Get a guided tour to the imperial city of Saint Petersburg as it was 150 years ago – NOT to the golden palaces, but to the dark basements!
Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and has so much history, that even though I’ve been twice – I haven’t scratch the surface. The entire centre is UNESCO listed.
If you go – Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” also known as Raskolnikov is the book to bring!
Walk the same streets of the student Raskolnikov as he struggles with the meaning of life! He’s not to happy about the city and seems completely blind to the elegance and grandeur, we see today.
And another thing, I’m convinced there are lots of people in Petersburg who talk to themselves as they walk. This is a town of crazy people. If only we had scientific men, doctors, lawyers and philosophers might make most valuable investigations in Petersburg each in his own line.
There are few places where there are so many gloomy, strong and queer influences on the soul of man as in Petersburg. The mere influences of climate mean so much. And it’s the administrative centre of all Russia and its character must be reflected on the whole country.
Actually “Crime and Punishment” written in 1866 by Fyodor Dostoevsky is not only the best books to read while travelling in St. Petersburg, but one of the best books anywhere in the world! And one of my absolute favourite books! But the crime and also the punishment takes place in the old city, so it’s extra intriguing here.
You can almost follow in the footsteps of the murder Raskolnikov through he streets of the old imperial city:
Owing to the proximity of the Hay Market, the number of establishments of bad character, the preponderance of the trading and working class population crowded in these streets and alleys in the heart of Petersburg, types so various were to be seen in the streets that no figure, however queer, would have caused surprise.
The actual street names in the book are not always listed, but noted as S-street and K-bridge. But apparently Dostoevsky’s wife later filled in the blanks, and S means Stolyarny and K Kokushkin!
He found himself in X. Prospect, thirty or forty paces from the Hay Market, through which he had come. The whole second storey of the house on the left was used as a tavern. All the windows were wide open; judging from the figures moving at the windows, the rooms were full to overflowing. There were sounds of singing, of clarionet and violin, and the boom of a Turkish drum.
Most people have heard of this classics of the young, poor student Rodion Raskolnikov, who has taken the idea of an übermensch to heart. A man who can get away with murder – for instance – since his destiny and cause is greater. (He uses Napoleon as an example of someone, who killed many, but was still celebrated.) He finally decides to kill an old-and-not-very-nice pawnbroker to take her money, and use them to do great things, but (obviously) it doesn’t go as planned, and he ends up killing a kind young girl also.
The entire event is not the main story of the book – it’s the aftermath: all the unavoidable, but unpredictable consequences, and hence the young man’s scruples and doubts. Can he live up to his own idea of Superman? In the end, he can’t bear it..
The heat in the street was terrible: and the airlessness, the bustle and the plaster, scaffolding, bricks, and dust all about him, and that special Petersburg stench, so familiar to all who are unable to get out of town in summer–all worked painfully upon the young man’s already overwrought nerves.
The insufferable stench from the pot-houses, which are particularly numerous in that part of the town, and the drunken men whom he met continually, although it was a working day, completed the revolting misery of the picture. An expression of the profoundest disgust gleamed for a moment in the young man’s refined face.
Remember it’s Dostoevsky Day on the first Saturday in July, so start getting your VISA now…
If you want more St. Petersburg, try switching the literary guide for a senior in Visiting St. Petersburg as a teenager with a senior group! If you want a even more grim literary guide: Visit Venice with death as a guide!
What’s your favourite travel book?