Thursday, March 1, 2012
The Road from Petersburg to Vytegra
I apologize that this is my first post, as it is a few days old. We have just been having the time of our lives here. I hope to give some more recent updates soon!
After exploring the culturally and historically rich center of St. Petersburg, I felt that I was in a whole as we travelled through through the stylized Soviet apartment blocks of Leningrad, and then once again as we left Leningrad and entered the Russian provinces on the way to Vytegra. The transition from Leningrad into the countryside reinforced the idea that the provinces are isolated from the capitals, as there was no transition from the enormous city into the provinces; there was literally a line that divided the two.
Although rather abrupt, the transition from Petersburg to the provinces was exciting because it brought a feeling of peace as I looked out the window and realized that we had entered the beautiful Russian Heartland. We drove only for a few minutes, but it felt as if we were hundreds of miles away from the bustling city of St. Petersburg. A thick forest of snow-covered birch trees lined the highway that led us deep into the Russian Heartland. It was as if we were traveling on the very road painted by the Itinerant painter Ivan Shishkin or Isaac Levitan. Only a city as unnatural and imposing as St. Petersburg could be a five minute drive in the opposite direction down this road. We drove further and further down this birch-lined road for hours and saw nothing, save a little cafe, until we reached the Monastery. The contrast from the city was reinforced by the fact that our cell phones did not get service and our modems gave really weak signals.
Our arrival at the monastery was as abrupt as the transition away from St. Petersburg, but unlike the big city, the Monastery was not unnatural and imposing. The Monastery, while grand and magnificent, looked as if it had always belonged there. It was as if nature grew organically around the Monastery, rather than the other way around. This harmonious connection with the land made me realize why this Monastery is considered the Holiest place in all of Russia.