The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

St. Petersburg

The imperial capital is elegant and alluring and disappointing and derivative and altogether unforgettable. It is all façade and fable. 

I studied the hundred pages that detail its churches and galleries. I counted my rubles and planned my own promenade. I saw so many things. Endless arrays of domes and canvas. 

But it is what I heard that echoes in my bones - the calls of the street vendors that filled me with wonder and made me wild not to look but to taste. 

I will copy the lines from the Handbook (page 101). They do justice to the sound of St. Petersburg.

Characteristic street figures, which are, however, fast disappearing, are the vendors of ices (morozhenoye) and kvass (a cooling drink brewed from rye-bread or fruit), who carry their pails and glass jugs on their heads; the itinerant cooks with pirogis (pasties), various purees (especially 'kisel malinovi' and 'kisel gorokhovi', raspberry-puree and puree of peas), and pancakes (blini); the raznoshtchiks (pedlars), especially near the Gostini Dvor; the vendors of old clothes (mostly Tartars; offering 'khalati', i.e., dressing-gowns) and linen (polotno). Other street cries are: 'tzvyeti, tzvyetotchki' (flowers); kartoffel' (potatoes); 'okuni, yershi, sigi, lososina, ruiba zhivaya' (perch, ruff, char, salmon, live fish); 'gribi molodiye, gribotchki' (mushrooms); 'apelsini, limoni khoroshiye' (oranges, lemons); 'klubnika sadovaya, klubnika' (strawberries); 'klyukva podsnyezhnaya, klyukva' (cranberries); 'zemlyanika spyelaya, zemlyanika' (ripe wild strawberries).

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