It’s ‘Здравствуйте’ from Moscow! (Or St Petersburg actually – Moscow on Tuesday.) As I have not been banned by Putin, I can report from the heart of darkness, in June when it has no darkness, from the depths of the best restaurants in ‘Peter.
The White Nights make this a city that never sleeps, because it doesn’t dare close its eyes. It is as far north as Kirkwall, which has no real night-time any more than it has a nightlife, in June – St Petersburg is in that case a bit like its close latitude companion, Aberdeen, but with gorgeous Imperial architecture and gun-toting muggers. It is also under the watchful eyes of a ruler almost up to Sturgeon levels of dictatorship.
I should have posted this yesterday, but this city is disorienting, fascinating, intoxicating – like Aberdeen. There is also the time difference, which like much of Russia is two hours ahead and three hundred years behind.
This is the city which produced Vladimir Putin. Aberdeen produced Michael Gove. I think we had the best of the bargain.
This though is a city of wonders – a city build on a swamp, like Venice without the constant smell of drains, and with more Italians. This is – and you really get this in the very atmosphere – the city celebrated by Dostoevsky. In these streets you can live and breathe it, feeling yourself a part of the novels.
Step away from the palaces and Prospeky and look: here is the street of collapsing garrets where Rakolnikov starved, or the dripping-damp underground apartment for the Underground Man; here the rotting barge basin where Marmeladov slept in his drunkenness; here the dark lanes where Sonechka – well, never mind. St Petersburg today reeks of Dostoevsky’s world.