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me; and strolling through its straight and fying it in good earnest, without waiting interminable streets, I have longed for for the conclusion of peace to establish some of the abrupt turns which one meets his new position, and without fear of the in the older quarters of Rouen, Venice, inundations to which he knew it was exor Nuremburg. I am too much a lover of posed. the picturesque, not to be wearied with In the spring of 1703 he gave orders straight lines and right angles. However, for assembling in his new locality great chacun son goût; and when my first fer- numbers of Russian peasants, Tartars, vors for St. Petersburgh had congealed in Cossacks, Finns, &c., and gathered about the frost-breath, I nevertheless understood him workmen from all parts of the empire. perfectly how it was capable of exciting At the same time his troops were enenthusiastic admiration.
camped on both banks of the Neva, the St. Petersburgh, or the city of Peter, infantry on the north and the cavalry on the first city on the continent of Europe the south. It was a great undertaking to in size, and the second in population, was supply these vast numbers with food. first thought of by Peter the First, in The surrounding country, ravaged as it 1703. In that year he made known his had been for many years of war, conproject of removing the capital of his em tained scarcely any resources ; and conpire from Moscow—from the august sanc trary winds frequently delayed the contuary of the Kremlin to the borders of voys, which were sent from the interior, the Gulf of Finland-to the uninhabited across the lake of Ladoga. Provisions marshy plains of the Neva. Its situa were scarce, and consequently very dear. tion, politically considered, was perhaps With insufficient nourishment, exposed to not well chosen. Statesmen, who look cold and dampness, often nearly to their more at the future than at the present, shoulders in the water, the poor workmen allege that Peter committed a great sunk under their fatigues and miseries, and blunder. In order to keep the Swedes it is computed that about one hundred in check, and to open a direct communica- thousand men perished. But these were tion with Western Europe by the Baltic, small difficulties in the way of Peter the he removed Russia, or at least her center Great. During these preliminary arof action, from the position to which she rangements, the Czar resided in a little was suited by her origin and her charac- wooden house, painted brick color, and ter, and to which she was called by her hung with canvas. Some twenty years designs, her interests, and her necessi- afterward, it was rebuilt in masonry, by ties. These knowing ones have also order of its imperial occupant, and it is asserted that if ever the Czar succeeds still in good preservation, the object of in sending his fleets beyond the Bospo- veneration to his people, and much visited rus, (which a good Providence forfend!) by foreigners. To me, that little Dutchif ever he places the Greek cross upon built brick house has been the most interthe domes of St. Sophia, the Russian esting spot in St. Petersburgh. This empire with its two heads will inevitably log-cabin of royalty contains three apartbe cut into northern and southern divisions, ments—a dining-room on the left, a lodgafter the manner of the Roman empire, ing-room on the right, and the center for under the founder of Constantinople. All a reception-hall: the latter contains three this may be true ; but our business is not or four articles of furniture, made by the with politics.
industrious hands of the Czar himself, who As early as 1700, the Swedes had con- taught his subjects the use of several mestructed a fortress at the junction of the chanical tools. Dressed in a coarse red Neva and the Okhta, which was a constant vest, he here received the officers of his point of attack to the Russians for many army, ministers of his empire, and foreign years. At one time it was partly de- embassadors. Almost the only ornastroyed by an incendiary ; but after a siege ment of the establishment, is a crucifix of some days, it was finally surrendered which was carried by Peter at the battle to Peter the Great, in 1703. Though it of Poltava. In an inclosure, by the side had only been regarded as a good military of the house, is a relic scarcely less preposition, he seems immediately to have cious ; it is the little boat constructed by formed the project of making it the capi- the royal carpenter at Saardam, which tal of his empire, for he commenced forti- | afterward became the model for his work
men, and is now called the Grandfather city, temples and palaces extend as far as of the Russian Navy. Tapers and lamps the eye can reach; and many of these ediare kept burning day and night, on a kind fices are of such a size, that ten minutes of altar in the dining-room, and the entire time is requisite to walk along but one side building is completely tapestried with vo of their extent. Several of the public tive offerings. Some of these look sin- buildings contain a larger population than gular enough to civilized eyes; the reader many respectably sized towns in Europe will agree with me, when I assure him, or America. The winter palace numbers that among these were arms, legs, feet, six thousand inhabitants. The Hospital hands, eyes, teeth, jewels, paintings, em of the Infantry has four thousand beds at broideries, &c. One might easily imagine its disposal. Seven thousand children himself in the chamber of the Virgin at are in the Foundling Hospital. Some Our Lady's of Loretto. The memory of other buildings—such as the Admiralty, Peter is preserved with a gratitude and the Hotel of the Etat Major, and the admiration amounting almost to devotion ; Tauris Palace-occupy sufficient ground indeed, the Russians seem to regard him for separate towns, and yet the streets as a superhuman being.
