Saint Petersburg, Russia — Friday, July 8th

White nights

We leave Moscow very early in the morning — at one forty-five! — on our way to Saint Petersburg. It's an eight-hour train ride; I'm tired; we have hardly rolled out of the train station before I'm curled up in my bunk, fast asleep.

Two nights ago Sripad Siddhanti Maharaj left Moscow on a four-city tour that will take him to Tambov, Balakovo, Penza, and Izhevsk. I will stay in Saint Petersburg just until Monday, and then return to Moscow...

I'm awoken at seven o' clock (very late for me!) by the extraordinarily bright sunlight streaming through the window. Why is the sun so high in the sky already?

Nobody else in the open compartment seems to be bothered by the light; they sleep for another two hours, until the guard wakes everyone with the warning that we are one hour from Sankt Peterborg, and that the bathrooms will close in forty-five minutes. (Hey, I've been traveling on these trains for three years; I've learned that much Russian, okay?)

It's good to be back at the temple in Saint Petersburg and to see Vijay Raman Prabhu, whom I last saw at the Gaura Purnima festival in India.

After the evening program (which ends at nine o' clock) we have something to eat, and since it is still light, I sit talking for a long while to Ananda Vardana Prabhu. When I next look at my watch, it is midnight — and although the sun has set, it is still quite light, and the western horizon is still tinged a dull red!

So this is the famous "white nights" of Saint Petersburg! White nights occur during the summer at the high latitudes (Saint Petersburg, at 60°N latitude, is just six degrees south of the Arctic Circle) because the sun does not sink far enough under the horizon for the sky to get completely dark.

I got a hint of these white nights when I was here for the Vaishnava Festival in August 2003, but nothing like this! Here it is — 2:00 a.m! — and it is still not quite dark...

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Layout by iMonk — July 8th, 2005.