Inception in Saint Petersburg

During the navigation period on the Neva (from April to November) 22 bridges across the river and main canals are drawn at night to let ships pass in and out of the Baltic Sea and right through the city of Saint Petersburg. To know this is important for a number of reasons.

  1. It is a spectacle not to be missed! It is rather surreal to see large cargo ships sailing just a few feet away from you and against the backdrop of all the historical buildings on the central embankments.
  2. If you are not expecting this and maybe you had a few beers, or a good taste of the local vodka, upon seeing part of the road pavement becoming suddenly vertical, you might think you got into a scene from the movie Inception.
  3. If you are planning to be out late, you should really have a look at the bridge drawing schedule (here’s one) so that you don’t end up being stuck on the wrong island for basically the whole night. In truth no part of town is ever completely “cut out”, but you might have to take the veeeery long way around a drawn bridge. Around town you can often see advertisements for taxi companies specifying that their drivers know all the routes around the drawn bridges. A few of these advertisement are even in English. Just keep in mind that, while feasible, it will not be cheap.
  4. If you are a night owl, you might actually want to choose a hotel on the same island where you are planning to go party (or stroll) so that you don’t have to consider long alternative routes.
  5. For about 15-20 minutes before the bridges start to draw at night it is a good idea to pay extra attention to crossing the streets, as local drivers are likely to speed up considerably in order to make it home while they can still cross the bridges. Standing right by a bridge when it gets closed to traffic and listening to the drivers is an excellent way to learn a wide variety of Russian swearwords.

Also keep in mind that if you are not from these latitudes knowing that these bridges draw in the middle of the night might not be enough, as from May to August it is incredibly hard to realise that it actually IS night at all! Saint Petersburg enjoys about 40 days of perpetual daylight from the beginning of June to the middle of July. These are also known as the White Nights. On June the 23rd there is a very big celebration called Scarlet Sails, which drawn million of tourist to Saint Petersburg every year.


Photographically, I chose to take this picture when there is still a pitch black sly. I think the dark overall atmosphere adds to the strangeness and the mystery of the image. I chose the Trinity bridge as I like both the way it is light and the Peter and Paul fortress on the background. I opted for a very wide angle lens (15mm) and a short shutter speed to keep the shape of waves in the light reflection. I think that by not blurring the water, it adds realism to a surrealist scene, and I liked that idea. You can see the picture larger and in much better quality at The World Photos.

Would you like to organize a photo walk of Saint Petersburg draw bridges and discover this amazing city both during the day and night? Do get in touch and we will make it happen!

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