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Monday, August 18th, 2003

St. Petersburg, Russia

End of Summer

Late nights in St. Petersburg

Summer is fading fast: some days are sunny and warm, other days and cool and a little windy. The days are still long, though, here in Saint Petersburg; the sun sets at a quarter to ten, which means that it only starts getting dark after ten-thirty.

Although Moscow is just four hundred miles southeast of Saint Petersburg, the sun sets a full half-hour earlier in Moscow, because Moscow is also four degrees further south, latitudinally.

What difference does four degrees make? Quite a bit, at these latitudes.

Saint Petersburg is located at 60°N latitude. From late May to early July the city experiences "white nights." Due to the high latitude of the city, the sun does not go under the horizon deep enough for the sky to get dark.

Because it is the middle of August, we are experiencing the last vestige of those white nights, but it is nevertheless still quite disconcerting to look at your watch and see that it is after 10:00 p.m. when it is still light enough for children to be running about, shouting and calling to each other as they play their last few games before being called to bed by their parents.

All the bedroom windows have thick, solid curtains that completely shut out the light because it is hard to go to bed when the sun is high in the sky. Mangala arati is therefore a little later than most other parts of the world — at six o' clock. (Sunrise is at six-thirty.)

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