Swiping Right on Russia: Arriving in St. Petersburg

I never thought in a million years that I would be so attracted to Russia. Throughout my life, I have swiped left and right on countries, I deemed attractive: Italy, swipe right, Brazil, swipe right, Russia? Ehhh, let me look at their profile… For many of us, we establish a baseline of what we deem exciting and exotic places to travel. Often times these places are well known, easy to access and both culturally and economically attractive. However, simply blind sighting ourselves to our idealist country mentality we can miss out on all the other countries equally or more intriguing. I can’t tell you why I ended up taking my first class on Russian History, but I can tell you that it moved me so much that in a blink of an eye I was double majoring in Russian Studies and headed to St. Petersburg.

Spending a good 18 hours flying across the globe I had some moments to reflect upon my decision to spend a month and a half on the Motherland. Did I remember to bring my adapter? Is it really as Russian as everyone says it is? Shit. I have to speak Russian! Landing in Pulkovo International Airport I suddenly became hyper-aware of how much more time I should have spent learning the Russian language. Everything was in Cyrillic and all of it was above my rudimentary “let’s travel” chapter from my second year of Russian. Luckily Artemi, our history teacher and professed deda of the trip, made sure to give everyone a simple plan of attack on how to navigate to our meeting point, find the Starbucks.

Image result for russian starbucks
I’ll take my skinny vanilla soy latte now.

Once everyone accounted for and caffeinated we headed towards the doors and before even crossing the boundary into the country you could smell them before you saw them…Flowers. Flowers everywhere. Daffodils, roses, daisies you name it. We were surrounded by people holding beautiful bouquets of flowers, anxiously awaiting their loved ones. Everyone was either holding or being given flowers.

Image result for russian bouquet
Don’t worry, they will still count and tally all the flowers and the percentage of roses to babies breath before determining your social valor.

One of my favorite things about Russia is its strong attachment to tradition and cultural heritage. For centuries many cultures around the world have strong affiliations with the tradition of gifting. And, while many countries no longer practice this tradition, in Russia it is alive and well. So much so that the number, types, and color of the bouquet hold significance.  For example,  an odd number of flowers are used for the dead & placing on graves, whereas an even amount of flowers are for the living or a happy occasion. So, should you ever find yourself facing a Russian with flowers always remember:  even is for the livin and odds for the dead (I never was good at rhyming). Buzzed with the coffee in our veins and dazzled by the field flowers everyone prepared to step out of the airport and onto the streets to Russia; all hoping to discover why we all came to this expansive motherland and just what else lay ahead of us.

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