Do you ever play that game? The one where you choose a decade and the vote for which city would have been the coolest to live in at that time…. 60s? London, of course. 20s….? Berlin, if you wanted to live on the edgy side. 1880s? Can can-ning in Paris. Well, what about 1730s ………….? Got to be St Petersburg!!!
And what’s amazing is that it still looks like a damn fine city. All done up in the imperial style, rebuilt, repainted, zinging with colour, not re-plani-Stalinified. And it just looks awesome. Peter the Great could ride right back in and probably still recognise it all.
He’d probably kick everyone out of his Winter Palace, which is now the Hermitage of course. He’d get the girls to put their huge dresses back on and throw a ball in the many spectacular rooms. Keep themselves warm in the winter. Good idea, dancing to stay warm…
And whilst Stalin refrained from ruining the architecture, there’s still some monumentalism (Imperial rather then Communist) – take a look at this guy’s feet (he’s holding up a huge entrance porch):
The whole city is pinks and greens and yellows – apparently to cheer everyone up when it’s grey in the long winter.
So, Pete’s got his Winter Palace sorted. What to do in the summer? Too hot in the city, and too many smelly plebs. Better build a Summer Palace, the Peterhof!
Those Imperial Russians love a bit of triumphalism, so here’s a symbolic statue of Russia defeating the Swedes in 1721 to claim the Baltic coastline. Muscles, respect!
The Peterhof has definitely got a thing about gold. It absolutely shimmers and gleams. And there are ferocious babooska tourist guards everywhere that bark and frown at you if you touch any of the gold leaf. Terrifying!
Alexander II got bumped off here in 1881, by some middle class norodniki terrorists (not me guv, I’d have been in Paris with the dancing girls). And lo! a church sprang up: The Church of Spilled Blood
It’s a fabulous, over-the-top, Russian Orthodox, onion domed, great big extravaganza. Russia wouldn’t be the same without these multi-coloured domes. cracking!
So St Petersburg get the thumbs up from me. Looks great, tons of history and culture, lots to do and see. But wait,…. when in Russia, you have to drink too – VODKA (I did, and suffered). And where are all the Russkies? Was St Petersburg deserted? What else happened on the trip to Russia…..? Ah, well. That will be the theme of the next blog post. The RUSSIANS themselves!