Thursday, August 21, 2003

bridges of st.petersburg

I was looking for an image of the bridges to post here and I found a website that said "You have not really seen St. Petersburg if you have not gathered with the crowds on the riverbanks on a late summer evening to watch the Palace Bridge open to let ships pass through". Well all that's fine and dandy, but I was staying on the other side of the bridge on an island called Vasilevsky island. That meant that the down town area where all the attractions and all the action happens are on the wrong side of the bridge. Which meant that if you are still on the mainland after 1 AM there is essentially no way to get back to the hostel. I suppose the situation would be different in winter when the river Neva freezes over and one can technically amble across, but in summer, its just a very nice way to be stranded till dawn breaks and the city starts coming alive again. I was staying at a hostel that was very popular with students from all over the world - it was a strangely familiar situation, it being the same here in Sede Boqer- to be in a place where every second person speaks a different language-and everyone feels the instant bond of being foreign. Most of the students had come there to study Russian literature in the original and it was fun to watch all these people manage to have casual conversation in Russian and enjoying it while I was fumbling desperately with the poor phrasebook. I even met an Israeli who had come there to study something or the other and it was quite nice to hear Hebrew spoken. He was just leaving one night to visit a synagogue that is also on the mainland. I spoke to a lot of the students and invariably when I ask them about how life in Russia was, at some time or the other , they would complain about the bridges. The sun used to set around 11 PM and before you know it, it's time to scurry back across the bridge. One night I decided that I must see the bridges open at least once, and deliberately got myself stranded on the mainland, but the thrill of seeing ghostly ships slide past the river palled soon, and I can affirm that as the night gets darker, even the main street of the city gets just a little bit too creepy for comfort.