A Midsummer night’s dream

This summer I am in India and getting some sleep at nights! Unlike the summers spent in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the nights are not meant for sleeping… because I am talking of the white nights phenomenon. The northern pole and countries like Norway get 6 months of day and then another 6 months of night. As we come down from north to Nordic countries like Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia this phenomenon gets less. Still what we get in Saint Petersburg are the white nights, starting from May and ending by early July. The days get longer, and in May itself it gets dark only after 8-9 pm. By June 21st when the day is longest the sun hardly sets for 2 hours at about 2 am. This way one can literally read a book at night without using a lamp. The best part is that when you return home after work it is still day time. One feels the day hasn’t finished yet.

People, both native and tourists eagerly wait for this time of the year. Needless to say it is the most exciting time. Tourists flock Saint Petersburg; there are crowds of people everywhere during the night time as well. One has the advantage of a long day to see so many places in the city and the suburbs. Saint Petersburg is situated on the banks of river Neva which flows right through its center. A boat cruise on this river and its adjoining canals surely promises to be a romantic one! Another tour which is a must for any tourist is a night bus tour like “Saint Petersburg in White Nights”.

The numerous bridges across the Neva river have a system of opening up at nights to let the navigation pass. It is almost a mystical sight when the dark silhouettes of a bridge begin to move upwards and one sees two halves of the bridge standing upright. The bridges continue this opening – closing every night throughout the summer and autumn till November. Once winter sets in and the river gets frozen, navigation stops. The schedule of opening and closing of all major and beautiful bridges are published in the newspapers. So a person can plan his sightseeing at night keeping in mind that one can cross a bridge only at a particular time of night.

The only constraint for people who don’t own a car is the metro. The metro closes by 12.50 am and opens at 5.30 am. So if you miss the last train be prepared to spend the summer night on streets or in a park. Some cafes, bars, disco clubs are open 24 hours. So if one has company it’s not so tough to spend the time after seeing the bridges do their open-close act.

Another thing one should not miss is the numerous festivals organized during the white nights. For Russian ballet lovers there is the great ballet festival at the world famous Mariinsky theatre (formerly known as the Kirov theatre). One can watch the stars of Russian ballet and enjoy the grand interiors of this imperial theatre as well. For music lovers there are several classical and light music festivals. Jazz and blues fans can hang out at the open air concerts, usually organized in some park.

Numerous big and small events are organized almost daily in the city. But one must keep in mind that it’s better to buy tickets in advance for the major events (one can also book them through the net). Saint Petersburg being the cultural capital of Russia often runs out of the tickets.

So with some planning one can have a great time. Saint Petersburg is often called “Venice of the north”. Rightly said, because it has more than 100 canals, bridges, great architectures and many more buildings built by Italian architects. The city has barely a 300 years old history (it was founded in 1703), but it has inspired numerous poets, painters, writers, musicians, dancers and thinkers. And the white night is the inspiration of all inspirations for any person who can admire beauty.

Inesa Sinha
(Saint Petersburg, Russia)

published first on  http://www.worldwithoutobstacles.org    (see Articles)