This pathway follows an English-speaking tourist on a standard sightseeing walk of the city from the Admiralty to the Bronze Horseman through Senate Square and to St. Isaac’s cathedral. The pathway explores the tourist’s directed itinerary as prescribed by two guidebooks, the Karl Baedeker edition in English of Russia, Handbook for Travelers (Leipzig, 1914) and Otto Keller’s guidebook St. Petersburg and Its Environs (St. Petersburg, 1913). The visual experience of the tourist is captured by original period postcards that accompany each sight on the four-stop itinerary. These postcards can be said to reflect the city as seen by the tourist and thus to visualize the touristic encounters. The pathway user can navigate from one stop of the itinerary to the next while reading the guidebooks’ entries about each site. Each stop on this pathway serves as a page from a virtual metaguidebook of the city as it contains both the original information about the sight and a critical commentary.
The premises of this pathway are twofold. On the one hand, it examines the representation of Russia as Western Europe’s northern “Other,” as both fascinating and frightful, a destination of travel and exploration, a site of imperial splendor and purported backwardness. On the other hand, the two guidebooks that lead the traveler through Petersburg depict concrete markers of Russian exoticism as well as its familiar, Western European features. Thus imperial Petersburg exists as both foreign and European, exotic and familiar, and hence doubly attractive. Mass produced English-language accounts of St. Petersburg appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century and introduced Russia to the English speaker. These texts posited Russia as a place to be discovered, explained, and described, and hence, “normalized” in the eye of the European citizen. The contemporaneous invention of the picture postcard allowed travelers to send brief messages home and to better illustrate their experiences abroad. As a modern phenomenon, the postcard joins such indices of modernity as mass transportation, expanding tourism, and mechanical means of reproduction. The tourist as a modern traveler is also the consumer of mass reproduced images, postcards, which directly posit a place as a tourist attraction. In this pathway, we will adopt the Western eye’s perspective and attempt to see the Russian capital through its lens, and with the help of the two travel guidebooks to uncover how Petersburg becomes imaginatively relocated at once in the West and in the Orient.