Saturday, 2 March 2013

First Impressions, St Petersburg

St Petersburg- “Beauty built on bones, classical facades that cradled revolution, summers that lie in the cup of winter” (Helen Dunmore, The Siege). I read this as a 16 year old, quickly scribbled the quote in the back of my history folder promising myself that I would go. It’s been a long wait… But on first impressions, it has not disappointed…..

The air is filled with the biting texture of a Russian Winter. Everything is covered in a shroud of snow. The Neva has turned to ice, it’s murky shallows snatching at the sun. It’s 2pm and it’s already dark; the city is a melancholy dream for the most devoted miserabilist. It is bitterly cold. My body feels anesthetized.  If you were to cut off my bumcheek, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel it.  It’s minus 10 and an arctic hush has descended on the broad proskpekts.

The street jostles with archetypal Soviet babushkas. They wear fur hats and sport formidable bosoms straining against bright wooly jumpers.

The Frozen Neva

When in Russia...

Onion Domes

St Petersburg is a masterpiece of water and baroque. A city built on an inhospitable marshy wasteland by Peter the Great as a window to Europe.  Whereas other European capitals were erected over centuries, St Petersburg was built in just 50 years according to strict principles. Erected as a monument to European grandeur upon the Finnish swamplands by conscripted workers who perished in their hundreds of thousands; Peter's antidote to the dark murky streets of old Muscovy ruled by orthodoxy and occultism.

Winter has cast a gauzy spell over the vast confection coloured buildings, their colourful Italian pulse subdued in the blue Nordic light. It is the only season when their austere Soviet cousins can issue a sigh of relief for they are not eclipsed by these immense rococo jelly-hued palaces, which sit sheepishly in the snow.

I've barely been here 5 minutes but am already in love with the place. There's a conspicuous duality to it which fascinates me. Imperial Russia and Communism...The mint green Winter Palace birthplace of the Red Revolution... Spirituality and science. Sunless winters and nightless summers. 

Just a tad Chernobyl

Dad - Keeping Warm


  1. Your prose continues to amaze me......this post was so so excellent.


  2. St. Petersburg looks amazing! Being there in winter must be sort of a surreal experience! Russia is a country that has amazed me for quite a while now and I hope to get to visit one day...
    xx Melanie