This summer in Russia has been rather mild, to say the least, with snow falling in Moscow and Saint Petersburg as late as the beginning of June and temperatures almost never exceeding 25 degrees (except, of course, in the South of the country). Russian people, though, are well accustomed to fleeting summers and they are as always determined to make the most out of the few sunny days they get.
I believe one of the most interesting (non)tourist attractions in Saint Petersburg, especially for all people coming from warmer climates, is the “beach” surrounding The Peter and Paul Fortress‘ external walls, on the Neva river. Even in clear spring days you can see the locals sunbathing in the area, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the river is still frozen and the beach covered in snow. They often wear a bathing suit under a warm winter jacket and the resulting look is quite surprising.
During summer months the scenery is more reminiscent of a mediterranean beach scene (even if long stretches around the fortress are covered in cobblestone, like the one pictured above), with clear blue waters and the warm light of “never ending days” (the sun does not completely set in summer for almost 40 days at these latitudes). But the temperature is often around 15 degrees Celsius (60 F) and the wind unrelenting. So it is even easier than usual to distinguish between the locals and the tourists. The former are wearing bathing suits (and often a hat), while the latter are clad in winter-like jackets and wind-stoppers.
As a photographer, I thing this is such a great spot to try and capture “the essence of Saint Petersburg”. In the above picture, for instance, there are a lot of significant elements. Starting from the top, you can see the facade of the famous Winter Palace, now the seat of the Hermitage museum. On the river there’s an old soviet hydrofoil (they are still very much in active service, ferrying tourist to and from Peterhof Palace on the Gulf of Finland). And then, there is of course the “cobblestone beach” with just a couple of people, enjoying the precious sun rays (the city enjoys 62 sunny days a year on an average with totally 1628 sunny hours) and a moment of quiet away from the bustling streets on the other side of the river.
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