The Nikolaievsky Bridge spanned the river near the western corner of the Winter Palace and connected this region of the city to Vassili Island. In 1900 it was one of two permanent bridges in the city, the others being on pontoons, which were removed in winter just before the river froze over. The span was built of iron and carried railings decorated with classically cast hippocanths facing tridents, whose fish-tails erupted into wreaths of acanthus. The Nikolaievsky Bridge was not only a practical improvement, it was meant to be beautiful and add to the splendors of the city. This one could be enjoyed by all regardless of class or the number of kopeks in your pocket. The span was lit from one side to the other and was an enjoyable palace to stroll across in the evening. The views from the bridge were delightful and ever-changing, providing free entertainment to the lower classes. One of the great events of the year was the noisy break-up of the Neva ice in spring when enormous plates of ice crushed against one another as the warming river pushed them towards the sea and this could be seen better from parapets of the Nickolaievsky Bridge than anywhere else.

Above: A mid-19th century pontoon bridge over the Neva River in winter.

Both of Petersburg's permanent bridges had Orthodox chapels full of silver and jewel encrused icons surrounded by burning candles built right on top of them. Foreigners were amazed to see almost everyone pause to cross themselves in the middle of the bridge to mutter a prayer when they passed the chapel and men also removed their hats before they genuflected. Cab drivers prided themselves on how reverently they could salute these chapels without slowing their carriages, dangerously standing and bowing as they passed by.

Getting around St. Petersburg in 1900 could be an ordeal because many of the streets were still unpaved and became quagmires in the wet months. The sight of a carriage sunk up to its' axles in mud was common on back roads. Many streets were paved in cut sections of logs which were arranged like a mosaic and sidewalks were built of wood. When these road surfaces were first constructed they worked well, but they rapidly came apart after rain and heavy traffic had taken it's toll.

The best time to travel the roads was in winter when the surface was frozen hard. In winter the Neva itself became one vast bridge linking the islands of the delta one to another.

The roads in the center of town around the Winter Palace were the best and it was here that the first permanent bridges across the Neva River were built. Most people in the city worked close to the places they worked. For the poor this was a necessity since travel by tram was expensive. Most workers walked to their places of employment - regardless of the weather. People spent most of their time in their own neighborhoods, shopping, eating and working near their homes. Seasonal workers came to the city from the countryside without shedding their rural ways of life and dress. They did not expect much in the way of sophisticated transportation or housing so the city government was happy to neglect the development of public services and transportation in the neighborhoods where they lived.

Next photograph: The Funeral of a Child

For a small map of the St. Petersburg area click here.

To see a large map of the center of St. Petersburg go here.

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