Sunday, February 10, 2013

White winters

I know I haven't written about my impressions of St. Petersburg yet. Instead, my time has been spent attempting to arrange the latest chapter of my life into some sort of plot line which makes sense. However, as I sit looking at the snow flurries dancing gently just outside my window, I realize it isn't so much that I have been busy, but more I am afraid of not being able to do this city justice.

St. Petersburg is really unlike any other city I have ever been in. There are moments when I walk down Nevsky Prospect, the main street in town, and I feel almost as if I had been transported to Paris due to the amount of Art Nouveau architecture, or when I am in the outer regions of the city and I see the communist boxes that I am reminded of Prague. Yet some how neither of these impressions last for long and I find myself thrown into a world which is neither East nor West, but instead a mixture of both which I am not sure would work anywhere else except here. Most of the city looks as if it could be almost any large metropolitan area, littered with shops and apartment buildings, people rushing about, fixated on their daily lives. Then you turn a corner and come face to face with something so beautiful, so awe inspiring, your breath literally catches and you stand in struck for a moment at the sheer magnificent beauty of it all.

I live in the old part of the city, just beyond the walls of the monastery, which guide me to the metro every morning and quietly remind me of the power the Orthodox Church once held here. It is easy to forget as a foreigner this hold, as many of their churches are situated off the main drag, laying in wait, popping out when least expected to leave you awestruck and marveling in the passionate love affair between people and their religion. While many of the churches look like any other Baroque temples of devotion I have seen in places like Austria, Germany, France, Britain, etc, with only a slight hint of Orthodox flourishes, there is one which stands out against the Western cityscape. The Cathedral of the Savor of Spilled. With its truly Eastern aesthetic, the spiral domes, and almost Byzantine like mosaics both inside and out, it leaves you in no doubt of where you are. It also happens to be one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Colourful, with blues and greens which I had previously only thought existed in the realm of a Seuss book, immense and at the same time strangely humble, and bursting with love and praise. It is wonderful.

While work and getting settled into my routine has left me with little time to explore and discover, every day I see something which reminds me of all I yet to see and leaves me longing to know more of this wonderful and slightly magical city I find myself in.

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