so wide, and the squares are so Such is a glance, and we have time but vast, and the arms of the Neva are so for a glance at the origin of this great extended, that, notwithstanding their metropolis. It is not my intention to de- grandeur, all these edifices look small. tail “ Guide Book” items; nor to gener The perfect level on which they are built alize only for old travelers—my route is diminishes their apparent size still more. novel enough to American readers, and, They are all of the same height. Archiindeed, to any readers, to admit of some tectural masses which deserved hills for particularity. In some parts of the present their pedestals, are limited within the
same straight lines. Nowhere do you see between the nobility and the serfs—bea picturesque group of buildings. The tween excessive wealth and excessive monotonous aspect of the city is more poverty. Civilization is surrounded by noticeable in winter than in summer. barbarism. Science shines forth from the When river, streets, squares, and houses darkness of ignorance; in fact, the nineare covered with their shroud of snow, teenth century is seen in the midst of the the white walls of the edifices scarcely thirteenth. appear to belong to the earth; and the But let us stroll on with our local obPalmyra of the north beneath its leaden servations. One of the most striking sky seems but the ghost of a city. features of St. Petersburgh, is the num
In fact, St. Petersburgh might be char- ber and variety of its spires: upon its acterized by almost any European national large and numerous convents all kinds of designation but its own. It is French, belfries, turrets, and steeples may be seen. Italian, English, or German, but not Rus- They amount to a national architecture, sian. Moscow alone deserves that appel- and their bright or painted points are a great lation, of which more when we revisit it. relief to the monotonous edifices, piercing And yet springing up as we have described the air with arrows so sharp, that the eye it, St. Petersburgh is a somewhat faithful can scarcely distinguish where the gilding image of the nation and of the effect of fades into the brown of the polar skies. its character, history, and institutions The spire of the citadel, and that of the upon its society. This great modern Eu- Admiralty, are the most remarkable : the ropean city, rising in the midst of an latter is gilded with ducats presented almost Asiatic country, uninhabited, un- to Peter by the Republic of the United cultivated, destitute of laws, manners, arts Provinces. These monumental needles and sciences, now, as then, presents the appeared to me dangerously aspiring. I two extremes of society, without the in- could not imagine how they were sustermediate class. There is no transition tained in the air. They are essentially
Russian ornaments, and doubtless are imi- | reflects all these objects when calm, and tations of the Asiatic. Just picture to covers them with its mists in storm, and yourself this immense collection of domes, you wll have some conception of the (and every Greek church is obliged to splendor of St. Petersburgh. Over the have four belfries ;) then imagine the vari- widest part of the river extends a bridge ous hues of this multitude of cupolas- of boats, between the Champ-de-Mars, some silvered, some gilded, some azure- (where the statue of Suwarow is lost in colored, while the roofs of the palaces are space,) and the citadel which contains the painted a deep blue or emerald green; ashes of Peter the Great, and his family. add to this, the magnificent squares orna Recollect too, that the Neva, which is mented with bronze statues of the empe- always full, flows through the midst of rors and distinguished characters of Rus- the city, inclosing an island bordered with sian history; inclose this colossal picture splendid edifices, which are adorned with with a river of extraordinary size, which | Greek columns, supported by granite
