Student at the Department of Wireless Telecommunications at ITMO University.
Life in the Northern Capital
I remember the first time I went on a trip abroad, to Europe, with my family. It was also the first time I visited Saint Petersburg and since then I have been in love with the city. Now, almost ten years later, not only have I come back to what was my childhood dream city, the city which I remembered so fondly and yearned to come back to, but now it’s also my new home, the place where I live and study.
There are just so many wonderful places around Saint Petersburg, that it’s not possible to talk about them all in just one blog entry or even a whole blog. But I want to talk about some of the places I have already been, and some of the places that ITMO students get to see daily when they commute to their lectures from their dormitories and other places that are close to the ITMO installations.
As most international students, they placed me in the dormitories in Vyazemskiy Pereulok, which is located practically in the center of the city, in the Petrogradskiy District. From the dormitory you can get by foot to many places, including the main building of the ITMO University, in which many students have some of their lectures, unfortunately, that’s not the case for me. In the Petrogradskiy District alone there are many interesting places to see, like the Peter and Paul Fortress, which is about 40 minutes by foot from the dormitory, and the just recently restored Cruiser Aurora, also located at about 40 minutes walking distance, which was towed back from back from the construction yard to its usual place just when I was writing the entrance exams. Not far from the dormitory, just five minutes walking distance, there’s also a really nice garden park — Lopukhinskiy Garden -, a really nice place to go for a walk with someone, or just by yourself, to get distracted by the beauty of the garden and the wonderful view to one of the branches of the Neva’s delta. If you really like long walks or are just feeling adventurous, you could also walk all the way down to the Winter Palace or the Church of the Savior on the Blood across the Neva, or the Vasilyevsky Island. I have personally done such a walk a couple of times, and there were many interesting things to see along the way.
I myself have lectures in two different buildings of the university, one of them in ulitsa Lomonosova, and the second one in Birzhevaya liniya in the Vasilyevsky Island. Most of my lectures and practices are in the bigger building in Lomonosova, but I like the one in Birzhevaya better, as it is an old house with a really beautiful façade and interior, and when you go up the main stairs you get this feeling as if you were brought back in time to imperial Russia. When I have my lectures in the building at Lomonosov if I am in a hurry I take the metro, as it is the fastest and most reliable means of transportation here in Saint Petersburg, but if I have time to spare I actually prefer to go by bus as usually early in the morning there’s not so many people in the bus as there are in the metro and even if I didn’t get to sit down I can enjoy the nice views of the Neva river with the Winter Palace on one side of the river and the Peter and Paul Fortress on the other among others, while I make my way to my lectures. When I have to go to Birzhevaya it is simpler, although at first when I still didn’t know the different routes of the buses it was more difficult to get there; I get on the 10 bus which always arrives to the stop on time, so I can get out of home a little bit later and get little bit more of sleep. The trip to Birzhevaya is also interesting as well as the one to Lomonosova, and on the way you also get a view of the Neva river but from another angle.
Speaking of transportation, it is quite well developed in the city, as there many means of getting around the city. You will find metro, buses, microbuses, trams, trolleybuses, commercial transport, taxis (including the likes of Uber, Gett, etc.), suburban trains, and so on. The metro here is a good option when you want to get as fast as possible to your destination while spending as little of your money as possible. While the metro is not as developed as in Moscow, you can get to pretty much anywhere in the city, it is really safe and reliable, and it is also very beautiful. It’s also the deepest, by average depth, metro system in the world, and although at first that used to fascinate me, I must admit that now the long travel of sometimes more than five minutes in the escalator can be quite tedious, but it still impresses me how deep it is, especially when you look down from the beginning of the escalator. If you live in the center or close to the center, as I do, and don’t need to go too far, sometimes it may be better to just use the bus, tram or other ground transportation, especially if your destination is just one or two metro stations away. One really good thing about public transport for students in Saint Petersburg is that they get a special transport card for all means of public transportation in the city, which costs just about a thousand rubles per month (or around 16 USD at the moment of publication of this post) whereas a normal monthly pass for public transport costs about 2600 rubles.
As you may already know, there are A LOT of museums and places of historical and cultural heritage in Saint Petersburg. I haven’t been to as many of them as I would like now (although I have been to some other places on my first visit), but the ones that I’ve been to I have really liked. If you really like military history, the Artillery Museum is a must-see. The entrance to the main square where all of the artillery is exposed is free, and there are artillery pieces from the XVI century up until the end of the XX century, of course including the famous artillery used by the Red Army during WWII against the Nazis. Just in front of the Artillery Museum, is the heart of Petersburg, the Peter and Paul Fortress. Inside it’s like a small town with different museums and historical sites like the Cathedral of Peter and Paul, which is still the tallest building in the Saint Petersburg center at 122m, as well as the first and oldest landmark of the city; the Saint Petersburg Mint, which still mints coins for the Russian Federation; the Bastion, from atop which you can get a quite nice panoramic view of the Neva riverbank; and many other sites of interest. If you do go to the Peter and Paul Fortress and happen to be around noon, don’t get scared if you hear a loud boom. A museum for the curious is the Kunstkamera, which actually is the first museum in Russia, established by Peter the Great himself. Its main exhibition, and basically what the museum started from, is the "cabinet of curiosities" or "cabinet of naturalia" which hosts a collection of many natural and human "curiosities and rarities", including malformed still-born fetuses of different species (especially human fetuses), so, it’s not for the weak of heart or stomach. Of course I could not forget mentioning the Hermitage, the jewel in the crown of Saint Petersburg. A lot has been said about the Hermitage, so I will not dwell much on it. But I must say one thing, and that is, if you come to Saint Petersburg, you can’t leave until you have visited the Hermitage Museum. Unfortunately, I did so the first time I went to Saint Petersburg, but I finally got to see this beast of a museum with its amazing painting and art pieces, just the museum itself is a piece of art. I have only visited it once, but I definitely plan on visiting it more than once again, it’s just so huge that you can’t admire all it offers in just one day or maybe even one month or one year, as the exhibitions themselves also change.
There are not only the museums in Saint Petersburg, there are also a lot of fun places to just have a great time overall with friends like an amusement park in the northwest of the city with lots of roller coasters, which is much better than the ones in Moscow; bowling alleys, laser tag, paintball, billiard, and many other fun places I have to go. There are also plenty of interesting places to visit around Saint Petersburg, one of which is Kronstadt, which I am planning on visiting soon, or one of the many residences of the Tsars in Gatchina, which has a really beautiful park and garden.
Although summer has ended, autumn is here with its wonderful colors which is also a fun time and actually my favorite season, and winter is coming, as one beloved but unfortunately not long-lived character said, which also offers its own kind of fun. So far I am more than happy about where I have ended up, sure, one as a student has a lot of stuff to do, but one eventually finds the time to do the things that one enjoys the most. So I am still looking forward on new surprises, and what else this city and this university have to offer. And remember, you may have been around half the world, but if you haven't been in Petersburg you haven't been anywhere!