It was clean. Magical. And there was music in the air. It was a Russia I didn’t expect. Here are six glimpses that might inform your perspective. They certainly informed mine.

6. It’s 10 p.m. in St. Petersburg. My mom and I are strolling along Nevsky Prospect when we decide to walk “the long way” back to our hotel, via Palace Square.

5. The next morning, after a short burst of rain, we enjoy another walk through Palace Square.

4. Music abounds here, and the architecture is stunning. This is Kazan Cathedral.

3. So my mom and I are eating caviar and borscht, drinking homemade vodka and green tea (respectively), when the servers break into song.

2. This Soviet-era pub in Moscow surprised us with live music. Not pictured is the dancing that ensued (sorry, but I shut off my iPhone too soon).

1. Nikolskaya Street (in Moscow) leads to Red Square. On the way, you might see street performers or, in this case, opera singers. I probably didn’t zoom adequately, but hopefully you can see the absence of a microphone. This dude simply relied on background music and his naked voice.

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