foundations and modeled from pagan tem- classes cannot spend a year comfortably ples. If you can bring all these objects without hurrying from one extremity of the definitely before you, you will understand empire to another, just for the pleasure how picturesque St. Petersburgh must be, of a change of place. If circumstances notwithstanding the bad taste of its bor- make this impossible, they gratify their rowed architecture, the misty hue of the inclination by removing from room to room surrounding country, the total absence of in their own habitations. inequalities of surface, and its lack of bril The streets of St. Petersburgh are not liant skies in the dull climate of the north. in good order, though immense sums are
The houses of St. Petersburgh have, expended on the repairs which are conlike the public edifices, a monumental ap- stantly necessary. The soil is too soft to pearance. Many of them contain two continue well paved. During the winter, hundred families. Their appearanee from however, nature macadamizes the city the street gives you no idea of their size. better than human agency could do it. This can only be understood, by observ- The snow and ice tend to form a paveing the several parts of which they are ment perfectly smooth and hard. But composed, and the courts they inclose, defend us from the thawing time, which which are sufficiently large for cavalry re- generally occurs in May, that month so views. The inhabitants of course have celebrated in the poetry of other lands. little or no acquaintance with each other, Horrible lakes of mud then fill the streets and sometimes hours are spent in search through which horses can only ford their of one of them.
way. Any one who has wintered here, Most of the houses of St. Petersburgh sees the impossibility of removing the are but one or two stories in height, though snow of a winter: as soon as the first in the central streets they are somewhat breath of spring is felt, openings are made more elevated. The Russians dislike lofty in the thickest and hardest masses for the residences. Those of the upper classes melting waters, forming quite respectably have usually but one story. A few years sized canals. The dust is nearly as insince a speculator built four or five three supportable in summer as the mud in its storied houses, on the isle of Vasili ; but season; the streets are so very wide and it was impossible to let them. No one the squares such immense paved spaces, wanted the upper floor. Rents are exor that it is impossible to water them, and bitant in the better parts of the city, as the winds of Russia are as tyrannical as land is high, and the marshy nature of the the reigning powers. No obstacle impedes soil renders the expense of foundations them, and, like other tyrants, they abuse very great. Yet buildings are erected their authority. St. Petersburgh pays with astonishing rapidity ; indeed, the time the penalty of its magnificent distances in is so short from the commencement to the other inconveniences to which it is subcompletion of an edifice, that it seems ject. In the warmest weather there is almost the work of enchantment. Let it scarcely any shade during the day, and it be done as soon as possible is the only is quite hopeless to illuminate it at night. demand made of an architect. The in- Notwithstanding the darkness which covconstancy of the people equals their im ers the greater part of the city, it is perpatience. A dwelling is scarcely well fectly safe at all hours; acts of violence finished, when alterations are commenced. against persons or property are as rare as For a dinner, a ball, or a party, the whole they would be frequent in Paris or Newinterior is sometimes transformed. A wing York, if these two civilized cities were is added, or the partition removed in less left in the same obscurity for forty-eight time than more settled homes would de- consecutive hours. mand for the purchase of a new article of To a stranger, the aspect of the winter furniture. The taste of the governmental nights is singular enough ; every instant authorities is, however, by no means a fix- sleighs are darting out from the darkness ture, and it may be held responsible for on one side and immediately disappearing much of this apparent fickleness; the win on the other. Gigantic shadows seem dow or door which was given as a model | pursuing each other over the snows, and to-day may be prohibited to-morrow. voices are heard and shouts are raised to
The Russians, like the Yankees, are prevent the collision of these unseen essentially a nomadic race. The wealthy | travelers. Upon the roofs of the houses,