What makes St Petersburg so… Petersburg?
13 September, 2018
This year is the third time that I have had the pleasure of living in St Petersburg (also lovingly known as ‘Piter’). It’s a city that is so easy to fall in love with, and the first time I came here, within a couple of weeks I was completely and utterly charmed. The city’s atmosphere is different to anywhere else I have visited in Russia (or the world, for that matter), but what makes St Petersburg so…Petersburg?
There’s a reason why Petersburg is known as the ‘Venice of the North’: the city’s beauty is breathtaking, and you’ll find something new and beautiful around every corner. The architectural beauty of the city perfectly complements its status as a cultural hub. The city is a celebration of culture and there are thousands of churches, palaces and exhibitions to discover, both big and small. My favourite thing about St Petersburg residents is that they seemingly have no idea of the beauty that surrounds them – I’ve often told friends here about some beautiful church I saw or an incredible building, to which the general reply seems to be: “Oh, that? It’s alright”. Though hands-down my favourite thing about the city’s beauty is the bridges – there’s so many of them and it’s an attraction in itself to go and watch them open and close at night. If you want to read more on St Petersburg’s bridges have a read here.
Remember when we said ‘Venice of the North’? – Emphasis here on North. Whilst I have never experienced the Russian winter in full, 4 months was enough time to notice the wintry lack of light and grey days. The city’s climate really comes into its own in summer, however. The ‘white nights’ in June, in which the nights barely get dark, are a real sight to behold and something that makes a summer visit to Petersburg very special. It is quite confusing though – your brain will definitely find it hard to adjust in the first few days! If you’re planning on visiting the city in the summer period I would reccommend bringing an eye-mask so you can get some beauty sleep…
There are some things that Petersburgers (Peterburzhi) are extremely proud of – one being their beloved ‘shaverma’ (a must-try kebab similar to (but very much better than) a Turkish Donner kebab). The word ‘shaverma’ is specifically Petersburg, and is not to be confused with the Muscovite version ‘shaurma’. But not only shaverma… city-specific vocabulary has found its way into all aspects of life – with terms such as ‘paradnaya’ (hallway) and ‘bulka’ (loaf of bread) marking Petersburg out as different from other Russian cities. I recently spotted that one airline even used these linguistic differences as a part of their advertising campaign, comparing the Petersburg dialect with other dialects of their destination cities! The dialect struggle is real…!
Whatever your level of Russian or experience travelling here, I cannot reccommend this city enough. It’s a real must-see! And hey, who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with the city just as much as I did!