Friday, June 29, 2012
White Night in St. Petersburg
Greetings from the City of St Peter in Russia! What am I doing here I hear you ask. I am attending an APEC Meeting or to be more exact, APEC Women and the Economy Forum. You ask why me? Women issues are part of my portfolio. I look after Community and Culture half of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Community covers everything there is from women, children, old aged, the special needs etc. That is why I am here together with the other 21 economies representing their women side as well. Why St Petersburg? I don't know. The Russians are this year's APEC hosts, so they choose whichever city they wanted. You think St Petersburg is far? Well, you should know that the APEC Children's Games will be in Yakutsk. The APEC Summit will be in Vladivostok. St Petersburg by comparison looks much milder.
So far I have only seen St Petersburg by car, on the way to and from Lenoxpo where the Forum is held. It is an old city and has an important planning law - no buildings can be high. So there is no skyscraper in St Petersburg and every building is no more than about 6 storey tall or lower. Unlike other cities, St Petersburg did not grow naturally. It was founded about 300 years ago when Peter the Great needed to give Russia a sea outlet. Russia was then a land locked country. He defeated the Swedish, who at that time was a major power and established St Petersburg. He did not name it after himself but after St Peter, one of the Christian apostles.
Now St Petersburg is more known as the Russians cultural capital. It has more than 200 museums in the city and covers many topics. I passed by one this afternoon which was a Vodka Museum. The largest is the renowned Heritage Museum. It has a total of about 19 kilometers of galleries!
The first day we were here, we were surprised that even at 9 pm, the city was very alive as the sun has not gone down yet. You can see the long shadow but the sun is still up there and will not set until it is almost close to 12, and even then it does not really set. The local folks here call the phenomenon White Night. So during the summer there is white night and during winter, it is the other way round. Don't think about fasting this month, unless you are prepared to do it from before 3 in the morning to about midnight!