My philosophy of guiding
Choosing a private guide is very much like a blind date: it is a cocktail of the anxiety and hopes. The person you are going to spend most of your time together - what she is like? And as a result - will she turn your vacations into a great experience or just tell you heaps of facts and names you will forget two minutes later?
If you have doubts of this type - you are right. That is why I decided to specify some of my professional principles to put some light on my personality.
I was born and brought up in St. Petersburg. Actually it is a diagnosis. I mean that in this city parents sincerely believe that a weekend spent without visit to the museum or opera was shamefully wasted. I started joining all types of excursions when I was 5. At that time guides seemed to me incredibly educated people. But with all my esteem I would never call excursions my favorite activity at that time for two reasons:
- I never managed to retain any facts or figures (a bit humiliating).
- I didn't care much about all the architectural details (columns orders, friezes in the pediment etc.) that guides looked so excited about.
Today when I happen to hear somebody's endless flow of names, dates and/or architectural descriptions I think that the guide is desperate. Who would torture their poor listeners with such boring stuff, having on hand some really interesting stories or facts?
I owe my initiation as a guide to Mrs. Natalia Karetnikova. She was the first teacher in my life who proved that history was indeed an interesting subject. Her husband worked as St. Petersburg vice-governor dealing with cultural questions and as a result his wife, a University professor of history, often guided VIPs around our city. At the same time she took her own university students on excursions on foot. My God, what excursions she did! I listened to her with an open mouth. Thanks to her I formulated my own basic approach to excursions:
- An excursion should be a kind of entertainment i.e. pleasant for the listener.
- It is an interactive kind of art - unlike the tape-recorder a good guide always checks the reaction of the listener and finishes/changes topic if the listener does not seem to be interested.
- Guide is a kind of mixture of historian, actor and psychologist. Keeping the listener surprised and excited is the main thing about this job.
- Being true to the historian facts does not mean being boring.
- An excursion should not be a lecture of any kind as the listener is not a student.
- The excursion route can not be too long, or too hectic, or have any part which could spoil the pleasure of the listener.
- It is not the listener who should be educated enough to grasp the guide's facts, it is the guide who must make the stories "tasty" enough to be eaten.