St. Petersburg was founded in 1703 as a port on the Baltic Sea, and about 10% of its surface area is water. So a boat ride is a “must do” item in the Venice of the North. That's where local Nikolai Predtechensky comes in. He owns a boat rental company.
Nikolai, tell us your story.
I was born and raised in the Central district of St. Petersburg, in the area called Peski. I studied at a French gymnasium and later in the law faculty at St. Petersburg State University, on Vasiliyevsky Island, where Joseph Brodsky “was coming to die” (a reference to Brodsky’s poetry). I never lived and worked outside the city center. Today, my parents live in Peski and I live on the Petrograd Side.
I got into the “water business” 10 years ago. After graduation I was asked to help a company that was organizing city cruises on rivers and canals. I joined the project and four years later established my own company.
It is very important to see St. Petersburg from the water: it was created for this. This was the original intent, and it remains the most authentic and spectacular viewpoint for the city. I take motorboat rides for pleasure with friends every summer. The Griboyedov and Krykov Canals are my favorites, because tourist boats rarely go there. But the best thing you can do is to take a cruising launch to the Gulf of Finland and travel to Kronstadt (the town and naval base on Kotlin Island, just west of St. Petersburg). This drives me crazy, but in a good way.
I like Bazin bar, because it’s quiet. On weekdays I can come here to finish my work; on the weekend it turns into really “cozy place.”
It seems like I can always meet friends or acquaintances here, have a chat and some drinks. And because it is located on Nekrasova Street, which is full of bars, you can easily move to another cool place if you like. My parents live not far away, so I can visit them before or after the bar.
The older I become, the more I become more interested in food vs. alcohol. I have a great interest into national cuisines. Unfortunately, there are very few places to find good Israeli food in St. Petersburg. I like it because it reminds me of my favorite, Lebanese cuisine, which I enjoyed during trips to Beirut.
I also love Italian restaurants and my favorite is Café Italia. It’s absolutely unique – they accept only cash, make the best pizza in the city and always have my favorite San Pelegrino lemonades. They cook marvelous deserts and ice-cream, which they make themselves.
I also like Bar 76 on the Petrograd Side, where you can get a meal almost any time of the day. They cook decent soups, sandwiches and have good wine list and draft cider.
My office is a tiny coffee shop named Constable that I opened 18 months ago. It’s located in the courtyard of the Museum of St. Petersburg Art (20th–21st centuries). The name relates to a few things: the English landscape painter John Constable, and the fact that there is an OMON base (special police units of Federal Police) just 200 meters away. Also there was once a police archive in the building.
What restaurants on the water you can recommend in St. Petersburg?
I wish I could, but there is nothing really very good. There is an expensive restaurant in our yacht-club, called Parusa (“sails” in Russian). It’s not bad, but not somewhere to go for the food. It’s nice to go there and have a glass of white wine or a cup of coffee. I do it myself, because I love to watch regattas, yachts, motorboats and hydrofoils cruising in the Gulf of Finland. I find the atmosphere quite commercial, but I make an exception for this place because of its views.
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