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Home Columns Travel Unusual Travel Tales part 1: White nights of Russia

Unusual Travel Tales part 1: White nights of Russia

Last updated 5 months ago by Michael Darmanin

“Travelling – It leaves you speechless, then turns You into a Storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta

My travel experiences have indeed made me a storyteller. Stories that fascinates! This article is all about the discovery of one such phenomenon that your school books will never teach you. Travel to Russia was a sudden plan. It was like a Let’s Visit It (Nothing wrong, right!) type of holiday. The prime focus was “the Golden Ring” but “Venice of the North” is so stunning that I would love to travel back. It was early June, we boarded for St.Petersburg. I must say, it is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in one’s lifetime. Obviously, the Hermitage Museum, the Fortresses, Saint Issac’s Cathedral, Palace Square, Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, Mariinsky Theatre and the gorgeous River Neva will take your breath away. But White Nights add to the charisma of the city.

Midnight Wandering

Around 2 a.m. we landed at the “Cultural Capital of Russia”. As we were heading towards our accommodation ( Booking.com provides the best apartments and B&B in the heart of the city centre), we noticed that the sky is still bright and full of sunlight hues. I couldn’t seep in the fact, was it a day or night, sunrise or sunset? Curious enough, I googled and found the city is witnessing the “White Nights” phenomenon. As soon as we reached our apartment (3:30 am), I & My Partner dropped the baggage and went out for a city stroll (Midnight Flâneur, you see). To our amazement, we found that the city was bustling with people everywhere and enjoying the 24-hour daylight. At the wee hours (4:45 am), we certainly saw the unbelievably beautiful transition of dusk to dawn. The sun was back and glimmered with golden tints.

Day-Like Light at 2:45 am. Photo by Krutika Hirani
White Nights
Midnight Strolling at 3:30 am. Photo By – Kishan Hirani

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

What are White Nights?

Also known as “Civil Twilight.” Saint Petersburg is located at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. Due to its geographical location, the city experiences “Beliye Nochi” (The White Nights) from late May to early July. It sits on such high latitude that the sun does not sink below the horizon enough for the sky to become fully dark. The sun sets and goes down by no more than 90 thus the evening twilight coincides with the sunrise. Hence, the night is fairly identical to the day – Indistinguishable!

Winter Nights,St.Petersburg, Russia
Around 11:45 pm in St.Petersburg during White Nights. Photo by Sergey Chuprin on UnSplash.com
P.S. Book your stay near one of the embankment. Photo Clicked at 3:15 am. Photo by Krutika Hirani.

Why does it happen?

The phenomenal event of white nights occurs around Summer Solstice. Solstice is comprises of two Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still). During this period of time, Earth’s poles have its maximum tilt towards the sun. Many regions of northern hemisphere are benefitted with continuous daylight.

Large Part of Northern Russia remains in Sunlit Zone. Photo By Tauʻolunga – Own work, CC0 on Wikipedia

White Nights Festival

At the end of June month, Saint Petersburg celebrates the White Night Festivals. The Scarlet Sails is the most famous celebration and a public event that takes place every summer. It commemorates the end of school year. Tremendous fireworks, many music concerts and water shows take place to its full glory. White Nights Marathon, Top Ballet Performance at Mariinsky Theatre (Stars of the White Night Festivals), Traditional opening of the drawbridges and Annual Jazz Festival are briefly accountable. The City of White Nights becomes best explorable. Stay up all night and enjoy the extravaganza!

Scarlet Sails Celebration. Photo By By Orion-art – Saint Petersburg Alie Parusa on Wikipedia.
bridge lifted up as ferry passing under
Traditional Opening of Bridge at 1:00 am. The bridge remains open till 5:00 am. Photo by Anastasiya Romanova on UnSplash.com

Some Notable Facts about St.Petersburg

Apart from White Night Festivities, St. Petersburg is itself a gem to visit.

Formerly known to be Leningrad, it is the northernmost city with a population over 1 million.

White Nights, St.Petersburg
The Dome of St.Issac’s Cathedral is made up of gold. Photo Credits: Krutika Hirani
I, posing like other tourist. Photo Credits: Akanksha Srivastva

The Hermitage Museum is the World’s Second Largest Museum after Louvre. It consists of 6 historic building including the Winter Palace. It is said that to see each piece of artwork, you might take 8 years. The museum has a special connection with cats. Over 50 cats resides in the basement of museum to protect the art pieces from mice.

