Writer on Location: Pretty, pretty Peter

Last week it was finally time to escape the rural province of Russia and to visit the lovely St. Petersburg. For months I’d been looking forward to being once again in a real city; a city where they might sell English books and maybe even serve that white beer I’ve been longing for ever since I’m in Russia. Well, I can already tell you that St Petersburg made all my dreams come true and even more!

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A Russian friend of mine once described St Petersburg as a poor aristocrat, and ever since I’m back from this trip I realise how well-chosen this expression was. Good old Peter has a certain kind of class which cannot be obtained by all the money in the world. This beautiful spring week the old buildings along the canals were bathing in the golden light of the sun. The sun shone her light on the soft-pink, yellow and green facades and highlighted the cracks in the buildings. The cracks however made me fall in love even more. They were charming in a way you love the wrinkles on the smiling face of the person you love. Those little imperfections are what makes St Petersburg beautiful.

One of those little imperfections might be the fact that although St Petersburg is described as the most Western city in Russia, hardly anyone speaks English. St Petersburg is a city visited by many tourists, but most of them are Russian. Despite the rumours that the St Peterburgians are grumpy, I experienced something else. Maybe because of the small amount of international tourists the St Peterburgians are willing to show you their beautiful city. Never before have I met such an involved Airbnb host, and the Russians which I spoke to were happy to practice their English or to listen to my broken Russian.

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I believe it’s safe to say that St Petersburg is Russia’s cultural capital; it’s not only home to the Hermitage, but also to the famous Mariinksky Theater and to many great Russian writers such as Pushkin and Gogol. The Hermitage is a museum which is way too big, one in the category of the Louvre, but absolutely worth a visit. They’ve got an incredible collection of the old Dutch masters and the former chambers of the tsars will blind you in their golden splendour.

To be honest, I didn’t visit as many museums as I could have done. Therefore I was too busy exploring another splendid side of the city: the gastro bars. When you do some research and ask for tips from a local, you will find out that you can have an absolutely fabulous dinner at very stylish places for very little money. And that gives you the opportunity to experiment! From eating brains till oxtail: I’ve tried them all for the first time in St Petersburg.  

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I absolutely loved my time in St Petersburg, and it certainly won’t be the last time I paid Peter a visit. St. Petersburg showed me another beautiful shade in Russia’s interesting palette of colours; I found out that also pastels exists in Russia.

By Evelijn Hillebrand

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