Barry Pollack’s “Going Places”St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great who made itRussia’s capital city. I certainly think the title of king or czar is impressiveenough but there’s something extra special about being given that tag, “theGreat.” It certainly speaks better of a monarch’s legacy than, say, CzarIvan’s tag, “the Terrible.” Now, I am not a scholar of Russian history but,having visited St. Petersburg, and ignoring any other accomplishments Petermay have been renowned for, he certainly deserves the appellation “Great”for creating a city with such character, culture, and beauty.St. Petersburg evokes the grandeur of Paris with its 18
centurypalaces and the charm of Venice with its canals. For 70 years under sovietrule, the city floundered. Dismissed as a czarist capital, it was ignored andignobled by being renamed Leningrad. But for its 300
anniversary in 2003,the city has been revitalized and refurbished to much of its former glory.We arrived in the city aboard the Moscow-St. Petersburg expresstrain – a five hour trip from Moscow station. Our first class compartmentcost $60. It was comfortable and well appointed with a television, a tableset with snacks, bottled water, and hot water for tea and coffee. We sharedour space with a couple and two single women. One, Elvira, gave us a verbaltour of her city enroute and on arriving graciously helped us negotiate for ataxi before leaving on the metro to her own home.We felt somewhat self-conscious pulling up in front of the elegantGrand Hotel Europe (GHE) in our dented taxi, parking next to a Maserati.