Newcastle Lyon Sonvillier Dresden Berlin Petersburg Chita Moscow Helsinki Amsterdam Newcastle

In progress.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

St Petersburg in Autumn

Hi, it's 2 in the morning and here is a post that I will return to and tidy up when the earth has rotated such that the sun is visible once more from my location.

But for now:

I arrived early in St Petersburg and was met by the lovely thoughtful Dima who got up even earlier to greet me, and had his first and traumatic experience of the commuter hour that every capital city suffers from.

We visited the gardens at Peterhof where naturally tame squirrels, great tits and treecreepers (check) come to eat from your hands. It was lovely. And then the fast boat home which was exciting and worth the tourist money we paid. Great skies, blue and dark grey with light shining through. Water reflecting in silver or deep blue.

(And by great tits I mean birds. Not THAT kind of bird. And anyway, it's more bottoms at Peterhof: I reckon Peter the babyface git First was a bottom man because all the half naked rumptious statues are facing out to the river, with their back ends facing his palace windows, where he would stand with his hand down his pants, or rather have a servant do it for him...)

We met up with Dima number 2 for beers in the evening at a trendy little downstairs spot. I gave him his fanzine and after walking towards home he remembered he'd left it on the table and we went back for it. Which I like, because it gives the paper+ink a history: "this was the fanzine that Dima forgot and ... so on" Dima number 1 was touchngly sad at leaving him.

Next day after an urgently needed sleep in Dima's soft bed I managed to get to Kronstadt to honour the rebellion and last attempt to save the revolution. I had an interesting, unplanned and almost-psychogeographical tour.

(After getting a bus to the island via the northern bridge, which still stands while the southern one is an archipelago of ruins:)

Wandering in ever-widening squares to find anchor square. Discovering it indeed full of anchors. And a public commemoration to those members of humanity who died fighting other human beings in the lost cause of freedom in 1921... The monument offers a sense of public anonymity for their struggles and suffering and dream.

Then I wandered over a footbridge through dangling yellow plane trees, bought a massively overpriced pack of purple pringles in a new flavour, saw a sign in russian with a picture of a boat and a time that was just 10 minutes away. So I wandered up and said "one please" in russian at the counter that I found. Followed a woman onto a boat, and so crossed over to, it turned out, the southern bank of the estuary. There I followed the small crowd onto a bus, which took us only 500 metres or so before everyone got off and I followed them again. Lovely golden sunlight the whole time, and the waters in the breeze. There the crowd dispersed and I saw a rather nice and unanticipated railway station in front of me. So I wandered into its half-shut corridors, found a ticket counter and again uttered those magical words: "zdrastvuytye, adin" (hello, one) and paid what i was asked.

Turns out I was at Oranienbaum, where I had a nice can of irn bru (tastes a bit odd in the plastic out here, so I was chuffed to get an aluminium one) and then I went to sit on the good wooden seats of a local train that I hoped, correctly as it turned out, would end up with me in St Petersburg. Read bits of Dostoyevsky (who goes on about nervous exhaustion and drifting back to consciousness too much) and, when on the arrival platform, got a call on my temporarily working phone asking where i was. "I don't know, some station in Petersburg".

Katja came to meet me. I didn't know what she'd look like, so she told me she was wearing black with a brown hat. I of course was wearing regulation black. A woman in black with a brown hat got off the escalator and smiled, I started to raise my hand in greeting, and so did an older man standing at my elbow. The woman greeted him warmly and they exited left, leaving me feeling a little stupid. I somehow knew what had happened, and waited only a minute before the man returned with some embarrassment (must be the place for blind dates - and there was a pleasant charge to the atmosphere when I was scanning possible katjas earlier, and felt they were all about to say hi- actually i SAY 'pleasant', but i find that kind of ambiguity unbearable).

Anyway, correction sorted, I drank coffee and beer with Katja and a Latvian comrade, and it's probably the first time I've ever used the word comrade in earnest. And all my frivolous experiences are just guilt-inducing when I hear the tales, the danger, the arrests, the knives...

Later, I get lost of course in the night of the south of the city. My phone has been used up in the old Russian style "to tell mother that her son is safely arrived" from latvia. So I just circle and retrace until I find the fire station that I know my way from. And back to a friendly flat. And night night.

Tomorrow it's to Finlandsky station where Kropotkin (not Lenin) made a notable return to Russia (and the anarchists refused to meet him, but the government sent a brass band...)
Then to Schlusselburg, another of the prisons that ravaged Bakunin's body but never touched his spirit. And not just Bakunin, of course.
Then I hope to see the spot where a Nihilist bomb knocked out the Tsar, and I have an anarchist tour guide lined up for the evening!

No comments:

Post a Comment