The poet-guide from St. Petersburg revealed all the secrets of the profession and his native city


– Eugene, what do you need to become a tour guide? Desire, diploma, knowledge – or a little bit of everything?

— I recently spoke to St Petersburg University students, future guides and museologists, and I was asked the same question: is a guide more of a profession or a vocation? In my opinion, after all, first of all, a vocation. But a diploma is needed to get a particular position.

A good guide is a person who knows the theory, is familiar with history and culture, but also lives and burns with this business. He needs to see the ideal tour not as a lecture about this or that place, object or event, but as a form of performance. A good tour guide is an actor and stand-up comedian who is able to hold the attention of a children’s audience and interest sophisticated intellectuals. Someone who can bring something spicy, peppery, funny-humorous into routine work. Finally, this is someone who, having templates, schemes and favorite tricks, is ready to improvise.

— Is your audience foreigners or mostly Russians? What languages ​​do you speak?

– English, sometimes, very rarely, I lead excursions in English – sightseeing tours of St. Petersburg, Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo. But 95% of St. Petersburg guests now speak Russian.

– How long has the tourist flow “Russified”?

– For the last few years, as a rule, our compatriots, including former ones, have been coming to us – who left Russia, but come and go on excursions. 80% are Muscovites, the rest are residents of other cities, I have it.

– And how can a guide legalize? You can’t just stand with a cardboard box at the station and invite tourists for an educational walk?

“It’s the same here as with tutoring. You can give lessons at home by posting ads on the fence. Someone will like it – and word of mouth will continue to work. Or you can teach at a university – and then you will definitely need a diploma or some kind of permission.

– Does your profession influence creativity? Have you written poems that reflect your occupation?

– I am convinced that my poetic work and the excursions that I lead are inextricably linked. And here and there I need to do so that people believe me. The poet has the right to do everything: to break the rhythm, use verbal rhyme or refuse it altogether – the main thing is that in the end the reader believes you, so that you become his boyfriend for him. Also with excursions.

— I am sure that you have accumulated a lot of curiosities and amusing incidents.

There are a lot of funny and quivering stories. It happened that a foreign tourist (there were still a lot of them then) came up to me and asked in English:

— Where can I buy white nights?

He probably decided that he could bring them with him from Russia in a suitcase, like vodka or chocolate. It was in August, the nights were getting dark, so I had to upset him: “We’re done, come back in a year.” And he clarified in all seriousness: “What, everything was sold out?”

Photo from personal archive

Here’s another touching story. We drive past the Peter and Paul Fortress, a motley group: children of different ages, a girl sits in front of me and listens attentively. And I tell terrible things – about the first political prison and its prisoners, about the son of Peter I Alexei, about Princess Tarakanova. And so she listens, listens, and then she can’t stand it and gives out: “Tell me, please, do you have a wife?” Such situations baffle with their tenderness and sentimentality.

Peterhof, a group from Kazan. I hurry everyone, because you need to remember the timing in order to be in time everywhere – to one museum, to another, to the ship, to lunch and to the transfer – it’s all on me. And one grandmother, an old woman, about eighty years old, obviously delays everyone: she takes a lot of pictures and photographs of her. She also needs to be rushed. And she comes up, puts her hand on my shoulder and says: “Granddaughter, you understand, I will never visit here again in my life. Give me one more minute!

– Maybe the guide is still an “extra” person? Isn’t it possible to buy a map with sights marked on it at a kiosk and discover the city yourself? St. Petersburg – is it generally cognizable on its own?

– Certainly! Map, guide, Internet will give all the information. But you can’t ask them a question, and they don’t care what your mood is, what the weather is like outside, what the situation is on the road and what is happening around. And the guide is a living person who will do something if your leg hurts, suddenly it rains, or something unexpected happens at the show object. He can correct the presentation of the material: cut or, if suddenly stuck in a traffic jam, give out everything he knows about this street or house.

– A popular service in St. Petersburg is walks on the roofs. It is believed that they are unsafe – is it so?

– I do not do that. And now, as far as I know, there are either no official tours, or there are literally one or two rooftops where you can legally get into. Whether it is dangerous or not – everyone decides for himself. And it’s legal or illegal to do it, too. If you are ready to spend 4 hours at the police station for the sake of a beautiful photo, this is your choice.

– Which of the St. Petersburg attractions do you consider overly publicized?

“I don’t want to offend anyone and say bad things about the first museum, but for my personal taste (I emphasize these words with two lines), the Kunstkamera is promoted much more than it deserves. And when the lines there turned out to be longer than in the Hermitage, I was perplexed, although I gradually got used to it.

— What kind of urban legends, tales, and frightening stories is the city of Petra rich in?

– Let’s say, the legend that the monument to Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol on Malaya Konyushennaya Street is actually a sculpture of a bandit, the leader of the Tambov organized crime group Vladimir Barsukov, nicknamed Kumarin. He really looked like a classic – mustache, nose, bangs – and stood at the showdown, turning his slightly lowered head to the left. When he raised it, they say it was a signal – they started shooting. And opposite the Kazan Cathedral, the monument stands, because the Tambov organized crime group in the 90s was at enmity with the Kazan one.

Photo from personal archive

– Do ghosts, werewolves or vampires with a St. Petersburg residence permit exist?

– Our main ghost is the ghost of Paul the First in the Mikhailovsky engineering castle. In March 1801, the conspirators killed the emperor, and since then a ghost has been walking around the castle, where, by the way, Fyodor Dostoevsky and his brother studied. And the guides show the window where he was “seen” – however, each to his own.

– Name the person and the point on the map that you consider the main “chips” of St. Petersburg.

– Let the person be the poet, one of the main vers librists of Russian literature, artist and architect Gennady Alekseev. And I’ll just name my favorite place – Pravdy Street. I like her unusual architectural appearance. Plus, it is considered an open-air museum of urban sculpture with a wide pedestrian part. If you have not seen the compositions “Blind”, “Agitator”, “Three Angels” and “Good Dog Gavryusha”, which, by the way, fulfills wishes, I highly recommend it.

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