Greetings from Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg! Matty and I are flying back to the states today. (Today is technically Day 11, but the following is a recap of yesterday, Day 10.)
We began Day 10 with only five bell ringers since Aaron left us to return to America. We briefly stopped at the Tikhvin Monastery and looked around.
Then it was back to the road again for three more hours until we reached St. Petersburg. Upon arriving, Father Roman had to catch a flight back to Moscow to attend to business at the Danilov Monastery, so Matty and I said our farewells to Father Roman (Jeffery, Alex, and Peter will be reuniting with Father Roman again in a few days in Latvia).
With free time in St. Petersburg, we walked around the city. We first passed by Savior of the Spilled Blood church, which was quite impressive!
After some more sightseeing, we headed to a church called Vladimirskaya. We met with a bell ringer there named Vladimir, an extremely friendly and enthusiastic man. However, we realized that without Father Roman helping with translations, things became much more difficult. Quite a memorable experience followed.
We had a long conversation with Vladimir, and while it was hard to understand sometimes (actually, most of the time), we still learned a few important lessons. First, Vladimir explained to us the importance of togetherness and unity in the Russian Orthodox Church. In addition, he told us how music was a universal language – everyone, regardless of what they speak, understands the beauty of music. I thought Vladimir’s lessons were almost poetic: he said we needed to learn how to fly, and to ring the bells is to fly.
We were given the honor of ringing during Vladimirskaya’s Sunday service (once the sun sets on Saturday, it is considered Sunday). The views of St. Petersburg from the bell tower were amazing. The bell ringing was memorable too, as the wind and the rain really hit us while we were up there.
Once we finished the ringing, Vladimir invited us to get some souvenirs. A lot of confusion ensued as a result of the lack of translation. Earlier, Vladimir had told us we would eat gold. We were a bit bewildered and assumed this was a metaphor, but then he pulled out several lollipops shaped like chickens. Apparently, he was speaking literally because Vladimir then proceeded to gild our lollipops in actual gold leaf. We eventually said our goodbyes to Vladimir, bur our experience in Vladimirskaya was something we’ll never forget.
We continued to walk around St. Petersburg, first stopping at a chocolate shop (excellent!!) and later getting dinner. Our night was filled with good conversation and more sights of the beautiful city.
As I’m writing this in the airport, I’m sad to be leaving Russia and going back to school. Russia is an absolutely incredible place, and it’s really different from what I expected and what is portrayed in the media.
Words cannot express how thankful I am for this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible – Lowell House, Harvard, Father Roman, and Jeffery’s planning/coordination of the trip. Finally, thank you to Father Roman and many other Russian bell ringers who went out of their way with endless hospitality and kindness to help us so much.
I enjoyed my trip here so much, and I can’t wait to come back!
From Russia with love,