Part 1
Part 2
Part 3




A trip to Russia

Part 1: A slight case of culture shock

The first trip to St. Petersburg, Russia was a life-changing event bringing freedom to my soul and spirit from some deep-seated fear and hatred learned as a child towards a people and culture. I was taught not to be prejudicial growing up and was quite surprised when I stumbled on some within me. Here is my story dotted with other observations and bits of history learned along the way, and eventually what led me to freedom.

As we were driving into St. Petersburg a feeling of melancholy overwhelmed me.
The stories from friends who have visited
St. Petersburg were true. My lips parted open at first in disbelief; eventually my jaw dropped. Traveling down a wide boule-vard building after building was rundown, broken, boarded up, with layer upon layer of ancient dirt upon its facade.

More people appeared upon the streets as we delved deeper into the city. I began looking everywhere to find a smiling face; I mostly witnessed sad eyes and lifeless faces.

Drab scarves and dark longer skirts were clad upon the older women; the middle-aged women wore slacks while seeing some signs of western fashion of jeans, and platform shoes on the younger women. The posture, mostly of the older people, was downtrodden, conveying a sense of hopelessness. I was experiencing a slight case of culture shock driving into the city the way we did.

Absolutely, not every building, or every person we saw fit this description. We did see signs of progressiveness in various ways as well.

Upon our arrival at the Hermitage,
St. Petersburg's most famous museum, we were inundated with what we found out later to be the black market peddling their goods. We discovered this because the police arrived on the scene and those of the "black market" spirit ran away. Our interpreter told us what was happening. Beforehand, we had noticed the obvious secret police that we were warned about by friends.

Oh yes, it was easy to bargain with them before the police came. As we stood there, they lowered their own prices, which reminded me of Mexico. I came home with several mementos that day. They gladly took American dollars, which were favored far above the cheap Rubles. Paying in dollars made it easier to gauge the value of their wares.

Entering into the museum was awesome. We viewed first historical golden carriages of the Tsars and gorgeous ceilings of yesteryear. Everywhere we looked there was gold. At first it slightly reminded me of my visit to the Vatican and all her riches.

The further I walked within the walls of the old structure I realized how behind the times they were. Wooden windows easy to break into, no camera surveillance, no climate control, but they had the classic "guard dogs": the babushkas, or grandmas, who did not miss a thing.

Let me tell you, you could understand what she was saying in Russian if you upset her world of rules! Maybe you didn't know what you did wrong, but you understood that you DID something wrong and by God, you'd better correct it right away. The most typical reply through-out this trip was, "Yes, here is my ticket, I paid to take pictures."

I became disturbed when I saw the infamous paintings by da Vinci and Michelangelo being displayed in the sunshine through the nearby window, with only the watchful eye of a babushka. Where are the cameras, what do they do at night I wondered? I was dismayed not to see better protection over world treasures. There are over three million items housed in six buildings of the Hermitage, which would take many years to see a glimpse of each item. How do they keep track of everything, how do they secure them I wondered.

Picture Poem: The Streets of St. Petersburg

Part 2: Blue and white colors against the blue cloudy sky

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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