Step into Radisson Sonya in the heart of St. Petersburg to uncover the pages of one of Russia’s most celebrated literary novels – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. If you’re like me, I knew nothing much about this novel but found a deep compelling sense to find out more after my stay at the Radisson Sonya.
The story starts in the lobby, a re-creation of the author, Dostoyevsky’s studio where he begin penning the novel. A large bookshelf filled with 100 or more copies of the novel in various languages and editions jumbled with some manuscripts and photos of Raskolnikov and Sophia, the two main characters of the novel.
The novel is a tale of a gruesome murder committed by Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished student as a result of an ideological poisoning. Raskolnikov conceived himself as being an extraordinary person and believed that if he murdered a despicable pawnbroker, he can use the money to make the world a better place. After the murder, Raskolnikov went into a mental spiral, overthinking his crime and was literally eaten away by his thoughts.
The light of redemption illuminated when he met Sophia “Sonya” Semenova Marmeladova, a sweet middle-class girl forced into prostitution to save her family from bankruptcy. He confessed the murder to her and she talked him into turning himself in. He was sentenced to prison in Siberia and begun his transformative redemption.
The hotel echoes chapters of the novel through interpretive decor starting at the lobby with a large sofa taking the form of a Russian lacquer box beautifully painted with scenes from the novel and a dark-glass coffee table etched with a 19th century map of St. Petersburg where Raskolnikov, in the novel, spent many gruelling hours walking and contemplating the murder he committed.
The hallway leading to the my suite is shadowy, accentuated by the dark printed carpets and pictures of old St. Petersburg in black and white, depicting the long wandering walks that Raskolnikov took around the city as his mind raced in delirium after the crime. Each room number is accompanied by quotes from the novel.
Entering the Business Room, I initially thought there was a mismatch in its decor. It is not the run-of-the-mill business room with white-washed walls and minimalistic decor. Instead, the wall featured a painting of a woman’s arm, whom I later found out was that of the Sistine Madonna, a character mentioned in the novel. The room featured a lounge area, an extended sitting area in the small oval overlooking the busy street, a working desk and a modern dark-tiled bathroom.
The combination of furniture, colours, patterns, art and objects have been carefully selected to enhance the Russian atmosphere and to make it creative and a little eccentric. After all, the novel is a whirlwind of frantic thoughts and events. There are only two suites at the Radisson Sonya and it features a grand photo of Napoleon, the very character that gave Raskolnikov the inspiration to murder the pawnbroker.
Meandering through the hallways of Radisson Sonya and uncovering the little details that bear reference to the novel is an adventure on its own. Unlike any other boutique hotel, a literary boutique hotel is both a work of art on the part of the designer and the author.
Radisson Sonya is located along Liteyny Avenue and is a great starting point for exploring St. Petersburg. It is within walking distance to Nevsky’s Prospect and the Summer Gardens and a few subway stops to the famous Hermitage Museum.