I got a few comments yesterday on how St. Petersburg is (or seems) beautiful, and it truly is. Grand, ornate buildings line the streets, and you could spend days just walking around admiring the architecture. Not to mention all the incredible culture housed inside the buildings (art museums, history museums, ballet theaters, churches, swanky shopping malls…). And when darkness falls the buildings along the Neva River are lit so brightly and beautifully that the city’s almost prettier at night than in the daytime.
But after the trip, when people have asked me “How did you like St. Petersburg?”, my answer is that I had a good time but it’s not my favorite city. I think in my case the language issue will always keep me from being totally comfortable– I have this sense that things are going on but it’s all going over my head. Plus some things there are just so unfamiliar. Most grocery stores are tiny and cramped and in some of them everything is behind the counters and you have to ask for what you want– I avoided those! The post office I visited was also crowded and confusing– no shiny white walls and please-take-a-number like the Western post offices I’m used to. Russians aren’t the type to say “sorry” if they bump into you (neither are Estonians, but I prefer the British and American way).
Estonians seem to feel a certain nostalgia when they’re in Russia. They laugh about certain things and say, “It used to be like that in Estonia too.” But I never lived in that Estonia, the one that the Soviet powers tried to make as much like Mother Russia as possible, so that nostalgia is lost on me.
Of course, that’s not to say that everything in Russia seems foreign and non-Western. As a a matter of fact, far from it.
I also saw McDonald’s, Baskin Robbins, KFC, and Carl’s Jr. But no, I didn’t eat at any of them. I’m not that much of an American ;).