Just Go: St. Petersburg, Russia

If you haven’t been to St Petersburg, I encourage you – and even those vaguely interested – to get up and go. National Geographic Traveler recently named the city a top spot to “see now” based on the increased problem of flooding that affects a low-lying downtown. While this is a sound reason, and flood-control precautions are in place, it’s a beautiful city to visit just for the richness of culture. Travel for travel’s sake.

In my opinion, any time is a good time to go, but you’ll be able to fit in more during summer’s White Nights.

I wrote the following itinerary for The Daily Telegraph but please let me know if you’re planning a trip! The best things to do in four days in St Petersburg | DailyTelegraph

St Isaac's Cathedral

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Historic Hotels of Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg is exhausting…

… if you’re a traveler oon a limited schedule. In seven days you’ll glimpse the magnificence of this city, but it will take much more longer to get under its skin. Admiring the stupendous beauty of The Hermitage before moving onto the mosaic brilliance of The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is too much to take in over the course of a day, let alone a week. The history fused into the fabric of these buildings, a nuanced interplay of hieroglyphs, iconography, sweeping arches, and magnificent masonry, is awe-inspiring.

Saint Petersburg’s historic centre is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This part of the city is traversed by ribbons of canals and a criss-cross of streets that encourage the traveler to wander. Nevsky Prospekt runs through the core and many of the top hotels are located steps from the busy thoroughfare. I had the pleasure of touring these hotels and meeting with many lovely Russians along the way. While my photos don’t do them justice, the professional ones that accompany my words on the history and interiors of the top five hotels can be viewed here, on Qantas Insider:Best Luxury Hotels | St Petersburg | Qantas Travel Insider.

Here are some of my happy snaps.

Hotel Astoria, seen from the top of St Isaac's Cathedral.

Hotel Astoria, seen from the top of St Isaac’s Cathedral.

The Imperial Porcelain Company created the design of the cup and saucer especially for Hotel Astoria.

The Imperial Porcelain Company created the Cobalt Square design of the cup and saucer especially for Hotel Astoria in the 1930s. It’s one of the most popular designs in Russia.

Corinthia's magnificent lobby

Corinthia’s magnificent lobby

Bar with Church

Kempinski’s glorious rooftop overlooking The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.

Restaurant in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe

Restaurant in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe

Night view from the Four Seasons of St Isaac's Cathedral.

Night view from the Four Seasons of St Isaac’s Cathedral.

White Nights in St Petersburg, Russia

I met my mum and sister in St Petersburg, Russia, just as June rolled into July; when the glorious White Nights were are their peak. The sun hardly slept — sometimes it napped under a blanket of clouds — and when the moon showed its face, it shone as bright as a beacon. The historic city was always illuminated and teeming with life, but its wide open spaces allowed for pause and reflection. I was awake throughout.

St Isaac's Cathedral

St Isaac’s Cathedral

View of Hotel Astoria and St Isaac's Square from the cupola of St Isaac's Cathedral

View of Hotel Astoria and St Isaac’s Square from the cupola of St Isaac’s Cathedral

Pigeons at Alexander Nevsky Monastery

Pigeons at Alexander Nevsky Monastery

The grand Petrodvoretz, the Tsar's Summer Palace

The grand Petrodvoretz, the Tsar’s Summer Palace

On the birch tree-lined fringes of the Gulf of Finland at Petrodvorets, the Tsar's summer palace

On the birch tree-lined fringes of the Gulf of Finland at Petrodvorets, the Tsar’s Summer Palace

Boating along the canals

Boating along the canals

Me, dwarfed by the palatial Hermitage

Me, dwarfed by the palatial Hermitage, the Winter Palace of every Tsar and Tsarina since Catherine the Great

Midsummer night light streaming through at 10pm

Midsummer night light streaming through at 10pm at Petro Palace Hotel

The moon by St Isaac's Cathedral

The moon by St Isaac’s Cathedral

Social Media: The Winogrand Effect

I read an interesting article in New York magazine by Jerry Saltz titled, “Photographing Through The Cracks: Garry Winogrand captured America as it split wide open.” It discusses an exhibition of the street photographer’s work currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The last paragraph stood out because it made me think about the future of art; the formal study of photography; the role of curator; and social media’s role in propelling a new generation of self-taught photographers. Here’s the quote:

“The whole world is now filled with incredible images–especially on Instagram and other social networks–that owe something to Winogrand’s, documenting life, change, and all the rest. Yet the art world and museums are not. Instead they tend to show oversize, very still pictures or images that investigate formal properties and ideas of display and presentation. I love many of those pictures, but what’s happening online on social media deserves far more serious scrutiny than it’s getting. If the art world doesn’t admit more of this sort of deceptively casual-seeming work, the outside world will reject more so-called art photography than it already does. That’s a divide that we don’t need to reestablish and widen.”

Thoughts?

St. Isaac's Cathedral, photographed in July during a trip to St Petersburg (with a Nikon)

St. Isaac’s Cathedral, photographed in July during a trip to St Petersburg (on an angle with a Nikon and prime lens. I should add that my sister took amazing photos of the same cupola with an iPhone.).