As I drew closer to the end of the Transmongolian tracks, I ran into a seemingly endless stream of travellers dismaying over time spent in Russia's capital. "It's ugly!" they warned, "There's nothing to do!" they cried. I had no real reason to believe otherwise and I pulled into Moscow with limbo-pole-low expectations.
So perhaps it's no wonder I had such a ball cursing and shivering my way around the Kremlin and wrapping my frosted fingers around (surprisingly good) coffees. I "got it" almost instantly. It was unyielding, a fascinating battleground of East, West, tradition and progression. It was gorgeous architecture under dramatic skies and factories rehashed into groovy contemporary galleries. It was my camera glued to my hands and taking a 4 mile "scenic route" back from the local supermarket. In fact, despite feeling like a bridge troll amongst a population of immaculately dressed runway regulars, I rarely spend as much time out of my hostel as I did in Moscow.
I left the capital head over heels and arms wide open for "Venice of the North". Along with the jazzy novelty of being the final stop on my Transmongolian journey, I was prrrroper keen for Saint Petersburg. It had it all: charm, sunshine, cafés, culture, cute lil waterways, palaces, a familiar Europeanness - altogether very bloody pleasant.
So why didn't we click?
In truth, I missed the grit and guts of the capital. I longed for imposing buildings that commanded a skyline and the unintentional beauty that hid in Moscow's side streets. I suppose as a photographer I *need* those theatrics, and from the ground the city was just far too... innocent.
So to the rooftops I went. Guided by the elusive and nauseatingly death-wishy "Sasha", I finally saw Saint Petersburg (albeit not quite legally). I learnt about its war-riddled history, the efforts to rebuild and move beyond conflict. From up high, I understood why SPB and I simply weren't #meant2be. Like any relationship, listening gave me a new perspective and sparked an appreciation that I couldn't have found otherwise, but I think we're both better off without each other.
Thanks but no thanks Saint Petersburg, I like bad boys lol. Moscow forever.