St. Petersburg

Bridges of St. Petersburg

10 Apr 2018
When Peter the Great, that wonderful builder, founded the city, he envisaged a bridgeless city where everyone maneuvered around on boats in summer and in winter, cruising around on sleds. This grand design idea ultimately proved unworkable and now a visit to St. Petersburg is not complete without them. Thirteen of the over 300 bridges are raised nightly during the summer months allowing the passage of sea vessels along the Neva river. In Your Pocket decided to go bridge spotting – a uniquely St. Petersburg tourist treat.

The four rearing horses with horse tamers standing on each corner of the Anichkov Bridge (Anichkov Most) on Nevsky prospect and spanning the Fontanka are possibly the most recognisable figures in St. Petersburg. Designed by Russian sculptor, Baron Peter Klodt von Urgensburg, not one but two myths surround this bridge. The first is that during construction tongues were left off two of the horses and upon hearing of this, Klodt died practically immediately afterwards. That’s right, he died. The second is that Klodt depicted his enemy’s face under one of the stallion’s tails. This last tale (true or not, we leave for you to discover) accounts for the amusing sight of tourists peering up between the legs of each horse. Named after Anichkov, the engineer who designed the first bridge on this site, the current bridge has stood since 1841, with the horses being added in 1849-1850. Installed even earlier than the horses, four majestic white lions began guarding the pedestrian walk way on the Lions Bridge (Lviny Most) in 1826. Designed by architect G. Tretter, the lions were sculpted by P. Sokolov who also created the sphinxes on the Egyptian Bridge (Yegipetsky Most) and the beautiful griffins of Bank Bridge (Bankovsky Most)). These sentient sentinels holding down the four bridge corners act as a reminder of Russia’s imperial, ethereal past. Where Nevsky prospect meets the Moyka river, you find the first of St. Petersburg’s coloured bridges, the Green Bridge (Zelyony Most). If you head south along the Moyka, you soon come to the second, the Red Bridge (Krasny Most) and the third in the line is the Blue Bridge (Siny Most), found in front of Isaakievskaya Ploshchad. At nearly 100 metres wide, most people do not realise that Blue Bridge even is a bridge, let alone the world’s widest. Usually there is any number of cars parked on it as well, so ultimately it can look like an inner city car park!

​Lomonosov Bridge (Most Lomonosova) is one of the city’s most striking bridges, featuring four solid rhombus-shaped stone pavilions, each with a dome on top, linked by heavy chains. When first constructed between 1785 and 1787, it was named after the Chernishev Bridge after General Chernishev who had distinguished himself with military victories in the 18th century. It was renamed in 1948 in honour of Mikhail Lomonosov, the Russian scientist, poet and mosaic artist. Today, if you are wandering past on a weekend, Lomonosov Bridge is often home to a few old Russian guys throwing a fishing line down into the Fontanka river hoping to catch something, and, the best place to catch sight of the flying jetski riders as they hoon down the Fontanka.

Palace Bridge (Dvortsovy Most) has featured on more postcards, graced more calendars and filled more rolls of film than any other in bridge history. Or at least it seems so in summer! What is surprising is that until 1912, there was no bridge there at all. Not even one of St. Petersburg’s 18th century wooden pontoon barge bridges which when strung together, formed a makeshift crossing between banks. Work began in 1912, with the bridge eventually being opened to traffic in 1916, although decoratively speaking, it was far from finished. If you do by chance find yourself stuck on the wrong side of this bridge when it is being raised, just enjoy the view, take in the bustling atmosphere, check out the fire-twirling buskers who have taken up residence near Palace bridge or just pick up a beer and join the gathering crowd to watch the spectacle.
It must be said though that more than a few visitors to St. Petersburg remark after their first bridge watching experience – Is that it? And it can be hard for visitors to grasp just why this ritual remains so beloved. Lasting for around twenty minutes if you include the time required to shepherd the last stragglers across. For such a short spectacle, the crowds come night after night, with their champagne and cameras to watch again and again. A mix of Russian and foreign tourists as well as locals, there’s so many people crowding the embankment, it’s akin to a nightly festival. The boats waiting in the water with their lights shining, look like a mini midnight regatta as they jostle for the best viewing position so their passengers can toast the bridge raising and snap off some more postcard shots. Then of course there’s all the drama of people hastening to one side of the river, cars desperate to ‘beat the bridges’ by getting across in time and the separation of friends who live on different islands. With around ten minutes to spare before the bridge starts to go up, the two attendants start shepherding the crowds away and putting out the barriers. Cars are halted first and those drivers who are desperate to get across, turn around sharpish before racing on to the next still open bridge to get home. These drivers know the bridge timetable by heart!
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