Apologies for the brief technicheskiy pererive, I’ve had nothing to report of late. My life has consisted of visiting the culinary landmarks of St Petersburg and spending quality time with my friends. I have a made a point however of visiting a new place every time though, so my stomach has certainly had the time of its life in recent weeks. I’ve walked places and I’ve read things. I feel like I’m on holiday, but it’s so much better than that. The only downside I’ve found to my various recent cultural excursions (Peter Paul Fortress and Alexander Nevsky Monastery) is that the current time is out of tourist season, so *everything* is under refurbishment. Nevertheless, I’m living the highlife.
I also experimented with a period of vegetarianism which lasted for 3 weeks – until my turning point this week when I started fantasising about fried chicken and resolving to devour my first ever Karls Junior burger. I swear to god, the UK is missing a trick by not having Karls Junior. I think I’m going to have to go back just so I can take a photo and share with you the deliciousness of their Chilli burger and fries. Absolument incroyable. My vegetarian phase came as the result of having many friends who are vegetarian out here and frankly, being bored of eating meat every day. Russian cuisine is very meat based. I decided to challenge myself – but I knew it was never going to be a permanent lifestyle choice. This is not the time or place to discuss the pros and cons of it, but boy, did I enjoy my chilli burger.
It hit me though that I will have to leave this place in four weeks, which got me thinking. I love Peter dearly, despite our relationship actually being more of a love/hate kind of thing. I love its canals, its bridges and its gardens. It has so many statues and places to visit, I barely feel as though I have scratched the surface of this place. My mother has always told me off for listing things in conversation as it is immensely boring, so just to spite her, I am going to do just that.
Ten Things I will miss about St Petersburg – in no particular order
1) Lavash (flatbread), shashlik, potato and mushroom fry, mors, hachapuri and Georgian cuisine. Oh my goodness, the food. I’ve eaten like a king for the last few months for not very much money. I will replicate this all at home and when I am in France. I don’t care what you say about French food – save it. You will not come between me and my hachapuri.
2) Russian Kitsch. They can really do it well over here. Deliberately mismatched crockery in cafes, armchairs, cosy interiors and natty little table decorations in cafes. I’m sorry London, but your attempts are hopelessly feeble. C –
3) Architecture. Oh Peter, your twisting, gleaming spires and crumbling fasciae just make my heart weep! I could never get tired of the sight of this place. Whenever the terrible weather has started to erode my sanity a little too much, I just have to look up. I’m not talking about religion; I’m talking about the roofs, the windows and the doors. I should write poetry.
4) Russian language. I will miss speaking Russian on a daily basis. To people who understand anyway. I will continue to speak it. To myself. In public. I will do it to the extent that people look over their shoulders at me and cross the street ‘to avoid that mad woman who is talking to herself even though there is no one else there’. That will be me.
5) The music shops in Sennaya Ploshad that play their music into the square and fill the whole place with just an amazing ambience.
6) Nevsky Prospekt. The place is a beehive of activity and you can feel the history beneath your very feet. Newton’s lesser known 23rd Law of motion says that ‘it is impossible to hate St Petersburg when you are stood on Nevsky Prospekt’. Just sayin’.
7) Anichkov most. My favourite bridge in the whole of the city. I stand there sometimes and consider my life with a Dostoyevskian grin on my face, a Gogolian absurdity in my head and a Tolstoian feeling of pure humanity in my heart. It is seeing the cast iron horses being reined in by men struggling to contain their strength, suspended in time above the Fontanka River that you realise that you are but a tiny part of a much larger machine and actually, the world will not end if you do not get that internship. A bridge of hope and optimism? I think so.
8) The Neva. The carotid artery of the entire city. I love to walk along the embankment and freeze my face off. No really, I do.
The people. Oh my goodness, the people. It is in this city that you will make friends with Irina the Cleaner, who has a soulful, philosophical voice and who, on hearing that your name means ‘happiness’, will say “Then you must always bring happiness – to yourself and to others”. It is in this city that you will talk to a shop assistant in the honey shop and explain that you haven’t the foggiest about what you are looking for and they will go out of their way to help you and will wish “good health and much happiness to your family in England”.
1 The arts and culture scene. The Hermitage and the Russian Museum are so much better than any of their English counterparts. I can see the British Museum hiding behind its hands with shame. I spent a lot of time there this summer, but now I wonder if I can go back.