In june, there are the so called 'white nights' in the baltic seaport: the sun sets well after 10pm, just to rise again at 2am. In between, it's not dark either and the streets are crowded with people who are celebrating the short summer. Our long-standing customer Alexej Bulkin (president of the Vespa club of St. Petersburg and of the Vespa Club Russia) agreed to show us the city near the river Newa, so the three of us travelled there. Alexej and Stas (Stanislav) picked us up from the airport with a Wrangler Jeep (!) and on the way back, we were already able to get the first impressions of the pulsating city life.
SIP goes St. Petersburg - Russia
If you think of 'St. Petersburg', the first things that spring to mind are Dostojevski, Winter Palace and the Rasputin murder case. Maybe Tsarist Empire, northermost metropolis or the former communist name 'Leningrad'. What you rather won't think of, are scooters or Vespas. And yet: After decades of a Vespa-diaspora, Russia now has two official Vespa Clubs. One in Moscow, one in St. Petersburg.
The nostalgic search for statues of Lenin or hammer and sickle symbols is rather hard, because the city has been cleared out during the last 20 years. But some of the monumental buildings are still visible and their sheer size is very impressive. Our two city guides lead us right along the central city axis, the 'Newski Prospekt', and into a scene bar called 'Radiobaby' (where Vespafan and DJ Denis is spinning the records), hidden behind several backyards and thus 100% tourist-proof. The music is streamed live on the radiobaby channel. Denis, who is the drummer of the Ska band 'the Toasters', interviewed me about scooterists in Europe and a number of other vespa-related things (Check out the interview here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/436364/Memo.mp3).
I also learned that there are ca. 100 Vespas/several hundred scooters in St. Petersburg and that it is difficult to import used scooters to Russia. The easiest way to import is via Japan, which obviously is anything but nearby. New Vespa scooters are about 25% more expensive that here in Germany and the Finnish importer (who is also responsible for Russia), decided against the sale of the new Vespa PX.
Considering these circumstances, you can assume that Sergej and his gang are attracted to the Vespa out of conviction and not because it is part of a fashion trend at the moment. We borrowed a couple of Vespas the nect day to cruise through the city an to the Baltic sea with a couple of club members. I was allowed to ride Stas' ET3, which is equipped with a PX200 engine and lots of SIP tuning parts. It's also bautifully painted in an extravagant airbrush design and would supposedly cause quite an uproar at European scooter runs.
We also had the chance to meet some other key persons of St. Petersburg's Vespa scene. Among them Olga Boyarinova (Haute Couture fashion designer and Vespa pilot), with whom we had a great time. Of course also Alexej's shop, with accessories and tuning parts for vespas and scooters.