“Robert, Robert. That’s the Colosseum.”
I don’t know when it quite hit us that we were, in fact, in Rome, but it might have been the point when our bus, throwing us backwards and forwards as it stumbled through the cobblestone streets, started circling the Colosseum. As that most legendary of ancient ruins loomed before our eyes, I started hitting my friend’s arm frantically, eyes wide open, jaw dropped in disbelief that we were actually there, that it was actually there, as if all the books and photographs all these years had actually been lying.

For almost three months, St. Petersburg held me tight in its icy grip. After my arrival here in late January, a combination of bureaucratic complexities (the Russian visa system is an enigmatic process worthy of a Kafka novel) and personal indifference meant that I never stepped foot outside of the city. I say indifference because I never had any particular desire to leave; why bother going out to explore Russia at large when Petersburg alone had so much to offer?