St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia is big, really big. My brother, girlfriend and I recently to travelled from west to east on the Trans-Siberian railway. Our trip began in St. Petersburg, a very European city, built on the marshes of the North sea by slave labour. The city was once the capital or Russia and French was spoken at all the royal courts. Today, no one speaks anything but Russian.

The Hermitage Museum is the city’s main attraction; one of the largest museums in the world, it offers truly stupendous works of art. In my opinion, The Hermitage is the most impressive museum I have ever seen, the density of priceless art is unparalleled. The building itself is a work of, sometimes overly excessive, art – it was the former palace of the Tsar. While the art is amazing, it is also a testament to the excesses of the Russian royalty who amassed amazing collections while their people starved in the cold winter.

Reaching the St. Petersburg metro, dug deep underground to avoid the numerous canals, requires an impressive five-minute escalator ride to reach. Once arrived, the beauty of the stations is astounding. The Soviets built gorgeous metro stations with chandeliers, marble walls and vaulted ceilings.

After you see their metro, it is clear our public spaces have been done on the cheap. Too often in capitalist societies we only look at the financial costs and forget the emotional impact beautiful spaces can have. The few public venues we accord money to – museums and concert halls are the haunts of the rich while our basic metros, bus stations and streets are used by all citizens. In a democratic society we should provide beauty democratically. A system that transports millions of people everyday should be built to not only transport the body, but also the mind and the heart.

Russian Photos here

Published on November 29, 2009