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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Virtual Voyager Goes Site-Seeing in St. Pete

It's reassuring to know that, whenever the autumnal weather is inclement or the pollution intolerable, it is always possible to slip away to the calm, environmentally friendly, digital seclusion of virtual St. Petersburg. There, the air is fresh -- or at the very least, upgradable -- the temperature usually moderate and the overall experience is controlled, easy to regulate and downloadable.

Any cybertour should start at the main St. Petersburg site, where prominent among the virtual delights on offer is the pioneering St. Petersburg Times. Under its previous "Press" incarnation, the Times was the ninth newspaper in the world to be simultaneously published on the Internet. Now that the novelty has worn off, and other copycat publications like Time Magazine and The Washington Post have jumped on the online bandwagon, this may seem unremarkable. But it proves, once again, that St. Petersburg is right there at the forefront of the communications revolution.

Other highlights of the main city site include the "Virtual Hermitage" detailing the latest exhibitions at the museum in full, the "Net-Mariinsky," which gives a full history of the prestigious Opera house and the "Maly Theater Home Page," which tells you which European capital the world-famous troupe is currently visiting. Unfortunately, there is no online live ballet, opera or theatre. But that should be coming soon.

Also interesting, in the St. Petersburg "Entertainment" section, is a compendium of all those unfunny Russian jokes that you always presumed just got lost in translation. Only one was mildly amusing: "Which do you prefer, individual or group sex?" "Group." "Why?" "It's easier to slip away unnoticed."

Interactive Art is very big at the moment in virtual St. Petersburg. Most of the city's factions have their own sites offering parochial downloadable daubs to the unsuspecting world. But the most ambitious current project is "Netbody," which aims to conjure up an entirely new virtual anatomy of the human imagination: "We want to create the next body of the future," says organizer Kostya Mitenev, "using figures like SpaceMan, AquaMan and PlantMan. We want to do this in the ambient atmosphere of a Net night-club."

After this highbrow intro, visitors to the site may feel deflated by the selection of tacky pictures of psychedelic pods and pseudo-critical babble. But with the whole world pouring mountains of info-garbage on the Net every day, why shouldn't St. Petersburg be allowed to contribute its own little portion.

In general though, the choice in virtual St. Petersburg is wide and varied, and the standard of the material is pretty good. It's now possible to visit a gallery, buy a new place to live, read the local newspapers and find a wife or husband, all without leaving the apartment.

With the icy fingers of winter already grasping tentatively at the northern capital, we'll soon be thanking the lord above for the wonders of technology.