The Many Facets of Russia
The last letter from Saint Petersburg! At the end of the semester, Lilia Becker traveled across the country.
Mar 05, 2020
3500 kilometers on railroad tracks, 60 hours on the train – within 10 days. These numbers represent the hard facts of what I experienced on Russian rails and in swaying trains following my exams.
From Saint Petersburg we traveled to Nizhny Novgorod, an important industrial metropolis 400 kilometers east of Moscow. There I not only visited the house where Maxim Gorki was born, but also got lost in my thoughts while meandering through the city where the rivers Oka and Volga embrace. The diverse architectural ensemble invites you to stroll for hours, and eventually you end up in the well-preserved old town up on a hill. In the former arsenal of the Kremlin, there is now a museum for contemporary art, which is definitely worth a visit.
If you keep going east, you get to know completely different facets of Russia. In the autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, almost half of the population is Muslim. The beauty of the Kul Sharif Mosque in the heart of snow-covered Kazan, the capital of the republic, stayed with me for a long time. The building was completed in 2005 and is intended to symbolize the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Christians in Tatarstan. Another architectural highlight a little farther out of the city is the Temple of All Religions. The long ride out there is worthwhile. Since 1992, the citizens have been creating a special space for encounter and tolerance. Elements of Islamic, Christian, and Buddhist architecture are visible from the outside. The site is intended as a location that encompasses the five world religions and various religious cults, including those of lost civilizations.
In the white silence of winter, this project seems utopian and tangible to me at the same time. Just as my return to Berlin is approaching, but still in the distance. I am very grateful for my time in Russia. I had an opportunity to grow professionally, but equally important, on a personal level as well. I will cherish many warm moments, and I will look back at Saint Petersburg with a smile on my lips.