Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

by means of two anchors carried out a-head, we were warped once more into deep water, and soon afterwards we reached Petersburg, and came to our moorings at the English Quay about twelve o'clock. Several custom-house officers now came on board, and the passengers were allowed to step on shore on receiving their passports, which had been collected soon after we sailed from Traavemunde by the captain's bookkeeper. We were allowed to take our cloaks and great-coats on shore with us, but nothing else. Thanks to a friend to whom we had written beforehand, we found a laquais-de-place awaiting our landing, with the agreeable information that lodgings were engaged for us. It was necessary, as the first thing, to superintend the examination of our luggage by the custom-house officers, which agreeable ceremony was performed in a large room hard by, set apart for the accommodation of steamboat passengers. The examination, though strict, could hardly be called vexatious, except that a new silk gown of M—'s was very near being confiscated, all articles of dress unmade, or which have not been worn, being contraband. A little representation, however, to a superior officer who spoke French, conquered this difficulty. All our books were set aside to be examined by the censor, even a map in a case being subjected to this scrutiny. They were made up into à parcel and sealed with lead, and were then delivered to me. upon my signing a paper, in which I undertook to send them to the censor. The penalty for breaking or losing the lead seal is a hundred roubles (about four guineas). I was afterwards required to sign one or two other papers, and at last I received a permit for my luggage to pass. The introduction of poisonous drugs into the country is strictly prohibited, and a small medicine chest which we had was still detained for further examination, but it was afterwards very civilly given up to me unopened. We were now conducted to our lodgings, and after our sleepless night and wearisome morning we were exceedingly glad to find ourselves by two o'clock in a place where we could sit down and rest at our ease.

I have this morning been to write down my name at the Alien Office, the only personal trouble given to a foreigner

on his arrival by the police regulations. Our passport has been given to our landlord, whose duty it is to forward it to the proper authorities, by whom it is detained ; a ticket of residence, as it is called, or a permission to remain in the country, which must be renewed on the 1st of January every year, being sent in its place. Our books have been already returned from the censor's office, with a certificate that they have been examined, and are permitted; so that all the troubles of a first arrival are over, and we may consider ourselves as fairly established in Petersburg. We do not mean, however, to remain here more than a few days, as the town is very empty, and we wish to lose as little as possible of the short Russian summer before we proceed into the interior, reserving the sights of Petersburg to be visited as we pass through on our way home.

On attending at the Alien Office I encountered some of our French and German fellow-passengers. As they one after another completed the necessary forms and signed their names, I perceived that a demand of five roubles was made from each, and therefore when my turn came I laid down five roubles, like the rest, before the clerk. Somewhat to my surprise he waved his hand, and intimated that I had nothing to pay. I looked to my attendant for an explanation, and he said, “Oh, they are merchants, and you are noble.” “How, noble ?" was my reply. Why," said he, “you are in the English service; you are a clergyman."

On quitting the custom-house, after the examination of our luggage, we noticed the first characteristic specimen we had seen of a Russian equipage, in the shape of an open carriage drawn by four horses abreast. It was proceeding slowly along, and a lady was walking on the foot-pavement by its side. Rather to my surprise, the lady accosted M- and embraced her, proving, when the unexpected salutation was explained, to be an aunt, who had very kindly driven in from her villa near Petersburg to greet us on our arrival. This agreeable little incident was no unfavourable omen of our reception by M—'s family; and it has been followed up by a similar occurrence in our walk this morning, so that I have already begun to make acquaintance with our Russian relatives.

LETTER II.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Intended mode of travelling - Russian dinner --- Practice of bathing

horses - Kazan church — Pavements in Petersburg - English church - Difference of calendar in Russia — Comparison between London and Petersburg - Equipages — Droschkas — Summer garden – The islands - The Hermitage — The Winter Palace — Military uniforms — Public buildings.

