Thursday's Child: Neva River, St. Petersburg

Thursday, April 24, 2014
One of the most interesting aspects of travel is the connection it gives you with the places you visit. I've written before about how I felt when I stood in Tiananmen Square and in the Roman Colosseum; I've also written about how it felt seeing the riots in Istanbul's Taksim Square a few years after we'd been there. Having visited Chile a year before the devastating 2010 earthquake, I worried for the people we'd met and their families. Once I've visited a country, that connection persists forever.

And thus it's with feelings of sadness that I read about Russia in the news. Of course it's frightening to think about the tensions escalating in the Crimea region of Ukraine, but it's even more complicated than that. I remember our wonderful guide and driver in St. Petersburg (Elena and Max). I remember the people who served us borscht in one restaurant and blinis in another. I remember the people we rubbed shoulders with in the beautiful St. Petersburg subway as they went about their everyday lives.
"Floating, lyrical, miraculous Petersburg … beauty built on bones, classical facades that cradled revolution, summers that lie in the cup of winter."
- from The Siege, by Helen Dunmore

St. Petersburg seemed to be beauty and sorrow wrapped up together. Founded at the mouth of the Neva River in 1703, St. Petersburg has persevered through one tragedy after another. It has survived high death rates among the workers who built it; many attempted and successful assassinations of its rulers; the Russian revolution; ongoing executions of thousands of citizens; the siege of Leningrad; and further executions and imprisonments under the rule of Joseph Stalin. It's not surprising that the national emotion of Russia seems to be sadness.

And though it all, the Neva persists as the major artery, the main street that holds the city together. Spanned by dozens of bridges as it meanders through the city, the Neva represents commerce and tourism, past and present, fear and hope.

"I love you, Peter's great creation,
I love your view of stern and grace,
The Neva wave's regal procession,
The greyish granite - her bank's dress,
The airy iron-casting fences,
The gentle transparent twilight,
The moonless gleam of your nights restless."

- from "The Bronze Horseman: A Petersburg Tale" by Aleksandr Pushkin


Perhaps the quotation that best describes the darkness in St. Petersburg, and in all of Russia right now, was written by Vladamir Nabokov in his autobiography Speak, Memory:

"The sepia gloom of an arctic afternoon in midwinter invaded the rooms and was deepening to an oppressive black."



21 comments:

Barbara said...

I've never been to Russia and do regret it enormously. Your photos are lovely, Beth. You have wonderful memories of your visit.

lisa is cooking said...

So true that after visiting a place it becomes even more special. These photos of the river are so lovely.

Valerie Gamine said...

So much beauty in the midst of instability. No doubt the spirit and essence of the lovely people you met will survive and thrive.

Lovely quotes and prose, Beth. xo

kirstenlopresti said...

Beautiful quotes and pictures. Thanks for sharing.

Jemi Fraser said...

So many majestic buildings gazing out on that river - so pretty!

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

Beautiful photos! I love cities by rivers especially ones with grand architecture like these. I have seen some pictures of St Petersburg but these are great and from a unique perspective.

grace said...

the trouble in that region is very upsetting, and i fear that by the time i'm able to visit, it'll be a different place entirely. wonderful pictures, and i'm glad you have such pleasant memories!

bamskitchen said...

I understand how you feel about visiting a place and having a connection with that community. I hope this region sorts its its issues soon. When you have lived someplace in the past that is in turmoil the connection is even greater. I had a close friend who was living in Kiev during all this unsettling news and was happy to hear that her family are back in France. Great post!

I Wilkerson said...

Nice photos and memories. Yes, the situation is troubling--it was nice to forget the cold war for awhile. I remember wanting a bomb shelter as a child (some friends of my parents actually did build one) and have always appreciated that my kids don't even have that concept.

vanillasugarblog said...

Makes you wonder what it will be like in 5 years? Same holds true for the USA--scary future for us too; the economy, health insurance keeps canceling, etc...
Gorgeous photos as always!

Katerina said...

St. Petersburg is one place I want to visit! Beautiful pics Beth!

Joanne said...

It really is tough to feel so connected and yet disconnected at the same time. Hopefully all those who met along your travels are safe!

allieksmith said...

You made such a good point about the connection with places you travel. When you hear about something terrible happening to a place you've been to, it's so much more real.

Daniela Grimburg said...

These are wonderful pics from one of the most stunning cities in the world!
The quotes are beautiful and very well chosen, the one from Nabokov is almost prophetic!
When we traveled to St. Petersburg unfortunately it was not possible to visit the Pushkin Museum because, despite of the published opening hours , the Museum administration decided otherwise.
Hope you were lucky and could make it.

Elzbieta Hester said...

So great you got a chance to go there. Russia is a special place. And I, as a Slav, feel a close and special connection to the nation, despite all the injustice going on there. Beautiful pics! :) ela@GrayApron

nancy at good food matters said...

I like how you have written about this city, and woven the photographs through. Whenever we travel, we always retain some sense of place, and the people we've met. There is a cold beauty about Saint Petersburg--and perhaps its that combination of beauty and sorrow that creates that feeling.

Guru Uru said...

Such a beautiful place to visit, I am smitten with St Petersburg indeed!

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Juliana Levine said...

I have never been to this part of the World...thanks for the tour Beth...love the pictures.
Hope you are enjoying your week :D

Kitchen Riffs said...

We went to St. Petersburg several years ago -- amazing place! So much to see. Great pictures -- thanks.

backroadjournal said...

A city I've always wanted to visit. I enjoyed your photos…thanks.

Kathy said...

Your photos are just wonderful, Beth…I would love to visit this very historic city! Absolutely gorgeous!

Post a Comment