When I arrived in St. Petersburg I was randomly allocated a room in a student dormitory on Vasilevsky Island, to the West of the main part of St. Petersburg. Situated on Kapitanskaya Ultisa, the dormitory is fondly known as just ‘Kapi’ by those living there. In a previous post I described the my new lodgings, and I recall that on my first night there, Issy and I promised each other we would move out within two weeks. However, it soon became a home, and we ended up staying longer than our initial two weeks. The terrible smell in our room gradually faded, we made friends with our flatmates, and enjoyed easy access to the infamous Kapitanskaya parties (international students have always had a reputation for creating chaos abroad…). However, the time had come to move out. After sharing a room with three other girls last semester, I wanted to have a room to myself and a place to work. Also cutting down my commute time to the faculty was appealing!
I had decided that I did not want to move in with two other girls from my university, and was determined to find my own way in the big city. However, when Issy moved out of the room I was suddenly terrified that I had made a terrible terrible decision. I have a habit of making life harder for myself without good reason, and swiftly fell into a panic. I went to a handful of random flat viewings and saw some very….unusual…interior design. Spray painted walls, a shower shared between eight people, staircases located in the back of dodgy courtyards…I felt rather hopeless. On top of this I didn’t even get to reclaim some personal space. Issy left one afternoon, and less than 24 hours later I had a new roommate from the Czech Republic! And another 24 hours after that..another from Poland! After a tearful phone call to my dad who convinced me that moving in to a shared flat, which allowed smoking in the kitchen and shared a bathroom with eight others including a baby, was maybe not the best idea, I returned to my hunt through proper agents.
This was all interspersed with a visit to the Yusupov Palace, the home of Russian nobles and the site of Rasputin’s murder. As I wandered around the Palace I couldn’t help feeling mocked by fate: the only homes I could find were either extravagant palaces or pokey Soviet communal flats. Russia, after all, is known for being a country of extremes. However the visit was lovely, since we went with our friend Kadria from Kazan! She visited St. Petersburg for the week, and we managed to meet up a few times for karaoke, dinner and this excursion.
Despite my overwhelming sense of tragedy, I did keep a shred of hope that maybe, maaaybe, everything would turn out OK. And thankfully, it just so did.
After aimlessly browsing randomly on Airbnb for a few days, a new flat appeared. It was located in the centre of town and looked beautiful. The rent was in fact a little lower than my second best option at the time. With nothing to lose, I went for a viewing. I met Maxim, the owner who also lived there – he’s a Russian designer, and while showing me around he demonstrated a few of his creations. Being a designer in the trendy city of St. Petersburg of course makes for a gorgeous flat – minimalist white walls, high ceilings and plenty of artistically placed knick-knacks, including a shelf-load of empty wine bottles in the kitchen. I also met the other flatmate there, another exchange student from Canada called Josh. Being presented with a centrally located, well-designed flat with flatmates who I could speak in both English and Russian too, I made my decision pretty quickly. I moved in two days later!
So now I’ve been here for nearly three weeks, and so far it’s going well, minus a slight altercation with a pesky mosquito last night. Yesterday I had a small flat-warming party, and was gifted some salt and bread by my Finnish friend who said that it was a traditional housewarming gift. The risk I took by looking for somewhere to live by myself was terrifying, but now I have found a room I love, with stunning views (it is so hard not to put it on instagram every day!). Also, I am still a five minute walk from Issy, so we don’t get too much separation anxiety (!). I had a wild time at Kapitanskaya and will miss the people there. However, I think they are also glad to have somewhere in the centre of town to meet before going out to bars…
Farewell to this concrete кошмар (nightmare) that I called home for six weeks – I will always remember you with rose-tinted spectacles – by which I mean, how cool it looked when the sun was setting and the low rays made artistic patterns on the opposite blocks.