-sees from the moment I arrived in Moscow, but the mausoleum is only open to the public from 10-1 on a few weekdays, so I was always in class during this time. We arrived over an hour early on Wednesday morning and the line already stretched beyond the border of Red Square. Once the doors opened at 10, the line moved surprisingly quickly. Security was very tight, and the guards kept everyone moving at a steady rate. There was no possibility of lingering in the crypt. Once inside, you go down several dark flights of stairs to where the preserved body is stored. It was a surreal experience to see this infamous man displayed, and he hardly looked human. A friend commented that it looked more so like a wax figure. One many walked through the mausoleum with his hand in his pocket and a guard yanked his hand out yelling “No!”. The entire experience was very tense, but I’m glad I went. Outside the mausoleum there are several other memorials and graves of Russian and Soviet leaders.Pictured is the outside of the mausoleum, located on Red Square.


We then went to the Tretyakov State Gallery. This art gallery features many of Russia’s foremost fine art. I particularly enjoyed the gallery of Mikhail Vrubel’s art. Vrubel, a member of the Symbolism movement, is primarily known for his paintings but also dabbled in other media – especially ceramics. The gallery featured many of his paintings, some sketches, and these alternate-media compositions. Among these, I particularly enjoyed a ceramic fireplace he created- full of colors and intricate designs. One of his most famous works, Demon Seated (pictured), was inspired by Mikhail Lermontov’s poem, Demon. The poem exists in two parts and offers a nihilistic perspective of the word that roused Vrubel to create the painting.


After 5 weeks of doing my best to assimilate to the local culture and not stand out as an иностранец (foreigner), it was fun to take a 180º turn for only a few days. We concluded our celebration of the Russian adventure with a trip to the souvenir fair in Izmailovsky Market. This is Moscow’s version of Disney World’s aesthetic, with many colorful buildings, tourist attractions, and hundreds of vendors selling everything from traditional, hand-painted Matryoshka dolls to Putin memorabilia. We bid farewell to our time among the Muscovites with delicious kebabs and ice cream and headed back to the metro.

You Can See Finland From Here

Not too long ago, I visited St. Petersburg with some other students from my group. We were on our own with no resident director to guide us (although two of the students became quasi-resident directors). On the second day, we visited Peterhof, Peter the Great’s palace in the Gulf of Finland. Initial construction of Peterhof began in 1714 and finally ended in 1723. While there are many methods of arriving to this island, we took the hydrofoil across the water, allowing us to see a waterfront view of St. Petersburg and some other boats in the gulf. Supposedly, on a clear day you can see Finland from the pier. The path from the pier to the main palace follows the Marine Canal, which allowed the tsars to sail right up to their palace.

Marine Canal

Marine Canal

Directly in front of the palace is the Grand Cascade and the Samson Fountain.

Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain

Grand Cascade and Samson Fountain

It’s a stunning sight, but it’s hard to get a good photo because of the large number of tourists. People crowded the slippery steps, everyone waving around their phone, professional camera, or even selfie sticks. I have seen more selfie sticks on that three day trip to St. Petersburg than all of my combined years in America. As I walked up the steps, there were two little boys climbing the banister as opposed to the actual steps with their grandmother scolding them, telling them to be careful. I even saw a few wedding parties taking photos here and there.
While one can pay extra to visit the inside of the palace and the grotto, I only had three hours to explore the entire island, so I chose to wander around the grounds that hid fountains, statues, and mini-museums. The rest of the grounds were significantly less crowded than the palace and as I walked among the perfectly manicured lawns and gardens, I could almost imagine the tsars and their family and guests wandering around the grounds, just around the corner or on the other side of the trees. Two of my favorite spots were a little house-museum and another cascade fountain. The little house-museum stood at the end of a perfectly square pond with ducks and ducklings swimming in it. Tourists relaxed on benches around the pond, with the best spots being under the trees. Despite the colder weather, the sun was still fierce. The cascade fountain was a good distance from the palace and had marble statues at regular intervals up the cascade. It was flanked by two large jets of water, at least two dozen feet into the air.

On the way back to the pier, I rested on the beach and simply watched the waves. The water was too cold and probably too unclean to swim, so people simply sunbathed on the sand or the rocks. In Moscow, I try as much as I can to blend in and not look like a tourist or a foreigner. Sometimes this works too well when people come up to ask me for directions and I have to admit that I am as lost as they are. But in St. Petersburg, I allowed myself to be a tourist and simply enjoy the sights.


