THE OTHER

St Petersburg

S
W
In the early spring,
when they chipped off the crust of frozen snow from the streets and squares; when along the newly exposed paving between these strata sped, appearing as if from nowhere, streams that glistened in the sun; when dark-blue shadows with piercing distinctness moulded the cube-shaped buildings and the roundness of columns; when ‘new’ air poured through the wide-open windows (liberated from their second window frames) into stale apartments; when the ice on the Neva swelled, turned grey, and, finally rose up, broke, and started moving towards the sea – then the Petersburg spring was stunning in the elemental expressiveness of its awakening. There could be no doubt that one season was giving way to another. But when the new order had finally been completely established, there began a truly blessed time. The city which had for months been so forbidding became gentle, enchanting, and kind. The trees in the gardens were covered in the most tender leaves; the scent of lilac blossom was overpowering; the bird-cherry was spicy-sweet; and the elegant blocks of palaces were reflected in the now freely flowing water.

From Aleksandr Benoit, Memoirs (published in Paris, 1936)
The Catherine Canal, engraving by Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, 1910
Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, The Catherine Canal, 1910