The train journey from Helsinki to St. Petersburg takes less than four hours. You leave Helsinki in the morning and by lunchtime you are in the centre of this wonderful and beautiful metropole. A city for art lovers, book lovers, music lovers, strollers-around and shoppers alike.
In September 2019 I was very glad for the chance of tour leading a Book Circle group from Finland in St. Petersburg. Immediately after arrival we headed to the house which we all most wanted to visit, The Home Museum of Anna Akhmatova. Somehow, I have missed it during my tens of trips to the city. The faiths of St Petersburg are closely connected with those of Finland so there is much to see for us -as for all others! Anna Akhmatova`s (1889-1966) life was very tragic, her home is a sad place to visit, but indeed a must for all lovers of poetry.
Her home is part of the Sheremetev Palace by the river Fontanka and is called the Fontanka House.
We were privileged to have a private guiding by the Museum´s Director Svetlana. Svetlana is passionate and truly knowledgeable about the poet. We saw Anna´s home, her desk, the things her husband had to leave behind when he was taken away. We left the Museum in quiet brooding of the horrors of the times.
“It’s all the same to me. The Yenisei swirls,
the North Star shines, as it will shine forever;
and the blue lustre of my loved one’s eyes.
is clouded over by the final horror”
Written at Fontanka House, 1939
Then, Alexander Pushkin´s (1799-1837) home. All Russians can quote Pushkin´s poems, they start studying him from very early age. The guides at the museum take for granted that the visitors know everything about him, so we had to ask ours to slow down a bit and tell us more about his life and works. He died only 38 years old in duel that his friends and family tried to cancel. He left for it from the Literaturnaja Café, which is still on Nevski Boulevard.
We prepared for this trip by reading the Bronze Horseman, a poem in Peter the Great´s honour. He found the city and a statue for him, commissioned by Catherine II, is a must for all visitors in St. Petersburg. Catherine was a lady of clever penmanship and dedicated the statue: To Peter I from Catherine II -expressing her admiration for her predecessor and her position as a rightful ruler. This she was not, in the eyes of the Russians.
The stone the Horseman stands on was quarried in Finland and is the largest stone moved by humans
The prologue to the Bronze Horseman:
On a deserted, wave-swept shore,
He stood – in his mind great thoughts grow –
And gazed afar. The northern river
Sped on its wide course him before;
One humble skiff cut the waves’ silver.
On banks of mosses and wet grass
Black huts were dotted there by chance –
The miserable Finn’s abode;
The wood unknown to the rays
Of the dull sun, by clouds stowed,
Hummed all around. And he thought so:
‘The Swede from here will be frightened;
Here a great city will be wrought
To spite our neighborhood conceited.
From here by Nature we’re destined
To cut a door to Europe wide,
To step with a strong foot by waters.
Here, by the new for them sea-paths,
Ships of all flags will come to us –
And on all seas our great feast opens.
A. Pushkin, 1835