Sankt Petersburg under Construction

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been to Sankt Petersburg, Russia recently. And while it’s an immensely beautiful city offering way more sights than you can possibly take in during one vacation, one thing stood out: Sankt Petersburg was under construction.

It started when I went to visit the first cathedrals on my list. Transfiguration Cathedral: Hidden in scaffolding except the dome. Oh well. I can live with that, it’s not that extraordinary anyway, let’s head right for the big one: Our Saviour on Spilled Blood. As I approached the Saviour, the first thing that jumped out at me was the central tower being hidden in scaffolding. At this point I started to get frustrated. Later in the day, after appropriately oohing and aahing at the impressive colonnades of Kazan Cathedral, I rounded the building to find the main church covered in scaffolding. At this point, I decided the city hated me.

But as I continued finding churches, monuments and landmarks hidden by scaffolding throughout the week, I started to see the humor in it. I decided to dedicate my Instagram stream to „under construction“ pictures only for the duration of my visit. Of course there was an insane amount of beautiful stuff that was not under construction, but I tried making a game of it. And yes, sooner or later (once I get through the dreadful culling process and manage to suppress my impostor syndrome), I’m going to show you the beautiful parts of the city. I promise.

So, since you undoubtedly came here for photographic advice (lol), here’s today’s lesson: Try to accept adversity with a dash of humor. Laugh about it. Chances are, if you don’t get to shoot one location due to whatever circumstances, you’ll find another. And you can always come back later. Like, seriously. Once all those renovations are done (like, 2021?), Sankt Petersburg will look brand spanking new. Go there. Visit it. I definitely will.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Freshly back from Sankt Petersburg, my head is still too full of impressions that I have to sort through, but there is one thing i can share with you right now: If you ever visit Russia*, learn Cyrillic.

I’ve never felt as foreign in any place of the world I’ve been to as I have stepping off the plane at Pulkovo Airport in Sankt Petersburg and immediately being surrounded by Cyrillic letters everywhere. Now, knowing that I was going to travel to Russia, I had actually bought an online course in Russian, but, life being what it is, my initial grand plan of doing a lesson per day evaporated rather quickly and I was left knowing a handful of basic words (like privyet or ras, dwa, tri)and maybe half the Cyrillic alphabet. Suddenly being surrounded by these strange glyphs (and a handful of false friends) was quite overwhelming. But finding half familiar words made up mainly of letters I knew helped me get practice in identifying the other ones; funnily enough, one major piece of help was seeing an ad for Arnold Schwarzenegger (Арнольд Шварцнеггер) appearing at a summit in St. Petersburg, without which I’d probably never have figured out Ш being the equivalent of „sh“.

Once I got into the habit, I often stopped in my tracks (to the dismay of my girlfriend) trying to decipher some Cyrillic sign or advertisement. And it really helped. Even without understanding any of the words (or just reading a graffiti on the street asphalt saying „PUTIN“), just being able to decipher the letters themselves made me feel a lot less out of place.

Seriously. Wherever you go, even if you can’t be arsed (or don’t have the time) to learn the language, make an effort to learn the alphabet. You can thank me later.

*) or any other country using the Cyrillic alphabet