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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

A Visit to St Petersburg

A Visit to St Petersburg.

By the kindness of my dear father, I was furnished with the means of going from Cronstadt to spend a few days in the capital of Russia. I was indeed thankful to exchange hard work for a run on shore, and to visit the large and imposing city of St Petersburg. Although passport regulations were, as now, very strict, the police officers allowed me to go on board the steamer without question, treating me as of no importance, and some of the Russian ladies and gentlemen passengers amused themselves in putting questions to me in broken English. On arriving at the landing place of the city I took a droshky, but failed to make the driver understand where I wished to go, so he took me to the Imperial Exchange. At the portico of this grand edifice I waited with some anxiety to see if any English-looking person might come out. The darkness of an evening in November was coming on, and I was surrounded by a crowd of droshky drivers asking questions which I could not understand. At length an English captain appeared and kindly took me to a boarding-house, where I was taken page 11 care of, and thoroughly enjoyed the comforts of good food and a bed on shore. For several days I wandered along the wide, straight streets of the great city with the son of my host. At that time the Russian people were contented with the rule of the Czar Nicholas, grandfather of the reigning Emperor, who did not fear to be seen on foot watching the progress of the work on the Cathedral of St Isaac then in course of erection; and on one occasion I saw his tall and imposing figure on horseback, surrounded by a brilliant staff reviewing a large body of horse artillery. I also got admission to the Winter Palace and to the splendid cellection of pictures in the Hermitage Palace of the Empress Catherine. I was, however, most impressed with the lofty magnificence of the Kazan Church, where the gorgeous decoration of the building, the robes of the priests burning incense at the High Altar behind the silver gates, and the charm of high-trained voices in the choir of male singers had a very striking effect upon the mind of a youth accustomed only to the simple worship of the Scottish Presbyterian Church. But from all these grand sights I had to return to the ship and to my work.