The Majestic Hermitage Museum alongside Neva River. Photo By Pedro Szekely, CC BY-SA 2.0 on Wikipedia
State Hermitage Museum
Throne of Empress Catherine. Photo by Krutika Hirani
One of the Skylight Rooms of Hermitage depicts Spanish Art of 16th – 17th Century. Photo by Krutika Hirani
St.Petersburg, Russia
Epitome of Motherhood and Motherly Love, The painting “Little Madonna” (The Child and the Mother) graces Leonardo Da Vinci Room of Hermitage Museum. Photo by Kishan Hirani

The majestic city has its networks of street and canals inspired by the city of Amsterdam. Peter, the Great wanted to turn it into Russian Amsterdam.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood stands at Griboyedov Canal. Photo By Jorge Láscar from Melbourne, Australia – The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, CC BY 2.0 on Wikipedia.
Winter Canal, St.Petersburg
Winter Canal, Photo Credits: Krutika Hirani
white and brown concrete building beside river during daytime
Well known as “Venice of the North”, total lenghth of canal and river is 282 km. Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on UnSplash.com

The whole historic center of Petersburg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palace Square and the Alexander Column. Photo By Teddy fox78 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikipedia
State Hermitage Museum
State Hermitage Museum houses the wide art collection (above 3 million) of Catherine, the Great. A patron of art, culture and literature. Photo By Krutika Hirani
The period of her rule is considered as the Golden Age of Russia. Photo By Krutika Hirani
Panoramic view of the Palace Square. Photo Credits: Krutika Hirani

Travel teaches you!

It fairly taught me to enjoy experiences over things. You’re never too old to learn anything. Also, there’s a lot to see and explore in this world that you’ve never heard of. Be Curious. Never Stop Questioning. If a random question pops up in your mind, Google it or ask.

And lot more about Souvenirs too!

When we visit a place, we make sure we carry a part of that back home with us. Souvenirs are no exception! Some things which reminds us about the beautiful times spent with loved ones. For me, buying them is adding an element to my travel treasure.

Unusual Travel Tales
Most Popular Russian Souvenir. Photo Credits: Krutika Hirani

Valenki (Warm felt boots), Birch bark crafts, Soviet Memorabilia, Rostov enamels, Ushanka (winter hat), Zhostovo trays, Orenburg shawls, Faberge Eggs, Gzhel, Lacquer boxes, Khokhloma artwork, Pavlovo Posad shawls are some of the Russsian antiques but what caught my attention are the Amber and the Russian nestling dolls.

You will find numerous souvenir stalls near the canalbelt of Church of Saviour on the Spilled Blood. Show your bargaining tactics and get discount of few rubles. Photo by Kishan Hirani

Amber: 90% of the World’s Amber is found in the Kalinigrad region of Russia. The gem is a fossilized tree resin and is found in white, yellow, orange or reddish brown color. It contains succinic acid. When worn around the skin, small amount of healing oils get released from amber which ultimately gets absorbed by the skin and helps you in pain relief. The magic healing touch is a good reason to buy a piece of amber jwellery be it a pendant, necklace or bracelet.

Amber Pendants. Photo Credits – Public Domain, Wikipedia.
Amber Room at Catherine Palace. Photo By Андрей Андреевич Зеест – Public Domain on Wikipedia

Matryoshka doll

This doll is the most popular Russian souvenir. The stacking dolls of decreasing size hidden inside another. The count of nestled dolls can go from 3 to 50. The dolls symbolizes fertility. Matryoshka literally means “little matron.” It is the representation of chain of mothers carrying the family legacy through child in the womb. Also known as Babushka dolls. These endearing haindpainted dolls will surely add to the charm of your interior decor.

Traditional Russian Dolls. Photo By 0x010C – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikipedia
Stack of dolls – Objects within other objects. By BrokenSphere – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikipedia

White Nights Throughout Our Journey.

While we continue our voyage to the cities of “Golden Ring”, we were able to encounter this phenomenon throughout the destinations we visited. The Golden Ring incorporates the north-eastern cities of Moscow. The iconic churches, kremlins, cathedrals, monastries, onion-shaped domes and certainly, one of the oldest regions of Russia forms the intrinsic part of Golden Ring. Catch a glance of various churches!

Keep Reading till I come up with another unusual tale.

Krutika Jadeja Hirani
Krutika Jadeja Hirani
Born and raised in India, I am Electronics & Communication Engineer. New Technologies, Travelling, Reading, Dancing, Relishing Different Culture and Making Delicious Meals are the things that fascinate me the most. Caught by Wanderlust bug, I would describe myself as a "Flaneur" I am passionately curious about exploring new horizons. Dance keeps my creative flare intact. Reading and Travelling helps me to narrate tales that motivate. Having a Papyrophilia, I love to hoard stationeries. I am here, to make a difference through my writings, share ideas and hope to inspire. I live by this quote:"Pen is mightier than Sword."


  1. Your writing can make someone feel of being a part of your travel journey…By reading this now Russia is one my travel list too😊


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