Posted by: distributorcap | July 30, 2008

Midnight Sun Cowboy

St. Petersburg is a fascinating place. You would never know from the traffic, commercialism and rhythm of the people that this was once a sterile city. However the functional gray Soviet architecture is a dead give-away of its communist past. St. Petersburg is relatively young for a major cultural center. It was founded in 1704 by Peter the Great, the first Czar (“Caesar”) of united Russia. It is the northernmost city with over 1,000,000 people. Today it is Europe’s 4th largest city with nearly 6,000,000 inhabitants. Due to the rivers and canals that run through the city — it is known as the Venice of the North.

St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia until 1918 when Lenin moved it to Moscow. The city in many ways reminds me of Paris — -low ornate buildings, wide avenues and a river through the center. The early style of architecture was Baroque, while in the 19th century most buildings were designed neo-classical. By the late 1800’s, romanticist had become the style of choice. When the communists took control, all architectural design became “functional.” The mixture is quite ‘eclectic.’

The first uprising against the Czars was in St. Petersburg in 1905. When World War I started (known as the Great War), St. Petersburg changed its name to Petrograd (after Peter the Great) since it was deemed the name sounded to German. In 1917 there were two revolutions in Russia. The February Revolution saw the end of the Monarchy and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II. In July 1917, Nicholas, Alexandra and their 5 children were murdered. The story of Anastasia revolves around the fact that it was thought one of the Czar’s daughters – Anastasia had escaped and was still alive. Bone tests after the fall of the Soviet Union proved all 5 children were killed and Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed to be Anastasia was indeed a fraud.

The October Revolution brought the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin to power. Russia suffered under a civil war until around 1919. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed – and Russia began its annexation of lands beyond its borders. When Lenin died in 1924, the city was renamed Leningrad.

During World War II, Leningrad was under siege from the Germans for 872 days – the longest, most destructive and most deadly siege in history. The Nazis surrounded the city and lay at the doorstep for nearly three years without entering the city limits. With virtually no lines to the outside world, over 1,000,000 residents of the city died. Just before the siege, thousands of volunteers moved the art treasures from the museums and palaces to Siberia – to avoid seizure by the Nazis. The failure of the Nazis to capture Leningrad (along with their losses in Stalingrad) was one of the contributing factors to the defeat of the Nazi war machine.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s Leningrad was known as the Soviet Union’s window to the west.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Leningrad re-christened itself St. Petersburg. Today a thriving and growing commercial and cultural city, St. Petersburg has become one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. The famed Baroque masterpiece, the Winter Palace, houses the Hermitage museum. Along with the Louvre in Paris, the Met in New York and the Prado in Madrid, the Hermitage has one of the world’s greatest collections of art. And the crowds attest to its popularity.

I will say as fascinating as the city is, it can sure use a major new coat of paint and a LOT of refurbishing. As an important economic point (take heed McInsane) — the woman selling ice cream near the Neva River would only take Roubles or Euros — she said nyet to American dollars. I am sure she pulled a Paper Moon on me, as I gave her 5 Euros and got change in Roubles (which are worthless outside Russia). I am sure that ice cream cost me $8.


  1. Great post about the original St. Pete’s. Could help but chortle over you being snookered for your Euros. Merchants used to that in Niagara Falls, giving back Canadian currency after paying in dollars. Now, they do it in Buffalo.

  2. Wow..great history lesson DCap..thanks sweetie!oh..and I like your video too! Showed me things I will never see personally.

  3. was the ice cream any good?

  4. I keep hearing how the US dollar is no longer accepted all over the planet.Even the $7 entry fee at the Taj Mahal can’t be paid in US dollar now. Rupees or Euros only, thank you very much.

  5. Since I am in Florida, when I began reading your post and you wrote “St. Petersburg is a fascinating place.” I automatically thought of St. Petersburg Florida and wondered WTF? you could be talking about since St. Pete, Florida has never been fascinating.

  6. You’re the Czar of Travel. Even the Norquist-ian billionaire capitalist mobsters of post-commie Russia won’t take our dollars? Thanks, Bush!At least some things don’t change: I don’t think the sun made an appearance in those shots. 😉

  7. Of all the places in the world I would love to go….gees, thank’s for the video….it’s great.I think you should be on Letterman, ya know…’Travels wit D’Cap’!

  8. Very nice little video.So not great to hear that American dollars are about as worthless as the president who devalued them.His face should go on the penny.

  9. I was so fascintated with Anastasia and the overthrow of Nicholas when I was a child. Great post.

  10. What an cool video! My husband was in Asia for a few weeks recently and he said that he couldn’t pass off any American currency, it’s worthless. He did come home with some Japanese and Korean money and I have to say, the Japanese have very pretty coins. You’re lookin’ fine in those pics, kiddo.

  11. yeah, what mary ellen said. the video is great…were the people you pictured tourists or natives?

  12. I agree with all, great stuff! You should do travel documentary’s!

  13. DCNY! You didn’t tell me how you’re doing, not that I need to ask with your travelogue right heah. About teh kitty? Did I hear right? Because if so … warm hugs of condolence.

  14. You got a lot out this vacation. Love to read about it. Thanks so much. Z*me

  15. It’s been many years since I was there, but I really enjoyed walking around that city.

  16. Wow how neat,you guys are really lucky, great pics !

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