During the period when St Petersburg's rivers and canals are navigable (approximately April to November), some of the city's largest bridges open at night to allow ship traffic to pass through from the Gulf of Finland into Lake Ladoga. Many a St Petersburg evening has been curtailed by a mad rush to cross the river before the bridges go up - and just as many a St Petersburg dawn has been welcomed from the wrong side after failing to make the crossing in time! The term for the raising of the bridges is Russian is razvodka (nothing to do with vodka!), your taxi driver will understand if you explain you need to get to your destination 'do razvodki', or before the bridges open, and will certainly do his best to accommodate you.
There is a timetable which the bridges follow, but this is subject to change. The map below plots the bridges and contains the usual schedule of bridge openings. To find out exact information on bridge openings, you can call either 009 or 063.
If you do get stranded then your options are limited - you can wait until 0300, when the Blagoveschenskiy and Tuchkov bridges open briefly to allow traffic over, or take the Bolshoy Obukhovskiy bridge which remains down, although bear in mind that this latter is on the edge of the city and a taxi ride could get quite expensive. Better to cut your losses and enjoy the spectacle, especially during the Beliye nochi, as there will undoubtedly be a lot of smaller vessels on the river all enjoying the show. Otherwise if the weather isn't great, find a bar or cafe and console yourself with a warming drink and a chat with fellow strandees!
In the early hours of June 14, 2010 (Che Guevara's birthday), Moscow-based political performance art group Voina (which means War), came to St Petersburg and used the Liteyniy bridge for what was perhaps their most spectacular performance piece yet. Evading security guards, the group managed to paint a 65 metre phallus on the bridge just as it was about to go up, before the police turned up and dragged the group's leader off for a few nights in the cells. Sitting right next to the Liteyniy bridge is the object of their satire, the local FSB (or security services) building. You can see an age-restricted YouTube video the group made showing how they pulled off the stunt by clicking here.