A visiting friend happily pushed me out of my daily routine of archival spelunking and bibliographic browsing, enticing me into a sojourn to the northern capital of
5. The meandering walk between the Moskovskii train station and Smolny Cathedral. The streets were almost empty and the architecture along the way wonderfully compiled houses, hospitals, factories and offices from the various decades of the Twentieth Century, with a few relics from earlier times here and there. At the cathedral, the view from the top of the bell tower (279 steps up, per my companion’s count) is actually impressive. Apparently if you speak any Russian at all, no matter how bad your accent, you can get in at Russian citizen prices.
4. The Russian Museum, where I was befriended by a lost five-year-old boy named Maksim who got mixed up in the maze that makes up the basement—miscellaneous offices, the cashier, the coat check, bathrooms and the gift shop. While my mind flew to some bizarre role reversal of the Soviet film Maksimka, I tried to concentrate and guide the kid back to his mother. I failed and pawned him off on a security guard when he seemed to be tearing up a little.
More importantly, the esteemed Russian master Ilya Repin reminded me of what writing a dissertation should look like:
3. The Peter-Paul Fortress was amazing, not so much for the architecture or random displays, but for the collection of middle-aged and senior Piterskie sun-bathers lined up around the wall of the fortress soaking in the rays until they turned some hue between red and brown—I think Crayola called it burnt sienna; occasionally these helio-worshippers splashed into the still-frigid waters of the Neva, reminding me that I will never have the courage/insanity to fully adjust to Russian living.
2. If you have friends and family who don’t really get the ethno-national complexity of
1. Of course, the best thing for the bibliophile in me was a short excursion to see how the