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Baltic Delights Travel Guide

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A guide to 8 cities
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22. Into the Snow Globe

Susan Spano Roaring Forties Press ePub

22

INTO THE SNOW GLOBE

It is 260 steps from the entrance of massive St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the heart of St. Petersburg to the colonnade that encircles the base of the dome. I climbed slowly and counted. It was winter, and the stone staircase was slick with ice, ending at a high, snow-coated corner of the great Russian Orthodox church.

There, horrified, I realized that to reach the colonnade, I had to cross a metal gangplank, about 40 feet long, slung over the cathedral’s sloping roof from where I stood to the dome. I steeled myself and started walking. Halfway up, I felt a blast of cold wind pluck at the gangplank like pizzicato on a violin string. When I reached the narrow walkway behind the colonnade, I clutched the slender handrail and tried to calm myself. Finally, I looked out and claimed the prize for having come to St. Petersburg in January: a 360-degree view of the city—its bridges, parks, golden spires, and fuming smokestacks in the suburbs writing in white on a baby blue sky.

Fulfilling fantasies is a big part of why I travel, certainly what drew me to this famous Russian city, where I imagine myself riding in a sleigh along a canal. My jet black hair is pinned in a diamond tiara and my pale, flawless shoulders draped in white fur. I have waltzed with princes, eaten caviar from crystal, lived in palaces of malachite and alabaster. My name is Anna, or Lara, or Irina. Doubtless, I read too many Russian novels at too tender an age and never stopped seeing them through rose-tinted glass, because I still sometimes imagine myself in Anna Karenina’s tiara and Dr. Zhivago’s sleigh. Though my passport picture shows a middle-aged woman, my dreams reflect a beautiful Russian girl in the perfect world of a snow globe.

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