Horses at the cathedral

I’ve been neglecting this blog recently, as I’ve been working on another project. Here’s a brief excerpt from that…


Don’t get the impression that Russia is uniformly conservative and traditional. It isn’t, not by any means.

When I finish work in the evenings, usually around 10 o’clock, I often see two women on horseback, trotting around the Nevsky Prospect area. Sometimes they’re cantering on one of the side roads; at other times, trotting down the pavement on Nevsky Prospect itself, guiding their horses around startled pedestrians. Bearing in mind that this is the heart of the city, the Oxford Street of St. Petersburg, I find this absolutely intriguing.

One evening I walked past them just next to the Kazan Cathedral; they were sitting on their horses and swigging from bottles. Who were they? What were they doing there? Where had they come from, and where were they going? Not for the first or last time, I wished I could speak better Russian…

A British colleague of mine, Jourdan, had a similar experience when a man on a horse rode up to him in the street at two in the morning, and asked for some spare change. Jourdan ran away.

The whole idea, though, of people boozily trotting around on horseback at all hours of the night, in the very centre of a major city, with nobody apparently batting an eyelid, has a delightfully anarchic, even surreal, air to it. It makes me warm to Peterburgers just by thinking about it.


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