My recent trip to Russia was uncharacteristically warm for the dead of winter, with temperatures usually hovering around freezing. It was absolutely frigid, however, my second day in St. Petersburg, which is incidentally when I did most of my sightseeing in the city.
I was on my way back to my hotel from the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood when I noticed a quirky, yellow sign just above the road: Музей Эмоций
I stopped for a moment second to sound it out (I’d taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet prior to arriving in Moscow). “Museum Emotion,” I said out loud, and decided to walk inside.
An awkward young man greeted me in Russian.
“Ty govorish po angliyski?” I asked. (Perhaps stupidly, I hadn’t learned to say many words as I learned to read and write in Russian.)
He nodded, but became visibly more awkward when he began speaking in English. “My name is Nik and I will be your tour guide. Are you ready?”
After paying a nominal fee and hanging up my coat, we began our tour through the museum, which was divided into seven rooms that correspond to each of the basic human emotions.
The “Surprise” room, for example, featured bright blue walls covered in daisy print, and floors made of a trampoline-like material, while the “Fear” room featured an electric chair and a coffin. A little dramatic, perhaps, but it was a nice diversion from the otherwise prim-and-proper attractions of St. Petersburg.
The overall experience, to be sure, was far from transcendental, and saw me more enamored with Nik (probably as much on account of his cute face as the aphrodisiac fragrance in the “Love” room) than enlightened by the exhibition.
Looking back on the museum in the context of the week I spent in Russia, however, its structure corresponds nicely to the cognitive and emotional processes my trip has seen me work through.
Prior to my trip, for example, I’d felt a lot of anger about the Putin regime’s treatment of gays in Russia and its barbary in Syria, while I’d found myself surprised upon arrival, both by how lovely most people were and how politically agnostic they seemed.
Likewise, I’d been disgusted by the ubiquity of sour cream and other funky, milky condiments in Russian cuisine, but nonetheless fell in love with classic dishes like vareniki cherry dumplings and, of course, borscht beet soup.
The fear and trepidation I felt upon arriving in the country quickly gave way to the joy I felt upon reuniting with my friends Dasha and Tanya, and I left the country last Saturday morning feeling profoundly inspired by all of it—the good, the bad and the ugly, although if I’m honest it was mostly just good.
Indeed, I’m sharing the following series of photos with that goal in mind—I don’t want to re-litigate the merits of traveling to Russia, or re-justify my decision to go there. I just want to inspire you to follow in my footsteps, whatever reservations are standing in the way of your trip to Russia.