In his 1864 novella Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky wrote that it was “fatal ill-luck to inhabit Petersburg, the most theoretical and intentional town on the whole terrestrial globe.”
But one has to wonder if the writer was merely painting a picture of gloomy damnation in this Russian city to throw us off the scent. Because Saint Petersburg is beautiful. Granted, Dostoevsky didn’t have the luxury of buying warm winter clothing from mass-produced/low-price stores, nor the comforts of 24/7 heating or quick microwaved meals (ok, pretty much all the conveniences of the 21st Century), but still, Saint Petersburg is a sight to behold during the winter.
And in the dead of winter, as the temperatures drop even lower, the city becomes a quiet ghost town of sorts as tourists depart and the street are piled with snow, the skies get a little more hazier, and rivers and canals freeze over for ice skating.
French photographer Viktor Balaguer currently lives in Saint Petersburg and shoots the city while it plays host to some of the chilliest days of the year in his series “Leaving for a New World.” In this collection of images, we’re able to get a whole new perspective on the Window to Europe as the city comes to a standstill.
In other photos, Balaguer shoots everyday winter scenes of Saint Petersburg—the tram chugging slowly down the street, citizens hurrying to work and dark foggy nights that are illuminated only by neon signs. It is enchanting to see, like stepping straight into Dostoevsky’s novel (minus the Instagram snaps).
Written by Quinn Segal; Photos by Viktor Balaguer.
Ring in the New Year with an exclusive Saint Petersburg sightseeing tour from East West Tours. You’ll get to snap hundreds of incredible pics of “Venice of the North” lit up for the holidays and covered in snow!