Adventures in Saint Petersburg

My time here in Russia continues to move along. I have made some good friends, both American and Russian. My average day goes something like this: wake up and grab a snack before class, get lunch somewhere in the city after class, walk around the city or go sightseeing, and then grab some dinner and do my homework before bed. It’s amazing to have the chance to live in and explore such a remarkable city.
One of my favorite tours so far was of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest church in Russia. I have been inside many beautiful churches, but they paled in comparison to this one. The entirety of it was covered with incredible artwork and detailed golden masonry. To literally top it off, afterwards I went up to the colonnade around its dome and was able to see incredible panoramic views of the entire city, west to the Gulf of Finland and east to the far suburbs. That same excursion included a walking tour of many of the sites found in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works, especially Crime and Punishment. Even having not read any of those books, it was remarkable seeing the locations where the actions took place in person. This is just one of the many amazing photos I was able to take of the interior, which is no longer an active church.
I will not sugarcoat it; the weather here in Petersburg is generally not particularly pleasant. The closest comparison in the U.S. is probably Seattle: it rains very frequently, and most days are cloudy. Today was actually one of the hottest days since I have arrived, with a high around 75º, bright and sunny the whole day. On the whole, however, my biggest advice for a trip to St. Petersburg is to bring an umbrella!
I also love exploring the city to find interesting places to eat. Doing this, in addition to eating food that is both good and cheap, has allowed me to have some interesting interactions with locals, as well as Russian tourists. At an Armenian restaurant one day, I struck up a conversation, as best as is possible with my Russian ability, with an Armenian couple there. I learned that they had immigrated from Armenia about a decade prior, and that they sometimes felt the effects of Russian xenophobia. Under the Russian mindset, people are either Slavs or not Slavs; by and large, someone’s race, per the American view, does not matter; it is a binary. The only major exception, it seems, is a particular dislike of Chinese people, mostly for the sort of disrespectful tourism once associated with Americans. This couple said that, while most people treat them well, they have seen the worst of Russia, such as drunkards berating them to go back to their country.
At a столовая (stolovaya), a Russian cafeteria-style restaurant, I ate beef Stroganoff, and I had the opportunity to talk with a worker there about the dish. It is one of the classic Russian dishes, named after a member of the wealthy and influential Stroganoff family. Traditionally, it consists of sautéed beef cubes in a sour cream sauce. Sour cream is one of the most important foods in Russia. Combined with the noble origins of the dish, it makes sense why it is one of Russia’s signature foods, both in Russia and around the world. As the worker told me, there are many traditional variants, so there is not just one authentic way to make it.
My experience in Saint Petersburg continues to be enlightening and entertaining, and I hope that it continues to be so. I’ve got a lot of tours and concerts coming up, so hopefully it will be an enjoyable time!