Posting has been light last week and will continue to be for the next week. I was at a conference in St John, New Brunswick, last week (presentations now available on the blog, under New Brunswick 2013) and I am now on my way to Helsinki, by way of St Petersburg. Because of the vagaries of airplane ticket pricing, it was actually cheaper for me to come to St Petersburg and return from Helsinki than to buy a return ticket to Helsinki. As I have always wanted to visit this city it was easy to decide which option to take (even though it means I am away from home for too long).
The city is exactly as I imagined, being built in a swamp by this guy:to be his new capital in the 18th century, if my memory serves me right. That is Czar Peter the first. I was once in Kiev in the Ukraine to do some teaching; and when talking about history with a guide that I had for a side trip, I was told off for calling him Peter ‘the Great’; the Ukrainians didn’t think he was great!
I have to correct the previous section, the city wasn’t built by Peter, it was built by hundreds of thousands of poor serfs, forced into labour by his armed forces, many thousands of whom died during the construction of his vanity project. With the distance of time, one can see a beautiful city, but it is strange, given the Communist history, there are monuments to Peter, but I haven’t yet seen one to the people who died building this place.