Lift bridges open during White Nights in St. Petersburg

This is a middle-of-the-night post as that’s the only time to experience the once-in-a-lifetime wonder of the lift bridges opening during White Nights in St. Petersburg. The practical fact is that the bridges open in the middle of the night to let the commercial sea traffic pass through. The magical fact is that masses of boats gather in the water to watch the illuminated bridges open one at a time while the sun sets briefly, and then the motorcycles come out to race up and down the closed roads at terrifying speeds simply because they can.

A city of islands, St. Petersburg is home to more than 500 bridges. We boarded our vessel at about 1:30 in the morning and pushed out into the Neva. Ours was just one of a large flotilla of small boats all headed in the same direction. It seemed that we were nearly shoulder to shoulder with these other boats, all traveling at the same leisurely pace to the first bridge. Every so often, some smart guy in a giant speedboat would roar through between us, giving us all pause. But the tourist boat captains are professionals and kept us all from plowing into each other. And then we waited. Finally, patience paid off. The first bridge opened. Slowly. Majestically.

Then, our little navy pushed on to the next bridge and the next. As we motored on, we could see thousands of night visitors lining the banks to watch the lift bridges from dry land. Our tour treated us to five bridges, but other tours offered up to seven bridges. Once open, the bridges point skyward until 5 or 6 in the morning while the tankers and other commercial ships come in, so the foot traffic partied, relaxed, or just wandered until the roads become roads again.

Sleepy but satisfied, we disembarked and walked the short distance back to our hotel, crossing Palace Square in the gray light, passing the Hermitage and, on our way by, saying goodnight and good morning to the angel perched on top of the Alexander Column.


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Night Cruise

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