There are certain cities of which it can safely be said that a vibrant blue sunlit sky without a shadow of the tiniest cloud does not become them. St Petersburg is one of them. It is a city-museum that really comes alive and magically blossoms on overcast dull days, when the greyish-white wool-packs of clouds mix together, layers upon layers and countless nuances of colours, casting reflections on the surface of canals and tinting the 18th century buildings - adding some extra mystery to the city which seems to live and breathe history on every corner of every street.
Founded by Tsar Peter I in the beginning of the 18th century, St. Petersburg is often referred to as Venice of the North. Over more than 300 hundred years, it has grown into one of the largest and architectonically most beautiful European cities. Not so long ago - in the 90's of the previous century - the best time for appreciating former Leningrad was early morning and late evening hours - a time when graceful and majestic silhouettes of churches emerged from the twilight, veiling otherwise unsightly Soviet-time facades.
Now this West Russian city is spruced up as never before and, thanks to a comprehensive renovation program, St. Petersburg has once again recovered its former splendor. The city boasts lovely parks and gardens with luscious greenery and lots of blooming flowers. Bright flower-pots lavishly adorn even seemingly impossible places along its streets.
St. Petersburg is the most European-styled city of Russia and the breath of the world is distinctly felt in its modern-day architecture. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (Храм Спаса на Крови) remains invariable, however, proudly raising to the sky its richly decorated, typically Russian domes. St. Petersburg has retained its sense of peace and harmony, so rare, comparing to hectic flow of life of other big cities, like Moscow, for example. Northern Venice has much to offer instead - tranquility of its canals, freshness of its gardens and magic of its white nights. Especially in June, days so subtly turn into nights that the city seems wide awake around-the-clock...
St Petersburg is a bit like an onion: layer upon layer of cultural strata to peel off one by one, each layer inevitably leading to the next one. The cradle of imperial nostalgia, sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North, straddles 90 rivers and canals and boasts some 350 bridges, 20 of which are lifted every night to let the majestic white ocean liners pass through. (Incidentally, the bridge-lifting timetable stays the same through the years. )
Once the "compulsory itinerary" has been dealt with - which involves visits to the Hermitage, Russian Museum, Summer Garden (Letniy Sad), Saint Isaac's Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost) etc. - it would definitely be worth your while to digress from the beaten path (meaning the main tourist routes) and the so-called golden triangle to encounter a different city, the Piter of Dostoyevsky, Iosif Brodsky, Alexander Blok and Pushkin. The magic of the city hides in the fact that, regardless of how many times you have seen it, there is always a completely new vantage point available. To pay but a superficial visit to the no less than sixty most significant cultural landmarks of the city centre (the ones marked in the complimentary map you will be offered at any hotel), you would need at least a week. And that's excluding the suburbs - Peterhof, Pavlovsk, Pushkin, Czarskoye Selo...
Text by Una Meistere, Andrejs Žagars, Tabita Sīmane
Special thanks to Tatiana PolyakovaShare it:
Keywords: St. Petersburg