TRAVEL & EXPERIENCE

St. Petersburg’s Sun, a night shining brightly
The midnight sun is also called as the white night. But a summer sky at St. Petersburg is not just a flat whiteness, it’s dyed in sunset all night long and is also buried in Russia’s classically lyrical music.
A diamond to fulfill the white night is needed
In a day, the earth rotates. That is why when the earth faces the sun at one point, it becomes a day and when it faces against the sun, it becomes a night. While the earth rotates, it also revolves around the sun every year. The revolution makes seasons. Due to the rotation axis of earth,  when the north latitude is above 48 degrees, the high latitude region becomes summer, as the rotation axis is exposed directly toward the sun.
This means that no matter how much the earth rotates, it can’t avoid the sun. A night shining like the morning, that’s how the white night is created.
Countries where the north latitude goes over 48 degrees include Russia, Canada and northern European countries. In Stockholm, Sweden, the north latitude gets up to 59 degrees, whereas Helsinki, Finlad’s northern latitude is about 60 degrees. Then, Oslo in Norway and Russia’s Moscow and St. Petersburg are in between those areas. All these cities are the places where you can see the white night. Countries like Iceland and Yukon, Canada, where they have higher degrees of latitude are also famous for their white night.
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Sunset at St. Petersburg that feels like sunrise © Shutterstock

A very exceptionally weird weather effect brings interest to many. Due to this, a lot of the people travel to the very north of the northern hemisphere to experience the night where it doesn’t get dark. But the expiration of this beautiful impression from the unique weather effect doesn’t last very long. The white nights, which are shown in movies, are not as beautiful as expected. In Christopher Nolan’s movie called ‘Insomnia,’ he expressed Alaska’s white night very stark. For Al Pacino, who played the main role, the nights where the sun doesn’t set was just a nightmare as he couldn’t fall asleep. Then in director Ari Aster’s 2019 film called ‘Midsommar,’ he went one step further with the white night. During the white night season in a small town in Sweden, it’s very quiet and pastoral. Due to this, the incidents that occur in that town are portrayed in more terrible ways.
In reality, the beauty you can feel from the white night itself is limited. The scenery of a solid white night starts off as beautiful but can easily turn into a boring scene. Furthermore, it can turn into a scare. To have an enjoyable memory of the white night, great contents are needed to fulfill that time with happiness.
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View of the city at 1 a.m. © Shutterstock

Russia, the most beautiful country of the white night
St. Petersburg is the best city to enjoy the white night. For its first reason, it could be the city’s history and artistic sides.
During the time of the Russia Federation, Peter the Great constructed St. Petersburg with a goal of making it more modernized and impressive than any other cities in Europe. Then, such attempts continued under Tsar and as a result of this, St. Petersburg became the Russia Federation’s capital city and a representative city in northern Europe for over 200 years. As Russia grew into the leading part in the world after the Napoleonic Wars, Russia’s cultural art status also went up. St. Petersburg’s famous culture and art pieces include Tchaikovsky’s music, Pushkin’s poems, Dostoyevsky’s novels and ballet at Mariinsky Theatre. Watching the architectural buildings at St. Petersburg while walking in the white night is just beautiful just as it is but if you look into the trace and historic meanings of its art, it’ll give you a different experience.
Just as attractive as the trace of people at St. Petersburg, nature itself can be attractive, as the city is the spear in the northern region that connects to the Baltic Sea. The water flow of Neva River, which heads to the sea, penetrates around the city. If Venice is southern Europe’s most famous waterway city, St. Petersburg is the center of the northern region’s waterway. Also, St. Petersburg is a megacity with a population of more than a million and the city is located at the very northern part. The fact that the city has high latitude also means that the time of white night is long. At the peak of St. Petersburg’s white night, it’s about an hour long. This means that you get to experience the sunset as well as the color of the Neva River reflected into the red color of sunset for a longer period of time. From the end of May to the end of June every year, St. Petersburg just wallows into the white night’s sunset.
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During white nights, St. Petersburg comes to life after 10 p.m. © Shutterstock

Having the white night as a festival is one of Russia’s traditions.
Before accepting Christianity, in Russia, each tribe considered their representative animals as their ancestors. But once the farming culture took its place, Russia moved onto polytheism society but just like any other agricultural areas, the God of Sun took the top spot. The peak of the white night, where the effect of the sun gets the strongest, considering this festival period as the time to worship the God of Sun may be settled into a part of the culture naturally. As Christianity glocalized as Russia’s church, even after the Russian’s souls were completely taken away, the tradition of the white night festival changed but is still being held. Toward the end of the Russia Federation, during the October Revolution, it seemed as if the festival was fading away, but since the 1960s, small regions here and there started to bring back the festival. Then, the Soviet Union was destroyed. In 1991, St. Petersburg got rid of its name of Leningrad, the name during the Soviet Union period, and regained its old name. In 1993, the suburbs of St. Petersburg tried to gather all the big and small white night festivals into one big event. This was planned by St. Petersburg but St. Petersburg’s historic artist Valery Gergiev helped out St. Petersburg’s white night festival to develop into the world’s one of the most popular cultural art festivals.
 
