Published: May 17th 2011July 24th 2009 There are some cities in the world which one has to visit at least once in a life time. One of them is the majestic city of Saint Petersburg
View of the Winter Palace on the banks of the Neva River
A bit of history
• The city was founded on May 27, 1703 by Peter the First, tsar of Russia, who is more known as Peter the Great.
• Named after its founder Peter the Great, the city lies at the back of the Finnish Gulf, where Orthodox Russia meets the Protestant Scandinavia and the Catholic Baltic. Peter the Great
Prior to the rule of Peter the Great, Russia had been expanding towards Asia and had throughout the 16th and 17th centuries brought under its realm of power the mayor parts of the Siberian plains.
But with the coming of Peter's reign and in particular after his Tour d'Europe in the year 1697-98, Russia transformed into a European power.
Peter the Great was fascinated with shipbuilding and dreamed of making Russia a maritime power equal to those of Holland and England in Western Europe. For this reason he spent 4 months on a shipyard in Amsterdam studying the craftsmanship.
Yet, the Russia over which
Peter ruled only had one seaport which was at Arkhangelsk far away from anything. It thereby became the goal to conquer land leading out into the Black Sea as well as the Baltic Sea.
And here begins the Great Northern Wars and the building of Saint Petersburg on land taken from Sweden.
One of my favourite stories about this time is about a German officer Philip Johan von Strahlenberg, who was captured by the Russians and sent to Siberia. Von Strahlenberg was not only an officer in the Swedish army but also a geographer, and during his time in Siberia he studied the geography of the place. Rumour has it that Peter the Great was so fascinated with his work that he asked him to redraw the borders of Europe to include Russia. And that is why today when we think of Europe we think of the Eastern borders as the Urals, The Caucasus and the Bospherus strait.
Saint Petersburg was the capital of Russia since the reign of Peter and up until 1918 where as a consequence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 Moscow once again became the capital. The Russian Revolution
With so much
history for such a young city, it is difficult to figure out where to start. But the Russian Revolution and its effect on the development of the 20th century has always fascinated me. Therefore my first visit to the white city will be in the company of John Reed.
Saint Petersburg was the centre stage to those events of 1917 which shook the world and shaped the political history of the 20th century.
So, with John Reed's 10 Days That Shook the World
in the one hand and a map of the city in the other, I went sightseeing in the streets of Leningrad
My visit to the city of Peter the Great
I am quite used to travelling on my own and my mother has become quite used to seeing pictures from my travels where I am always behind the camera and (in the lack of a friend to take pictures) never in front.
I always bring home GB's of memory with photos of everything from streets to mountains to people, but rarely any of me. Yet, from Saint Petersburg I brought back five rolls of film - all of them pictures of me in
various parts of the city. The reason for this sudden change in behaviour was the renting of a Lomography FishEye at the hostel. The camera proved out to be a fantastic companion on a 10 hour walk around Saint Petersburg, - and yes really 10 hours.
While I usually stop every hour for a coffee or other form of refreshment this time around I was so busy sightseeing and taking pictures of myself through the FishEye lens that I completely forgot both time and feet and in the end couldn't walk home because of blisters and tired muscles.
So the reason I felt I had to do so much sightseeing on that day, is because the previous day was entirely spent on fighting continuous battles and repeating the name Vilnius at Saint Petersburg train station. I am usually a rather pacifistic person and always prefer quiet talk rather than yelling, when disagreeing over something. But this was completely lost in the train station. Never has my heartbeat been so wild and I so ready to fight. Russian mamas come and get me - if you can, arghhh!
- Unfortunately, the Russian mamas
seemed more used to
the craziness of the queue and I honestly didn't stand a chance
The train station was from the outset difficult to understand and I went through four half an hour queues with only Russian speaking staff before one of them was so kind as to drag me somewhere and have someone translate. At that point, I was breaking down. The stress of standing and not comprehending and feeling that no one cared. So this kind young man puts me in the right queue and I start lightening up a bit. But that is only until a woman moves over and indicates to me that she is standing in front of me, whereafter she goes back to another queue. No f..... way! I strongly and proudly indicate that she is not to expect getting in front of me. So for the next half hour we look meanly at each other and as there is only one in front of me she pushes me away. I get so pissed, that I push back and we end up in some pushing game in front of the desk. She wins. And I feel even worse. After 4 hours in the train station and
a feeling of being completely lost, her winning is the last straw. But I manage to keep my face straight. Get in after her. Get my Vilnius ticket. And get the h... out of there.
But it is strange how queuing is so different in different countries. It seems that in order to get by in a new city the first you need to know is how people queue. I mean, how was I to know that it is completely okay in Russia to stand in two queues at the same time, even though you are not present in any of them. Where I come from we at least split up if we are more than one to secure that we get in the quickest, - but we are present in the queue. The problem I see in the Russian way is that it makes it impossible for the next person to know which queue is the shortest, but hey they probably just place themselves in three different queues while going for a coffee anyways.
Well now all is good and I have seen large parts of the city, enjoying the weather. And admit that I even bought
my own FishEye in a side street to Nevskiy Prospekta. It is such a good fun to run around with.
There are more photos below