A Weekend with Tolstoy

Purely by chance, I ended up having three Tolstoy related excursions in a single weekend.
On Thursday, my group went to go see a ‘drama-lecture’ of Anna Karenina with Nabokov’s commentary. We first had a back stage tour at the theater “U Nikitskih Vorot” (transliteration is hard), which was this small, very avant-garde theater. Our tour guide, the son of one of the set creators, told us the theater was only non-professionals. We asked him how long the show was (we had a very early morning the next day), and he told us it was about 3 hours long. I had very low expectations for how much I would like the show, but it turned out to be much better than I had anticipated. It was essentially the entire story of Anna Karenina but with Nabokov acting as narrator, commenter, and occasionally comedian. He really helped move the plot along; for example, I only started getting sleepy when he stopped commenting as much early on in the second half. Although I could only follow the dialogue half of the time, the actions of the actors helped me fully understand the storyline. True to the avant-garde nature of the theater, the music included everything from African tribal music to Tchaikovsky, and some of the scenes were rather abstract.
The following morning, we all met at a Metro station in one of the most southern districts of Moscow at 7:30. From there, we took a two hour, non air conditioned bus drive to Tyla, the town closest to Tolstoy’s estate, where he spent his final days and where he wrote Anna Karenina. Tolstoy’s estate is officially called Yasnaya Polyana, and the rooms are much like how they were when Tolstoy lived there. It’s a beautiful estate, with sprawling gardens, orchards, and buildings for the serfs who lived there. There’s even a school that Tolstoy opened, now a literary museum. It was wonderful to breathe the fresh air after so much time of breathing Moscow’s city air and walk without hearing the sounds of passing cars. While there, I had to be careful to not accidentally become part of a wedding party’s photos. Even so, I think American students showed up in the background of several photos. If one walks down a long path, deep into the forest, one can come across Tolstoy’s grave. It’s a simple grass covered mound, with no headstone or fanfare. On our return, we stopped at Тульский пряник, Tyla’s famous gingerbread store and factory. I bought some for my family back in the States because according to my one of my Russian professors, they keep for a year.



The following Saturday evening, I traveled to the first professional ballet I would ever see. In Moscow, of all places. It was Anna Karenina, at the Moscow Academic Musical Theater. According to my resident director, it has an even better troupe in the summertime than the one that takes over the Bolshoi theater’s stage in the summer. I had a great seat, second balcony, first row, from where I had a commanding view of the stage and also of the pit, where I could observe the musicians. The ballet itself was everything I had hoped for and more. The dancers didn’t miss a beat, I couldn’t find a flaw with the orchestra’s playing, and the ballet included sets with lots of dancers and overwhelming color but also simple duets. At one point in the second half, the orchestra started playing a piece I was shocked to recognize from my study play list. While I grappled with organic chemistry, I never imagined myself hearing the same piece at a ballet in Moscow.

Московский Академический Музыкальный Театр Им. К.С. Станиславского и Вл. И. Немировича-Данченко

Московский Академический Музыкальный Театр Им. К.С. Станиславского и Вл. И. Немировича-Данченко

Food, food, food! – 5

Because Russia is such a vast country, the cuisine is influenced by a wide range of cultures. There are delicious, authentic Asian restaurants. Chinese and Japanese restaurants are numerous, and we even ventured to a North Korean restaurant to try traditional foods from that country. Being Europe’s largest city, Moscow has also taken on western culinary influences. American chains can be spotted throughout the city, especially in areas more often frequented by tourists. McDonalds, Sbarro, KFC, Starbucks, and Krispy Kreme are among the familiar logos transliterated into Cyrillic that I have noticed on my walks through the city. European and international cuisine is very popular, with many restaurants catering to specific styles of cooking (more or less accurately).

Food from Russia’s Caucus region neighbors has also crept into everyday cuisine. Shawarma is particularly popular among young Russians and there are 24 hour Shawarma kiosks all across the city. Shawarma is a middle-eastern burrito-like food. It consists of spit-grilled meat and pickled vegetables served in a pita wrap and is delicious. One notable point of cultural distinction between Moscow and St. Petersburg is their spelling of “shawarma”. In Moscow, it is spelled thus. St. Petersburg, however, has adopted a different spelling, “Shwurma”, and this has become a point of pride for residents of both cities.

Another culturally significant food in Russia is cake. Beautifully decorated cakes can be found in the refrigerator section of even the smallest grocery store. The obsession with cakes stems from the shortage of such foods during the Soviet era. In those times, it was difficult to find a cake in the store, especially the most popular varieties so people baked at home. Older Russians still have multitudes of cake recipes, but this is becoming less popular as cakes have become more and more accessible. Left over from those times is the tradition of inviting guests over and serving cake after dinner. With such a high demand for sweets, the selection is excellent. Pictured, is a typical honey cake at a Russian café.


There are traditional Slavic-influenced dishes that one typically considers “Russian”. Among these are bliny, pirogi, and vareniki. This style of cuisine involves a lot of starches and can be prepared as savory or sweet dishes. Grocery stores typically stock a wide selection of these in the frozen food section, so even the busiest Russians can have a taste of comfort food. We have relied on these frozen dinners in the past when preparing group dinners on our floor, as they require no more culinary prowess than the ability to boil a pot of water. There is no major taste difference between these frozen dinners and those served in restaurants, simply because the recipe is so simple. Bliny, and pirogi are necessarily better fresh because they are prepared by pan frying and baking, respectively. Vareniki, however, taste the same whether they were hand rolled by a chef or boiled at home. Quality of ingredients in integral to a successful dish, and there is a notable difference in flavor of these traditional foods in Russia and elsewhere.

