There is not another place I have ever been that is like what I saw in Russia. It is hard to imagine getting to a point where I could understand the mindset of those who grew up in Moscow or St. Petersburg because they are so based in the rich and intricate history which is so unique.
Moscow was very crowded and big-city-ish. (Which, it obviously is a big city!) I am glad that All of my time there was spent with other people. Listening to my friends Hannah and Paige, who were late to the hostel when we needed to leave for Petersburg made me so grateful that I was not lost on my own in that huge city!! If I ever was left on my own there, I would be at a loss for where to go or what to do.
In St. Petersburg, however, I was very comfortable to take a walk by myself when no one else wanted to see what I wanted to. It was so wonderful when I found in a guide book at the hostel a self-guided “Crime and Punishment Walking Tour.” So the next day during free time, I went to a side of the town that I think few people from our group got a chance to go to. And, the day after that, I got to go see Dostoevsky’s last flat which had been turned into a museum. It was a really good think to have free time to check out what I may not have seen if every moment of every day was planned out.
For me it was actually surreal to have the free time – it gave me a moment when I consciously thought to myself, “I’m growing up!” It was a stark contrast to my trip to Europe my sophomore year of high school when we had a strict schedule and we all had to be in the same room at each museum and we had to make sure everyone was accounted for before moving on to the next room.
One thing that was confusing (and beautiful) was the church service at Kazan Cathedral. I think it helped to drive home the realization that there are so many ways to live, and my way would appear utterly strange to the people here if they were to visit my church service or my city.