St. Petersburg is a city of cats. From the streets at night, you can see their shining eyes, peering through the arches from the inner decay of “Dostoevsky’s St. Petersburg,” the faceless blocks of communal flats behind the Italianate buildings on the main streets. The cats hang comfortably in the dead trees, dine elegantly in the overflowing garbage, sit regally on the broken steps. In front of our office, in the winter, the last car to park was identified by the presence of the cats, healthy and fat, curled up on the warmest hood.
Petersburg is a proud city which keeps itself as different from Moscow as possible. On one hand it disdains the crass commercialism, the naked power of Moscow and on the other is jealous for some of it. But with Messers Putin and Medvedev and their colleagues from the city, changes are taking place.
St. Petersburg is a feminine city. She is an elegant and noble woman sitting draped with the jewels of her youth waiting for her prince to return. It is the most beautiful Italianate city in Europe. This “Venice of the North” with its symmetry, canals, architecture, statuary, museums, performing arts, palaces, gardens and languid summers with endless days make it a city never to be forgotten.
St. Petersburg is all things, but one wonders at times if it really exists. Beneath the 300-year-old veneer of classical European architecture and fantasy lies the decrepit relicts of communal communism, the “the Dostoevsky St. Petersburg”―and the satisfied cats. To me, it is the most thrilling city in Europe.
(Moscow is a city of dogs. Stay tuned.)
Read more about St. Petersburg. Buy the book here “Walking on Ice, An American Businessman in Russia”