All good things must come to an end

Hello everyone ~ I hope you are all enjoying beautiful weather wherever this post finds you. Moscow is experiencing the most beautiful May I have ever seen (there has been snow, people!). As the school year winds down, so does my time in Moscow. Due to major changes, my school presented us with new contracts. For a number of reasons, I’ve opted to return to the States. It’s a bittersweet decision for certain, but one I’m confident will open new doors and exciting experiences.

Graduation took place this past weekend and I said goodbye to my Visual Art girls. Having taught the group for two years, they hold a special place for me. Four of the five are Russian, one from Romania. Two will pursue university in the UK, two will study art in Moscow, and one will try her luck in Paris. We had an absolutely idyllic day for the ceremony which was conducted outside for COVID reasons, of course. Though we are all vaccinated (you can be vaccinated at 18 in Russia), masks were worn for the majority of the event. It was a poignant celebration after a tumultuous final year of high school.

In addition to sorting, packing, and distributing my belongings, I have been enjoying the open-air dining Moscow has to offer – so many more options than ever before thanks to the pandemic. Though everything is open here, my friends and I still take precautions. Plus, what is better than a river view?

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is one of my favorite landmarks here in Moscow. When my friend Julie mentioned that she had always wanted to take a tour of the bell towers, we decided there was no time like the present! Soaring 40 meters above the ground, the observation deck offers 360 degree views of Moscow. The gleaming onion domes radiated heat and shone like the Orthodox icons sheltered inside.

The final weeks of school seem to be slipping away faster with each passing day. Discovery Days brought the chance to take my students down to the forest stream for an afternoon of oil pastels and sunshine. I’ve been so blessed with wonderful students here in Moscow and their resilience has helped me soldier on during this pandemic. They will truly be missed!

One last stop at my favorite vintage warehouse, Chronos Factory (“In rust we trust”). Bought a piece of stained glass which is light enough to ship (love the onion dome). Went splunking for paintings at NB Gallery with a friend looking to invest. Such appreciation for the arts here – another aspect which I will greatly miss.

Packing up my place, many memories of the past 5 years wash over me. It’s been a great run. I will soon have an ex-pat cat and be back among family and friends who I haven’t been able to spend proper time with in years. I have a new teaching position and (hopefully!) a new apartment to move into in August. There’s a lot to look forward to. For now, I’m trying to savor the moment. Keep an eye out for one final post from the Motherland before I go. In the meanwhile, take care.

Holiday! It would be so nice…

Crossing the Neva River on the Troitsky Bridge.

Spring in Russia brings the May holidays. On Labor Day, I hopped the SapSan train northwest to St. Petersburg. A port city on the coast, the wind was whipping and I was blessed once again with glorious sunshine and blue skies. Known as a rainy city, I couldn’t have asked for more from my beloved St. Pete’s.

My first time leaving Moscow since January, it was wonderful if a bit bizarre to be able to take this trip. Fully vaccinated, I still wear a mask indoors (I’m one of only a few, sadly). I put in 20,000+ steps a day wandering the canals and city sidewalks, shooting photos and soaking in what felt like travel from the Before Times.

My first stop was Pushkin’s Apartment Museum, where he lived along the embankment until his death by dual in 1837. Their English audio guide was fantastic.

I have never visited St. Pete’s solo so I set up two Airbnb experiences to discover unknown parts of the city and learn from the locals. One was a tour of antique and vintage shops during which I learned about the Imperial Porcelain native to the city. The second experience was a walking tour of Petrograd Island, a favorite abode of locals filled with cafes and amazing architecture. The island was the original capital when the city was established in 1703 by Peter the Great.

I once again spent my nights at the Soul Kitchen Hostel. The hostel has now morphed into a co-living space with long term renters but is still as inviting as ever (and you can book short stays). Best location, walkable to everywhere, and the kindest hosts. My private room had a view of the canal on a relatively quiet street near the Pont du Rouge. Nothing beats the balcony view from the Soul Kitchen Hostel! Sunset was gorgeous if a bit chilly in the late April evening.

The crowning jewel of the trip had to be the Faberge Museum. Someone had once discouraged me from visiting but I am so thrilled that I did not listen. Exquisite excess, as my aunt Susan would say, and oh how beautiful the enamel detailing! A gorgeous building with incredible treasures to behold. Here’s a CBS Sunday Morning spot on the collection.

St. Pete’s is a much more relaxed city than Moscow. Very kind and friendly people, great food, and a penchant for the arts; it might be my favorite city in Europe.

One of the highlights of the trip – a dinner at The Idiot Restaurant (a nod to Dostoevsky’s famous novel). I enjoyed mussels in an ode to my grandad, who always wished to visit the city. The vodka shot was a treat on the house.

I departed on Orthodox Easter amidst a cacophony of church bells echoing off the onion domes.

St. Pete’s will always have a special place in my heart, with so many good memories of past trips with loved ones and this special trip all my own. I hope to return someday and walk the canals once again.