To Russia for Love Audio Slideshow

Author and contributing editor Gary Shteyngart narrates a slideshow of candid photos from a recent trip to St. Petersburg for a friend's wedding.

Author and contributing editor Gary Shteyngart narrates a slideshow of candid photos from a recent trip to St. Petersburg for a friend's wedding.

Read the transcript of this video
[BLANK_AUDIO] Hello, my name is Gary Shteyngart. I'm a novelist and a contributing editor to Travel and Leisure Magazine. I was born in Leningrad, what is now St. Petersburg, Russia in 1972. What took me back to Russia this year was a wedding of two very good friends of mine, Katie and Jana. And it was a wedding that took me back not just to St. Petersburg, but also to the very square in which I had grown up. This was a wedding that took place in August, which is a wonderful time to be in St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg is a very interesting city. It was built up primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries. It's a very planned city. The Czars have sort of put their imprints on it, and it's a very European city, by contrast to cities like Moscow which still have this kind of medieval warm feeling. So in Petersburg it's like you can see forever. You can see almost into the next century. The boulevards are very broad. When the summer comes and the long winter is broken, people sit around these impromptu cafes along the riverbanks and are very happy to welcome in the sun. The sun, of course, doesn't set during the month of June during the white nights. It's a very boisterous city, people really do like to have a kind of maximalist lifestyle, like to go out drinking a lot, like to celebrate a lot. This is a picture of Kay and Yana. And Kay has Ukrainian roots. And Yana as you can see, is not ethnically Russian, she belongs to the Yakut minority, which are a very interesting people who live in one of the coldest places on Earth. Before Kenya and I got married I went around to some of the places where wedding couples hang out. What they do in St. Petersburg, and in other places but especially St. Petersburg because it's so beautiful, they take their wedding party around several locales, and you do it in the middle of the day and the light is fresh, and you open up these champagne bottles and you toast with them. And it's a perfect combination of beautiful architecture and decent champagne, let's just say. One of these places is the Hermitage Museum renowned throughout the world for its amazing collections of everything from antiquity to Rembrandt's to beautiful impressionist paintings, and in this picture A couple is celebrating their wedding right beneath these beautiful statues of Atlases holding up the roof of the portico and if we move to the next photo you can see the kind of limousines that are now used to ferry these couples about sometimes. This is a gigantic Hummer limo. These are getting to be fairly ubiquitous, and the limos and all the little wedding mobiles have these, I don't know if you can see them, these two wedding bands intertwined as a symbol of the nuptials about to take place. This is one of my favorite shots. This is Kay and Jana with a gigantic Lenin right behind them. And this is Moskovskaya Ploshchad, Moscow Square in Leningrad, in St. Petersburg, I should say. And right behind them is the building where I grew up. And the poll that [UNKNOWN] is a sort of traditional socialist realist pose. It's almost like the worker and the peasant. I don't know whose who in this picture but theres a kind of traditional soviet realism. Are little [FOREIGN] And this is the traditional breads and salt ceremony. I believe my customer who ever rips off the biggest chunk of bread is the head of the household. I was too inhiberated to recall who won this round. The reason for my incredible inherberation was that Champagne is, of course, drunk in great quantities, a wonderful champagne called [UNKNOWN], Soviet champagne, which is very bubbly and goes right to the head, where it should go. But also the men I remember were passing around a vodka bottle. So this is not a photo that I had snapped, obviously, because the ones I have snapped are useless And now this is the next day, those church part of the ceremony, a lot of which I can't recall because I was very dizzy at this part of the morning. All the coffee in the world was not gonna help me recover from the previous night. What's beautiful about having these two very wonderful people marry is that the situation in Russia is always uncertain. And I think that's why the family unit is so important to Russians. Because one can never count on the state, or the economy, or the future, really delivering. So when Two very good people meet and marry in Russia. That's an event you have to drop everything for and travel across the ocean and something you have to see. [BLANK_AUDIO]
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To Russia for Love Audio Slideshow


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