It rivals the grandest boulevards in the world. But what the Champs Elysees or Rodeo Drive don’t portend is anything at all beyond commercial glitz for its own sake. Indeed, the Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg Russia rivals any shopping spree in the world with this caveat: Market Capitalism should come with duty, deference and respect for culture.
I stumbled upon that discovery on my last night in the “City of the Czars.” As the former capitol of Russia, the city twinkles with 5 million residents and the influx of 5 million tourists who come from around the world to peek behind the former iron curtain and into the city’s imperial past. The combined Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, for instance, are the largest museum complex in the world hosting in excess of 3 million items annotating the expanse of 5000 years of civilization. Indeed, the city founded by Peter the Great has since transitioned from an empire to a soviet regime and on to the federal republic it is today. And nowhere in Russia’s illustrious past is their life cycle encapsulated with more profundity than at the Corinthia Hotel on the Nevsky Prospect.
As White Nights illuminate new fallen snow, Corinthia shimmers on the Nevsky Prospect like a mirage of its imperial past. A pedestrian, for instance, can be transformed from a simple tourist to a valued guest simply by stepping from the street and into Corinthia Hotel’s Grand Lobby. Iron balustrades, Corinthian moldings and flying buttresses evoke a cathedral like atmosphere where porters and bell men swirl at your service. The Nevsky Bar’s live jazz band makes Corinthia an entertainment destination all its own, and whether your a guest at the hotel’s recently renovated 388 guest rooms, or on business to the magnificent 17 event and banquet spaces, you’ll find that the most treasured aspects of Corinthia’s crown are encrusted in her culture.
This in fact is where we met Corinthia’s Public Relations Director, Natalia Belik. A former Soviet diplomat’s wife, she weaves around the hotel like a Dowager not only daring you to forget the city’s illustrious past, but ensuring that the opulence of St. Petersburg is curated in the events, amenities and service of Corinthia Worldwide. Twin spiral staircases leads beyond the hotel’s Health Club and Crystal Spa, past the Solarium and outdoor sun deck, through the Imperial Restaurant and onto a conjoined museum that archive treasures from Russia’s very own exports. Baryshnikov and Nureyev set the standard for artistic excellence at the Mariinksky Theater where masters like Tchaikovsky premiered masterpieces such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The city's aglow with everything from Faberge to Faust, and even a former Soviet Diplomats’ wife who, at the Hotel’s Cafe Vienna, shared her own story over a rousing Russian Goulash. “We took advantage of the opportunity,” she said, referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union and her husband’s foray from diplomacy into consulting. “The promenade from socialism into market capitalism was the beginning of competition in our world. But,” she continued, pulling at the cream and raspberry confections, “the old world was marvelous too.”
What’s best of Russia is captured by the Corinthia Hotel St. Petersburg, and archived by a family owned business from Malta whose built their reputation on the back of craftsmanship, personal service and commitment to culture. Like the epilogue of a great composer, our visit to the Corinthia Hotel in St. Petersburg didn’t merely summarize their past, but pointed to a hinterland in hospitality as yet unknown.