Hello, all! It’s been awhile. I’ve been busy the past couple of months with an abundance of schoolwork, final exams, and various other extracurriculars. As such, posts on here have been few and far between. However, it’s finally summer! This doesn’t necessarily mean more posts, but it does mean more free time. One of the things I’ve neglected to update on was my recent trip to Russia, this past March. So, here follows a short recap of the trip and some of my impressions. Below, you can click through and check out my Flickr set of the trip.
I flew into Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport (DME) on March 8th via a nonstop flight on Singapore Airlines. All the hype about SQ is true - it really is the best airline out there. Free hot towels, unlimited drinks, and delicious food! An added bonus was getting to watch the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) for about 2 hours while flying over Greenland, a truly unforgettable experience. Customs and immigration was not as bad as some of the horror stories that I heard made it out to be - a few more checkpoints (and a lot more paperwork) than usual, but nothing too awful. Once in Moscow, I met up with my host family, and we headed into the city to their apartment flat.
I split my two weeks equally between Moscow and the surrounding area to the north. About one week was spent traveling to some really historic places in the northern part of the country. A highlight for me was visiting Sergiev Posad, the founding site of the Russian Orthodox religion - it had a beautiful monastery with some incredible churches and architecture. Another interesting place was the town of Uglich - one of Russia’s oldest villages that also happens to possess a variety of beautiful churches and buildings. Very quiet and quaint. Other highlights included Kalyazin, Pereslavl-Zalessky, and Tver.
Russia itself is a really interesting place. Although it does possess some traditional European influences, what makes it most fascinating is how these meld together with Eastern nuances. Straddling two continents, it is truly massive in size. Moscow, St. Petersburg (and perhaps Yekaterinburg to an extent) are by far the most diverse cities, with a melting pot of people and cultures. Moving outwards from any of these areas, however, presents a more homogenous cultural makeup. Some villages I visited were steeped in solemn Russian Orthodox tradition, while others keeled more towards the traditional Siberian hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
The country is facing interesting times right now, this much was evident during my visit. Mass protests due to the recent election (read: rigged election) of President Putin are still going on, and much has been made of the apparent deterioration of relations between the United States and Russia. Many predict that a “Cold War” dynamic is once again coming into play, but many hope that this can be avoided and amiable relations reached once again. Despite political differences, this is a fascinating country with a wealth of historical sites, incredible architecture, and rich culture. I highly recommend visiting it to anyone with a sense of adventure and the patience to endure the ever-changing visa application process!