Visiting the setting of a book you have recently read may be completely different from what you imagined. My imagined setting of Crime and Punishment, I discovered, was completely different from where it actually took place in St. Petersburg, Russia.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
In preparation for my senior year, I was required to read Crime and Punishment over the summer. I planned to read the over 600-page book during our cruise around Northern Europe. I pictured St. Petersburg as old, still in its black and white days, and impoverished, given the American stereotypes of Russia. On our ninth and tenth days, we docked in St. Petersburg, just as I was finishing the book. Russia was the opposite of what I had pictured; it was warm, bright, and lively, with friendly faces and little noticeable poverty.
On our second day, I asked our tour guide if we could see Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s home, knowing that it was located in the city, and she told me that we would on our way back from the countryside, where we visited Peterhof Palace and Catherine the Great’s Palace. Peterhof Palace had a brilliant view of the Baltic Sea, but I was anxious to return.
We finally arrived back in city-center with about an hour to spare before we had to embark the ship. Alicia, our tour guide, brought us to Nevsky Prospect, the main shopping street, which we had already driven over several times. Located in the historic center by Nevsky Prospect was Dostoyevsky’s apartment at 5/2 Kuznechny Pereulok. She led us to the gate and informed me that not only was this where the famous author had once lived, but it was also where he had based the murders of the Ivanovna sisters in Crime and Punishment. Much to my surprise, she opened the rusted gate and told us to follow her quietly into the yard between the apartment buildings, as people live here. Alicia walked us through the open courtyard and an old garage, seemingly unused for years, to where we stood for awhile, just under the cobwebbed window of what had been Dostoyevsky’s apartment. She pointed out the entrance to what would be the yardman’s home, a small first floor room, and where Raskolnikov, the main character, would have crept in and out of the building before and after the murder.
In Dostoyevsky’s time, this was the impoverished area of the city where Raskolnikov lived. How the city must have changed between 1866, when the book was published, and 2015, over 149 years later! The buildings themselves appeared old and dusty, but the interiors are exquisitely furnished and larger than they appear. Dostoyevsky probably would not have imagined his humble home transformed into the much desired living space it is now. Russia has seen its share of troubled times, but now it has changed much, especially from how most Americans picture it. I have gotten to see a country many people do not go to, and some Americans are even afraid of visiting Russia, since most of what they know about it stems from the Cold War era. I am not just bringing home knowledge of Russia, but also a new perspective. Russia is exceedingly interesting and quite safe, and St. Petersburg was beautiful like no other city could be, mainly due to its numerous palaces and cathedrals. Hopefully someday Russia and America can fully move past their differences, because I wish that everyone could see Russia as it truly is: a country with rich history that has grown into one of the most magnificent and intriguing places in the world.
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