St. Petersburg, June 28th, 1837. We are on the point of leaving Petersburg, and we only await a conveyance to take us southwards, which, strange to say, in this great capital, is at this moment difficult to meet with. The plan which we mean to pursue, and which is the most comfortable of any that could be devised for strangers, is to hire a small diligence, which will be at our disposal for the journey. It will contain four people, besides the driver and conductor, who will manage everything upon the road, we paying a fixed sum for the journey before we start. We have engaged a man and a maid, the former of whom speaks English, and both speak German and Russian more or less. Most people are now in the country, but we have dined twice with M—'s relatives since we have been here; once in town, and once at a villa in the immediate neighbourhood. The dinners were served in the style usual on the Continent; nothing but the dessert being put on the table, and the dishes being brought in and handed round successively. The chief peculiarity to be remarked here was the custom of handing round liqueurs, with cheese, caviare, &c., before we went into the dining-room. We had also some national dishes, such as mushrooms of various kinds and of all colours, which, if they are to be found, no one would venture to eat in England. The principal novelty was an iced soup called Batvinia, of which the Russians appeared very fond, and without which they declared that a dinner in hot weather could not be called complete. Like most foreigners, however, I found it exceedingly bad, and, indeed, perfectly uneatable. It is made

with quass (a Russian substitute for beer), chopped cucumbers, onions, &c.; and a large slice of salt sturgeon is eaten with it.

The Neva ran close before the windows of the villa where we dined, and in the evening we saw several horses brought down to have a swim in the river. The horses all seemed used to bathing, and I find that it is a general custom to give them a swim almost every evening during the summer. There are numerous small rafts to be seen at the edge of the river and of the canals for the washerwomen, who stand on them with bare legs and wash the linen in the water at the side, or at a hole about four feet square, which is cut in the middle of the raft.

As we returned home we stopped to see the Kazan Church, which is the Cathedral of Petersburg. Another church, however, the St. Isaac's, which is now in progress, will, when fin ed, be far finer. The chief beauty of the Kazan Church consists in a handsome semicircular colonnade facing the street, and leading from either side to the principal entrance, and in the beautiful pillars of polished granite which support the roof. The dome is much too small for the size of the edifice, and the interior of the church is somewhat narrow. The rails of the altar, which are handsome and massive, are of solid silver.

At the lower end of the church are a number of flags taken from the Persians, the French, and other nations; and against one of the pillars are suspended the keys of various captured fortresses, with brass plates, giving the name of each. Marshal Davoust's baton is also hung up in a conspicuous spot, in a glass cylinder, to protect it from injury.

Throughout Petersburg are excellent flagged pavements for foot passengers; but the ordinary pavement of the streets is execrable, the stones which compose it being of every possible shape and size. To fill up the crevices and give an apparent smoothness, a gritty sand is strewed in large quantities over the streets; and as they never are watered, in spite of the facilities offered by the adjacent Neva and the various canals, the clouds of dust, or rather of fine gravel, with which the air is filled on a windy day, render it impossible to keep open one's eyes or to walk about in comfort. In most of the prin

cipal streets, however, a wooden pavement has been introduced, which, when new and good, is extremely pleasant to drive over. It is free from dust, and the motion of the carriage over it is smooth and easy ; but it is very expensive and by no means durable, not continuing more than two or three years in repair. It is moreover dangerous for horses in wet weather.*

On Sunday we attended Divine service in the English church, which is very hapdsomely fitted up and liberally maintained by the British Factory.f The present chaplain is Mr. Law. Here we were strongly reminded of our distance from home by the change in the calendar, since, as you are aware, the old style is still in use in Russia. Whereas, therefore, according to our reckoning, it was the twenty-fifth of July, we heard the thirteenth morning of the month announced from the reading-desk, and instead of having reached, as was the case in England, the fifth Sunday after Trinity, we found ourselves here thrust back to Trinity Sunday.

There can hardly be a greater difference between two capitals, each splendid of its kind, than between London and St. Petersburg, and the contrast is especially striking when one is transported by sea, as we have been, in the short space of a week, from the banks of the Thames to those of the Neva. Everything here looks fresh and new'; and the light-coloured stucco of the houses, the air free from smoke, and the bright, clear stream of the river, about as broad as the Thames, all contribute to give this city an outward character widely · different from that of our own metropolis. In the population of the streets the distinction is not less broadly marked. The uncouth peasant in his sheepskin coat, the tradesman in his

* The wooden pavement, now generally abandoned for the reasons given above, had not yet been introduced into England in 1837.

† In addition to their church establishment, the Factory have an excellent library, and I am most happy in this opportunity of expressing my thanks and acknowledgments to the gentlemen to whom it belongs for the liberal manner in which English visitors at Petersburg are allowed the use of their books.

I The name of Mr. (now Dr.) Law is so well known in the present day, that it is almost superfluous to add that he still, in 1856, continues to hold, for the benefit of his countrymen, the honourable but arduous post of British chaplain at St. Petersburg.

« ForrigeFortsett »