The third day I dedicated to exploring the city. It was still depressingly cold. -25°C, I had trouble keeping my limbs alive. My nasal wings felt as if covered with a thin layer of ice. A weird feeling. In the shop windows, I regularly checked that no icicles grew out of my nose. My cheeks, nose, and hands were bright red from the cold, and during the day I began to debate with myself whether to call it a day and crawl into bed. I resisted this paradise-like alternative and ventured on. After all, the idea of visiting this city in winter was something I embraced full-heartedly, hypothetically.
The river was wider than any river I've ever seen. The cold winter sun flooded everything. The sky turned into a beautiful pale shade of pink, which I would see for the last time on my journey. There is little I have experienced, as magnificent as the sunrise and sunset in the northern winter. Everything looks like out of a fairytale. It doesn't matter what, the light settles somewhere on the horizon, it tints everything in cotton candy. The colours of it are desaturated and yet intense. It is no sunset of the likes you see in advertisements. It lasts long and spreads into the furthest corners of the city. I will miss this light.
If I could disregard the chaotic power lines between the houses, I feel like I could travel back in time. The brightly lit palace windows, which shimmer in the icy canals and the large entrances covered by baldachins and supported by giant sculptures, told tales of the time when the empire of the Czar was still vast and powerful. Between all the splendour in Saint Petersburg, it seemed just right that this nobility was abolished. Contrastet with the small, miserably cold farms in which the majority of people lived in Russia, it appeared to be a no-brainer.
Seeing this city made me want to read all the Russian novels. In my literary studies, I had successfully avoided most of them. But now, I am already looking forward to the day when I can decipher my first sentence. Whether I will manage to read these authors in the original, I honestly don't know. For now, the Cyrillic characters could be Chinese for all I know.
Thanks to my Yandex app I managed to move freely in St. Petersburg. Even the simplest Russian words didn't come over my lips. With my hands and feet, I managed to organise provisions and remained isolated in the crowd. No one spoke English. If someone said they talk English, it often meant that they once looked into a book. Talking is a particular skill. It will be good for me in the long run, though. I will inevitably have to learn Russian. There will be no way around.
Thanks to my wonderful hosts, I managed to buy cheap train tickets to Moscow and Samara. Well equipped, I left the city of the tsars. Since I left a bit late in the morning – very typical – my hosts showed me a shortcut to the rear entrance of the Moscow train station. (The stations are named after their destination, the trains go to Moscow from the Moscow train station, the trains to Finland from the Finnish, etc., etc.). We hurried through the palaces backyards in the dark and walked alongside the locals on their way to work. Instead of having to pass through three safety checks, I only went through one. And thanks to the shortcut I sat on the train to Moscow without predicaments.