Several members of our program have noted to me how delicious the food is. There is a small grocery store across the street from our campus where most students get their groceries. The selection is significantly smaller than in an American grocery store, but the quality of ingredients is significantly higher. The produce is more flavorful and the milk tastes more like milk from a cow than like water. I know that I will miss the “Green Store” (as we affectionately call our local grocery) when I return to America.

The Immersion at Work – 4

After four weeks in Moscow, I experienced my greatest language-related success when someone in the Metro station assumed I was a local and asked for directions. Not only was I able to direct him to the appropriate location to transfer lines, he did not question my use of Russian and we were able to have a casual exchange of small talk afterwards.

A second language triumph was a conversation I had with some friends about movies. We were able to communicate various film recommendations and feelings about cinematography in our respective languages. Since both parties had some knowledge of the other language, we were able to speak primarily in Russian, reverting to English occasionally in order to teach me new words. Google translate only had to be employed three times in the duration of the conversation.

Living in such a large city, I have noticed that it is far too simple to fall back on English in uncomfortable situations because so many people in Moscow learn English and are very eager to practice it with foreigners. In restaurants especially, much of the wait staff is keen to use their English and sometimes even give out English menus. It is a proud moment when the waitress at a restaurant doesn’t switch from Russian to English after hearing me utter a single sentence. Very rarely, we encounter people with minimal or no knowledge of English. I am truly able to practice my Russian in those situations because I have had more language instruction than most of our language group and need to act as interpreter. Sometimes this is more successful than others, especially depending on the clarity and speed at which the Russian is speaking. I have gained a much better grasp of vowel reductions and consonant cluster reductions, which was one of my goals for the summer. Native speakers do this unconsciously, but it is tough for someone learning the language to understand let alone mimic. A simple example of this is the common greeting, здравствуйте, meaning “hello”. It can be used with anybody in any situation, but is usually reduced to “здрасте” in colloquial speech. Catching these differences is an accomplishment that makes me realize the degree to which language immersion makes a difference in lexical acquisition.

Excursion to St. Petersburg – 3

The Journey. The trip to St. Petersburg was my first experience with an overnight train. We were placed in compartments of 4 people. For the most part, we were placed with members from our study abroad program, but one compartment had a pair of Russians, whom we visited and became acquainted with to practice some niceties in Russian. Each compartment came equipped with a little goodie bag of Russian snacks such as pastries and Chudo, the “miracle yogurt”. We initially struggled with stowing our bags below the beds because the bed became locked in the upward position, but a kind gentleman in the compartment next door was able to explain to us what needed to be done. The trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg was approximately 9 hours, so we had plenty of time to sleep and stare out the windows at the sights (as the “white nights” allowed us to see the surrounding countryside even very late at night the more we neared St. Petersburg).

First Day. Upon arriving, we hit the ground running with a bus tour of the city. The tour took us through a rapid-fire introduction to the most famous attractions, from the Winter Palace to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, both of which are pictured below. The architecture of St. Petersburg has a significantly more European influence, as Peter the Great loved Europe and brought back many traditions and customs from his travels to the West.

IMG_5154Spilled Blood

Second Day. After a restful night in our hostel, the group was ready to take on the Hermitage Museum located in the Winter Palace. This is one of the largest collections of art and cultural history in the world and was begun by Katherine the Great’s private collection and has expanded significantly, with a new Modern Art building that we unfortunately did not have time to visit. The pieces range from Imperial Russian to Ancient Egyptian (there was even a mummy!). Beyond that, we explored the city and were able to take a closer look at some of the monuments highlighted by the previous day’s tour. A major difference between Moscow and St. Petersburg is the degree to which the Metro is utilized. As I’ve iterated in a prior post, the Moscow Metro is a thing of beauty. Not only are the stations immaculate, it is perfectly planned to streamline commuting. It is impossible to imagine moving around Moscow without the assistance of the Metro. St. Petersburg, on the other hand, has a rather cumbersome Metro. There are fewer stations, thus it takes longer to find a Metro entrance and it is less convenient to take to your destination because the sights are rarely near the stations. Because St. Petersburg was built on swampland, their metro is very deep underground – as the builders had to take the wet ground into account. Thus, the resulting trip up the escalator from the train to the outside world seems endless.

Third Day. On our final day in Europe’s 3rd largest city, we decided to check out Kunstkamera. Peter the Great established this museum in 1727 and it is the oldest anthropological museum in Russia. While most levels contain artifacts typical of a museum, there is one unique chamber. This is the chamber that houses Peter the Great’s collection of “monsters”. He was fascinated by anomalies in the human form and acquired a store of human children with various defects. These specimens were preserved in ethanol and placed on display in the original museum with the goal of debunking the view that malformations resulted from “the evil eye” or sorcery. Below, is a display case with part of the Siamese Twin collection. After the Museum, we climbed the 262 steps of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the observation tower, where one could see a 360º view of St. Petersburg. Although climbing the spiral stairs was dizzying (and a little terrifying due to the lack of handrails), the view (shown below) was definitely worthwhile as a farewell to the city before the overnight train back home.