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View of the Neva River at 1 a.m., with sun setting. ‘Church of the Savior on Blood’ is in the distant. © Shutterstock

The best conductor, who made the best festival
Valery Gergiev was actually born in Moscow in 1953, not St. Petersburg.  However, his relationship with St. Petersburg started when he moved to the city to attend St. Petersburg Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov. Two years after winning the Soviet Union’s conductor concour in 1976, he was named the assistant conductor at Kirov Opera. Then in 1988, he was named the chief conductor and artistic director of the Mariinsky. Not only in conducting, he’s also accomplished great achievements in arts management. Mariinsky Theatre consistently but also impressively extended its appearance and actively communicated with artists in foreign countries. By bringing back Russia’s tradition at Mariinsky Theatre, which are the repertoire of opera and ballet, it received compliments around the world.
From this, Valery Gergiev became the great tsar in Russia’s artistic world. Of his accomplishments, the white night festival is considered as the best one of all.
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Monument to Nicholas I at Decembrists’ Square © Shutterstock

At St. Petersburg’s white night festival, various programs are held but of all, “white night’s stars” is considered by far the best. White night’s star is a classical music program planned by Valery Gergiev in 1993. At the time, he invited the young artists from around the world, who are receiving attention from both the music and the performance field, to the white night festival.
Pianist Baek Gun-woo and conductor Jung Myung-hoon of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra were also invited to the white night festival and performed. The white night’s star program, which is being held at the Mariinsky Theatre and the concert hall, is performed over the 10 days but due to its high popularity, the number of performers have been increasing consistently. The performance used to be held when the white night reached its peak but now, it is held until the white night disappears. It is held for almost three months. The performances have various formats, too. You can meet opera, ballet, symphony, chamber music and classical music during this period. But this doesn’t mean that the only way to enjoy the white night festival at St. Petersburg is to watch the high-priced performances at the Mariinsky Theatre and the concert hall. You can also fall in love with the performance being held at St. Petersburg’s Palace Square.
 

Streets of St. Petersburg are bustling after 11 p.m. © Shutterstock

Festival of the youth, festival of hope
You can’t deny the fact that the highlight of St. Petersburg’s white night festival is the stars but along with that,  classical music, film festivals, rock music and modern art festivals are also held.
Also during the summer, at St. Petersburg’s college town, graduations are held. Many colleges hold a unique celebration festival for the graduates. At around 2 to 3 a.m. at one night in June, when a very short night passes and at an early dawn, you’ll spot a red sailboat at the harbor city of St. Petersburg. Above it, the sky is filled with fancy fireworks. This is called the “Red Sailboat Festival.”
The red sailboat originated from a fairy tale written by Alexandre Green back in 1932. It is considered as one of the most popular fairy tale stories in Russia. The story is about a poor girl believing in a prophecy where one day, a prince with a red sailboat will come to her. Translating the fairy tale into our reality, the message the author tried to tell is that no matter what everyone around the world says, if you don’t give up, then your dream will come true one day. This message overlaps with the graduates, who will start their first step out in the real world. Due to this, every summer at St. Petersburg since 1968, colleges started to celebrate the graduates by floating a red sailboat.
This year in St. Petersburg, the red sailboat is expected to arrive in the early morning of June 20 to 21st. But everything is uncertain. The red sailboat and the shows at the theatres may get canceled and be replaced with online shows, but St. Petersburg’s white night cannot get cancelled. Perhaps, the night at the city might shine brighter and more beautifully to encourage the people.
 

Where to stay in St. Petersburg: LOTTE HOTEL ST. PETERSBURG
LOTTE HOTEL ST. PETERSBURG is located right across the St. Isaac’s Square, which is the most famous place in St. Petersburg. The hotel, which was built in 1851, has a long history and is still being used as it was remodeled. Near the hotel, there’s the Nevsky Avenue, State Hermitage Museum and Mariinsky Theatre. From the basement to the sixth floor, it has 10 different types of rooms and has a total of 150 rooms. Along with that, inside the hotel, it has various restaurants and facilities.

Address  2, Antonenko Lane, Saint-petersburg, Russia, LOTTE HOTEL ST. PETERSBURG
Phone +7-812-336-10-00
Website www.lottehotel.com/stpetersburg-hotel
 
June 2020 Editor:Jung Jaewook
Writer:Yi Joonghan

Where to stay?

LOTTE HOTELS & RESORTS
  • June 2020
  • Editor: Jung Jaewook
    Writer: Yi Joonghan
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