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The white nights of St Petersburg

During the midsummer nights, there is a special feeling in this metropolitan of the north.

"It was a wonderful night, such a night might only occur when we are young, dear reader“. This is how Fjodor Dostojewski’s novel “White Nights” starts. It is not only about young love affairs, but also about a phenomenon of the northern summer sky: In St Petersburg where the two lovers’ story takes place, the sun disappears only for a brief moment behind the horizon during the weeks around midsummer night. As it does not get really dark, the novel’s title is derived from it.

You don’t need to travel to St Petersburg to experience such nights: this happens anywhere on the northern hemisphere beyond approx. 60° northern latitude – that means in half of Sweden, all of Norway or in the very north of Scotland. You can even see these nights in the northern part of Germany where the so-called nautical evening dusk transforms to morning dawn. This describes the degree of lightness, which allows recognizing, the horizon line on the ocean, and at the same time, the first stars are visible. In the old days of seafarers, this was the time of accurate positioning.

In St Petersburg, the white nights are part of its identity – like the Octoberfest in Munich or the carnival in Cologne. Another attraction is the opening of the numerous bridges taking place in the twilight zone of the white nights. The people of St Petersburg enjoy during these special hours the beauty of their city most intensively.

The term White Nights has many different meanings around the globe: In France and Italy it has nothing to do with the lightness of the sky, but an everlasting party. In Bucharest there are “White Nights in Art Galleries” and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen approx. 3000 visitors all dressed in white dine at a 600 m long white table enjoying  local specialties. In Greece, however, the white nights happen during the daytime, meaning the midday siesta.

Mediation of article: Die Weißen Nächte von St. Petersburg, Farbimpulse, 24.06.2015