Part 1
Part 2
Part 3




A trip to Russia

Part 3: Alexander, are you still around?

One of my favorite stops was "The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood" named so because Alexander II was murdered where this church now stands. He set peasants and serfs free during his reign and was dubbed as "Alexander the Liberator".
I always appreciate those in leadership who is for the people, especially, the underdog. I wondered if his spirit was still present.

Anyway, it is a colorful church that closed its services in the 1930s, when the Bolsheviks warred against religion and destroyed Christian churches
all over the country. It remained closed for thirty years and re-opened in 1997. It is my favorite place in St. Petersburg because of the colorful facade and shiny golden onion domes. It is a place you typically see when viewing pictures of St. Petersburg.

I was excited to finally arrive, but was awestruck that the "black-market" had booths across the street. It was a beautiful day, cloudy then sunny, then cloudy again, which made the colors blink vibrant
and dull on the church and domes.

I wiped tears from my eyes... I couldn't believe I was standing in RUSSIA looking at a beloved symbol typical of Russia. A reality rang deep within me of how many years had passed and the Cold War was over. It was a pivotal point.

It was a reality of dormant fear and hatred learned as a child towards Russia and Communists that suddenly revealed itself. I had no idea those feelings were buried deep within me. "These people are beautiful." I thought to myself, "How could I hate them? These people aren't my enemy."

Immediately, a flood in my emotions filled me, especially of betrayal, kind of like finding out about Santa Claus for the first time. Shortly, compassion filled me causing this latent fear and hatred to leave; I felt freedom, liberated... Alexander, are you still around?

Even though it was a long day, we had to keep going. Later in the evening we had a lovely Russian dinner and went to a folkloric show. All of the authentic Russian dances and songs were heartfelt by the performers. They were dressed in traditional Russian costume displaying, with pride, their culture to the audience. Finally, I found some smiles.
A festive evening was truly in store for us. We clapped and hummed along with what we knew. Some danced in the isles. We had no clue to begin with what we were getting ourselves into for the evening. What a way to end the day.

The next day we traveled to Peterhof, not too far from St Petersburg. It is a grand palace built by Peter-the-Great in the 1700s. Oh yes, there was gold inlay everywhere, ballrooms, tiled fireplaces, authentic tableware, and portraits of the Imperial family were present amongst the many treasures.

The palace, set on the Baltic (Gulf
of Finland), is a quaint place for a
get-away for Peter. It is known as the "Russian Versailles"... well, no comparison in my book. The backyard fountains are dotted with golden
statues on stair after stair... awesome to enjoy.

We stopped on our way back to
St. Petersburg, only to be surrounded by gypsies. It was grievous seeing children begging, or placed out front, to earn money for the group.

They were hungering for money, "sincerely" begging for something to eat, needing money to fill their stomachs. They looked well fed. I guess it's seeing children used for monetary gain that bothered me. I saw this in Mexico as well. The rest of the group stood in the background who later approached us to buy their wares. I felt surrounded and uncomfortable. You could almost see their drool for money, a determined look in their eyes. It was not a pleasant experience and one that I was glad to leave behind.

It was time to say good-bye to St. Petersburg and head overnight for Tallin, Estonia. Memories and emotions felt about St. Petersburg continues to be hidden away within me. I told myself that I would return someday.

- KS, 2003, S.W. USA -

someday took only one year ~
and the return to Russia is already online:
"Cannons and Cathedrals"

additional infos about the trip and the author
can be found here

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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