End of a beautiful epoche

Published in May 2001 by Peter’s Walking Tours.

Dear friends, colleagues, correspondents, photographers, scribes, paparazzi, officials!

I hereby announce that my world-famed Rooftop Tours have come to a logical, inevitable end. This is the end of a beautiful epoch, and I am really sad and mourning, as sure you will immediately proceed to doing, upon having read this message.

My rooftop tours began some six years ago, when I, looking for an alternative way to show St. Petersburg to adventurous visitors, chose the method so near and dear to most young local residents. Climbing the roof of your own apartment building, be it on Nevsky or in Vesely Posyolok, has since the times of Peter the Great been a popular pastime, and was considered a safe, chaste and healthy activity. It was the best way to see the V-Day fireworks, have an evening beer, watch the sunset during the White Nights, confess to the one you love. Before beginning to run the rooftop tours, I carefully investigated each and every location I knew, making sure the rusty ladders are strong enough to hold the biggest and fattest customer. I researched for more locations. I checked whether the ladders and exits were clearly marked. I picked the roofs with best views and most dramatic neighbourhoods below them. I made sure that the bums who dwell in the attics were safe, and harmless, and well fed. I checked for the times that the topless girls were going up to their roofs for their innocent portion of sun tan – to make certain that my rooftop tour would arrive at the appropriate moment.

Whilst running the rooftop tours, I was always making sure that my head torch was loaded with new batteries, to light the way through the dark, littered attics for my brave little groups. I was carefully avoiding the unhappy tenants, ascertaining that no noise is produced while stepping delicately on the rattling tin surfaces of the roofs. I was offering to my customers all sort of additional entertainment, such as beer or champagne, although always observing the appropriate degree of soberness and self-control between the takers.

During the six years in business, I had countless representatives of the mass media, big and small, local and international, taking pictures, asking me questions, filing their stories sometimes right from the location via wireless telephones. I have several times taken on the roofs the entire television crews, complete with tripods, cameras, sound recording equipment, stunts and best boys. No equipment was damaged, and no best boy ever fell off. Among the takers of the rooftop tours, I had citizens of most countries of the globe, thus putting my humble effort into the improvement of international relations. I took to the roofs lieges of Her Britannic Majesty and of His Highness the Grand duke of Luxembourg, citizens of rogue states, refugees, retired guerrilla rebels, personas non grata.

It was a beautiful, golden epoch. But, alas, it was doomed, when, following the horrible terrorist acts in Moscow in 1999, residents of apartment buildings all across the nation rushed to lock up their stairwells, attics and basements, in order to secure that no stranger with bad intentions penetrate their dwelling. So, attempting to keep out the terrorists who blow up apartment blocks, tenants of those blocks thus made it impossible for my little innocent (I repeat that, innocent) tours to get to the roof. I was losing great locations one after one. The first ones to go were the most central and thus the most spectacular places, soon followed by the ones in the less prestigious but nonetheless equally great buildings. No need to give addresses – you all remember.

It is no longer a natural, harmless and available entertainment for the local youth. They, the youth, now have other ways of enjoying themselves: many great clubs and pubs are open in St. Petersburg, variety of commercial joints are ready to receive their customers. Farewell the wild times; you, my friends, join the happy crowd of the civilised fun-seekers. No more cobwebs, rusty attics, creaky tin roofs; no more miraculous sunsets – the sun has set deep below the horizon for my rooftop tours. I hope in the future I re-emerge with a new, perhaps an even more fascinating theme, but for no I have to retire. I wish you all wonderful time, and great adventures.

Yours sincerely, Peter.