Sunday, May 11, 2014
The Dream of St. Petersburgh
I dreamt I took a train to an adventure. My mind was filled with all the possibilities and `'what-ifs" I had always imagined. I expected to see beautiful things, hear musical voices, see colors and textures and life I had not known before.
The train in my dream rushed through the darkness with only the occasional disturbance.
I awoke to find myself there, at that place, the place I had dreamed of! Surrounded by history and meaning, I walked behind my knowledgeable guide. She told me the story of her city. "This is where Alexander I lived and this was Catherine's palace. We have Nicholas's statute over here and the lighthouse over there." We wound our way through unfamiliar comfortable streets filled with the voices of life.
The Fortress of Peter and Paul stands chief among the buildings in this dream. Walking through the walled city I found myself taking pictures and wondering about their story. Who lived here? Who walked here? Who rested in the safety of the mamoth walls? And Why? What did they hide from? I could almost feel their sense of safety, hear their hushed whispers.
Sometimes it rained - hard, chilly raindrops forcing up the umbrellas and drawing strangers closer together. Unexpectedly, around another corner, the sun would shine and the skies would clear. Equally by turns it was cool and warm. A day which couldn't make up its mind what kind of day it wanted to be.
Still we walked. Sometimes strolling, sometimes with purpose, sometimes with crowds, sometimes without. Always surrounded by the story.
We happened on a parade at one point. WWII veterans and their families holding pictures of those lost in the Great War. This city felt the cost of the war in devastating fashion. The survivors are grateful for those who paid the price to hold the land. They celebrate with intense pride. The uniforms, the flowers, the pictures, the stories flowed through the street with the rain playing softly overhead.
We stopped for coffee at another point. Like Goldilocks we tried first this spot then that before we found a place that was just right. Hot coffee, sweet treats, gentle conversation refreshed us both.
As I lay my head down at the end of the day, I realized it was not a dream at all. I really did come to St. Petersburg. I really did see, hear, taste, feel these things. And another day awaits.
I thought I was awake, but found myself still in the dream.
Another swirl of color, sound and smells swished about me. The sun was out now and shining brightly. Golden domes atop fortress buildings glimmered in the horizon as I walked a new route.
“There is Bro. Turner’s favorite bookstore.” “There is my favorite palace.” “There is St. Isaac’s Cathedral.” Over and over the phrases of my friend crowded into my hearing as she tried to show me all of the best and share with me her abundant knowledge.
Passing The Church of the Spilled Blood, a remarkable piece of architecture, I was caught by the sound of a quiet flute dancing among the trees. Wearing black and strolling carelessly, the flutist interacted with his audience. I drank in the peaceful sounds a moment before continuing.
“We were here yesterday. Remember when we crossed the bridge after the parade? That’s where we were.” My friend stood pointing and, to my surprise, I did remember. The bridge with the four horses prancing above beckoned us to go on.
Another dash of music surprised me upon a wall outside of a hotel. I didn’t know the song, but gave it a passing glance to honor its existence.
Through this passage and that, winding behind and between the ancient buildings, we finally erupted into a bright square. “Now we’re here. There is The Hermitage.”
Ah! The Hermitage! Frosted in mint and cream, the elegance was almost more than one could fathom. To our right a spare, modernist, clean-lined building humbly held court. Court isn’t all that it held, however. It also held a Kandinsky Exhibit. Up a glass staircase, through a winding passageway and then there it was! The very thing I wished to see.
Many years ago I had received a print of the Kandinsky painting “Winter Landscape” which has hung in some manner of honor or another ever since. The colors carried a promise for me that someday I would see the real painting, I would stand before it. And now, here in my dream, I stood.
“Thanks, God,” I whispered.
But Kandinsky wasn’t the only artist present in this dream! We gazed at Da Vinci, danced with Matisse, rested with Monet, laughed with Van Gogh and a host of many others inside The Hermitage. Wandering through the labyrinth of rooms my heart was overwhelmed with the beauty and contrasts of expression.
Many tired hours later we were home again. The welcoming apartment with its fresh baked chicken covered with tomatoes and mozzarella opened its doors. Wearily we rested. Sharing again our lives and finding so many commonalities, so many subtle differences. Born on opposite sides of the Cold War we found kindred spirits.
Sunday dawned early, but not early enough and we quickly made our way to the train which would return me to Moscow. Brisk steps, brisk breeze and brisk good-byes jumbled together on the platform of the waiting train. Out of breath, I sat in my seat, closed my eyes and slept.
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