Where's Sam the Man

48 countries, 12 months, one man, half a brain

Name: Samuel Hathaway
Location: Roaming..., Germany

Monday, September 10, 2007

Санкт-Летербург, Россия (Saint Petersburg, Russia)

I arrived in St. Petersburg on September 6, feeling like Lenin returning from exile as a tinny Russian anthem was cranked into the air from Soviet-era speakers. It was a strange contrast: grand symphonic music projecting from a crumbling station that was probably maintained last when the speakers were installed. But St. Petersburg itself is a contrast, of grand extremes.

I have never before seen a city on this scale; the size of Peter the Great's vision is staggering. The idea behind his city was not just to build a gateway to the thriving western nations (St. Pete is located on the Baltic Sea, allowing water access to these nations), but also to trumpet Russia's success by western standards. Before building the city, Peter traveled around Europe as a humble shipbuilder, learning for himself what was great and beautiful across Europe. After travel, he washed the grime off his hands, pulled out his notes, recruited 40,000 serfs (per year)and, in 1703, got busy.

His vision was a "Venice of the North," a city of waterways and canals that would be unrivaled in its grandeur and sophistication. The greatest artists in the world were called in to design the buildings, parks, canals, etc. Peter held nothing back that the mighty Russian Empire could offer; anything that would make the city more breath-taking or cultured or unique was encouraged. Whatever he had found that made the west "great" was skimmed during his travels and incorperated into the city. Nobility, too, were called from throughout Russia and settled in the city. It was the Russian capital for over two hundred years. Although Peter's early death slowly killed the city's development, he lived long enough to create a city of incredible size and magnificence.

Like most things in Russia, however, time and Soviet rule have clouded the brilliance of the empire's remains. Walking along its streets, you are feel the same as when you see the wreck of the Titanic. You are struck with awe that something so massive and grand could appear in front of you as something humbled and corroding. The gay blues, yellow, and pinks of the sweeping arches have worn back to the dull sandstone. The broad boulevards are chained down by hundreds of rusting tram cables. The bright copper limbs of the gods and goddesses flying up the facades has aged past a proud green to a mouldy grey, coated with smog. The people rushing along the polluted streets, their eyes distracted with Blackberries and and ears plugged with headphones, seem oblivious to the faint echoes of opulance that rear up on either side.

It's easy to be distracted by the decay, but the grand dream of Peter the Great can still be seen. Nothing short of leveling the city could hide the proud splendor found in its streets. Despite historical and real divisions of politics and society, St. Petersburg still stands as a monument to civilization.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ginger said...

I heard a rumor that your dad was going to join you in Russia; did he show up? I've never been, but have heard that St. Petersburg is one of those highly recommended places to visit, and I loved your description. Carry on!

September 13, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

This post has been removed by the author.

September 16, 2007 12:08 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hey how is that medley comming. I imagin the Russian national anthem is quite interesting.

September 16, 2007 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Dreama said...

Great work.

October 29, 2008 1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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I congratulate, the excellent answer.

December 3, 2009 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

December 25, 2009 4:32 AM  
Blogger Samuel said...

I do not have an account on Twitter, yet, but I would be willing to let you quote my blog! :-) What is your web address -- I would love to see it!

Thanks for contacting me,
Sam

December 26, 2009 5:33 AM  

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