City of Change
AS YOU MOVE ALONG the crowded sidewalks and long metro corridors of St. Petersburg, you see primarily working and lower-class faces.
Upper-class folks are in their new cars roaring at high speed down the busy streets along with young “new rich” on stylish motorcycles (driving scary fast). Meanwhile, the middle class hardly exists in this upstart economy where the cost of living has skyrocketed out of proportion with most incomes.
The wealthy, who you see in the hotels, restaurants, and posh cafes, seem very self-satisfied, while the working class—which seems to have more opportunities than ever before (but does it really?)—pretends to be climbing the social strata. But it is hard to understand how they can afford an expensive pastry, much less a fine meal out.
As much as the people—especially the young women—are trying to be attractive and fashionable, almost no one looks sophisticated. It is a far cry from Paris, London, Munich, or Milan.
The men’s suits are clumsy, the middle-aged women’s dresses are frumpy, the young girls look more tacky rather than glamorous in their 4-inch heels, and the boys are mostly in dirty jeans and t-shirts. Many people’s body language bears the persona of “new world,” but their synthetic outfits and garrish taste say otherwise.
This in contrast to a grand, classical city that looms above and around them. A city conceived in the best taste, the highest fashion, the most elegant sophistication.
In spite of the contrast, however, there is a vibrant spirit in the city. A spirit of optimism, options, and adventure. St. Petersburg today cannot be expected to return to the St. Petersburg of yesterday (before it became Leningrad). But you cannot but hope that the bustling city and its dynamic people will rediscover and reveal the essence of their true origins.