Anyone who loves books and reading, and also loves to travel will love this City-Lit series from UK-based Oxygen Books. My interest was piqued when I saw a Tweet about the St Petersburg edition on Twitter – and dashed off an email to find out more. It turns out that there’s a whole series of these City Lit books about different cities…
St Petersburg isn’t actually due for release in Australia till 2013 but I broke my own resolution never to review advance copies to get my hands on a copy before my trip. Why? because each book is a collection of literary gems about the city it features, and there is, in my opinion, no better way to enjoy your travels than to learn about your destinations beforehand from the world’s great authors. These are travel guides for people who want more than just a source of advice about hotels, restaurants and attractions, these are guides for travellers who want to find out about the ‘soul’ of the cities they visit…
So, what’s in the St Petersburg City Guide? It’s divided into sections, covering the city in all its contrasting eras, its art works, its privations and the siege. I would have liked some excerpts to be a little longer, but on the other hand there’s enough there to sense the author’s style and to indicate whether it might be worth while following up the actual book. Given the city’s history as the Imperial Capital supplanted by Moscow under the Soviets, it’s particularly interesting to read excerpts that contrast life before, during and after the Revolution.
However, I think the whole book means much more to me now that I’ve been here than it did before we left. Back in Australia the excerpts whetted my appetite, sent me off to Wikipedia to find out more and explained things to me that have enhanced my stay. But now that I’ve been here and can visualise the streetscapes, the canals, the dachas, the monuments and the palaces – and even a retro Soviet era cafe! – these readings mean so much more. Unlike most of our travel guides which end up being chopped up for scrapbooking, this is one to keep to read, and read again.
We’re just off to Berlin today, so I’ll write up my thoughts about the Berlin City-Guide when we’ve been there.
Pub: December 2012 Price: A$ 19.95 paperback; ISBN: 978 0 9567876
Review copy courtesy of Oxygen Books. Cross-posted at Travels with Tim and Lisa.
Visit Oxygen Books for more details.