St Petersburg

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St Petersburg
By Regis St Louis & Simon Richmond
Lonely Planet – £13.99

In mid-June the sun slumps lazily towards the horizon, but never fully sets, meaning that the magical nights are a wonderful whitish-grey. At this time Petersburgers indulge themselves in plenty of all-night revelry; several arts festivals take place including the spectacular Scarlet Sails…

                                                                  ‘White Nights’

Perhaps the world’s greatest museum, this iconic establishment’s vast collection is quite simply mind-boggling, with Egyptian mummies, more Rembrandts than the Louvre, and a collection of early-20th century art that is unrivalled by almost any other in the world. As if this wasn’t enough, your entry ticket allows you to walk around the fascinating apartments and dazzling staterooms of the Romanovs. On top of this, there are still other Hermitage sites: the winter palace of Peter I, General Staff Building, Menshikov Palace, Imperial Porcelain factory and the excellent Hermitage Storage Facility.

                                                                   ‘The Hermitage’

If one is to be believed, the majestically wonderful and historical city of St Petersburg just keeps on getting better over time; and if anything, this St Petersburg Lonely Planet travel guide wholeheartedly reflects as much.

Each of its 287 pages are quintessentially crammed with all the information one would expect to be informed with, with regards this most fascinating of world cities.
Most notably, ten pages devoted to the Arts alone:

”Despite the evident European influences, St Petersburg’s Russian roots are a more essential source of inspiration for its artistic genius. Musicians and writers have long looked to Russia’s history, folk culture and other national themes. That St Petersburg has produced so many artistic and musical masterpieces is in itself a source of wonder for the city’s visitors and inhabitants today, and it’s no coincidence that St Petersburg is often referred to as Russia’s cultural capital […]. In 1907 Marius Petipa wrote in his diary, ‘I can state that I created a ballet company of which everyone said: St Petersburg has the greatest ballet in all Europe.’ At the turn of the 20th century, the heyday of Russian ballet, St Petersburg’s Imperial Ballet School rose to world prominence, producing superstar after superstar. Names such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Mathilda Kshesinskaya, George Balanchine, Michel Fokine and Olga Spessivtzeva turn the Mariinsky Theatre into the world’s most dynamic display of the art of dance […]. No other figure in world literature is more closely connected with St Petersburg than Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-18). He was among the first writers to navigate the murky waters of the human subconscious, blending powerful prose with psychology, philosophy and spirituality. Born in Moscow, Dostoevsky moved to St Petersburg to study in 1838, aged 16, and he began his literary and journalistic career there, living at dozens of addresses in the seedy and poverty-stricken area around Sennaya pl, where many of his novels are set […].”

Needless to clarify, the above three quotations are mere tips of the literary iceberg of what one can expect from the four prime sections of the Arts section of St Petersburg (Music, Ballet, Theatre and Literature). There’s a whole lot more, especially within the Ballet and Literature sections, which really is enlightening to say the very least.

Moving on, as this is after all a travel guide, it does need to be highlighted that there is an abundance of really helpful travel related information herein; everything from Need to Know to Getting Around, Entertainment to Shopping, Money Saving Tips and of course, Museums and Galleries.

In brief, all the things one would expect – including an abundance of maps as well as an actual pull-out-map of the city – from a tip top guide to a tip top city.

David Marx

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