Sunday, May 1

Pavlovsk, Blockade Memorial & CATS!!!

So, I'd say this week has been a little less eventful than the previous one, but I still managed to tick a few more things off of my Petersburg list... I definitely need to up my game though, as I'm worried I won't get everything done in time!

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, on Saturday I went to Pavlovsk, a lovely palace surrounded by a huge park, with my friends Katie and Karin. We decided to get the train there, which turned out to be much more of a mission than we'd expected... We were directed to no more than three different ticket offices before we found the right one, but once we'd bought our (incredibly cheap) tickets and found our train, the day went without a hitch. The grounds of the palace really reminded me of a typical English country house - acres of woodland and parkland littered with lakes, buildings and pretty little bridges - and for a day it felt like being back home again. Here are a few of my photos of the park at Pavlovsk:

(Top Middle: Pavlovsk train station, designed to match the palace buildings; Top Left & Right: Lots of nice trees; Middle: A lake with a nice bridge; Bottom Left: A pretty pavilion; Bottom Right: Pavilion and people fishing; Bottom Middle: Me and Katie on a nice bridge)

Once we'd thoroughly explored the park in our shockingly inappropriate footwear (we didn't realise there'd still be some unmelted snow there!), we found the palace, had a spot of lunch and went inside. Though the original palace was apparently burnt down by a careless Soviet soldier failing to put out his cigarette, the restored palace seemed extremely accurate and was still very beautiful regardless. We got in for free with our student cards and spent a couple of hours looking around this lovely building, which houses many works of art as well as a museum of interior design, a museum of costume and an exhibition on women's roles in aristocratic society. There's not much else to say other than that it was an absolutely lovely building, so I'll let my pictures do the talking... Just so you know, I didn't buy a photo permit for inside, so excuse some of the dodgy angles - I was being sneaky when I took them!

(Top Middle: Pavlovsk Palace; Top Left: Statue of Emperor Paul, looking a bit pirate-like; Top Right: Inside the palace; Middle: A lovely painted ceiling in the palace; Bottom Left: A rather realistic crazy 3D painted ceiling in the palace; Bottom Right: Chapel in the palace; Bottom: One of many dining halls in the palace)

When we came back out of the palace, we walked back to the train station through the park and made our way home. On the way to the station, we finally saw some squirrels (we'd been looking for them all day after Katie bought some hazelnuts specially!)... They were friendlier than expected, and one actually ended up eating nuts out of Katie's hand! Here are a couple of squirrel pictures, just because they are so cute:

It was an absolutely lovely day, and the weather was perfect, so I'm really glad I went. I'll finish off this part of the post with a nice panorama I took of the grounds. If you hadn't already guessed, I'm pretty addicted to the panorama setting on my camera right now...

The next notable event of my week was on Sunday, when I went to a cat show with my friends Helen and Katie, and then to the 'Defenders of Leningrad' monument. We weren't too sure what to expect at the cat show, as Helen had found out about it from a small advert on the side of a bus - we didn't even know if you could go in as a spectator. Luckily you could, and it was pretty cool - like Crufts, only smaller in scale and with cats instead of dogs. The judges appeared to have come from all over Europe, and the competition actually seemed to be quite a big deal! It was fun seeing the cats get inspected by the judges, who were checking the cats' appearance as well as their overall health and temperament, which they tested by playing with them. If I had a penny for every time one of us said "Aww!" on the day I'd be loaded. The whole thing made me really miss all of my cats, who I'll be seeing in a matter of weeks, and was an interesting (and very different!) thing to do for a day out. Here are my pictures from the cat show:

After the cat show, we met up with Pippa and our Russian friend Yaroslav and went to the 'Defenders of Leningrad' monument, which was right next to the exhibition hall with the cat show. The monument is huge, and though I'd seen it several times out of the window of the bus on my way to and from the airport, I'd never seen it close-up or been inside the memorial hall beneath it. As with many of the sights I've been to recently, this monument is in memory of the Leningrad blockade, though it is a little more upbeat as it's celebrating the heroes of the blockade and the eventual victory in World War II. It was another beautiful day, as you can see in my photos:

(I hope it's fairly obvious what all of the memorial pictures are - there are too many to write a caption for... Bottom Right: An awesome mini-Kremlin we found just off Moskovsky Prospekt)

On Wednesday, Pippa and I went to the Smolensky Cemetery on Vasilevsky Island. This was quite interesting, as I'd never been to a Russian cemetery before and wasn't expecting it to be all that different from English ones, but it was... Lots of the gravestones looked rather Soviet, even some which were only a couple of years old, and lots of graves had their own benches for mourners to sit on. It was nice to see quite a few people tending to graves, either tidying them up a little or actually painting or repairing them. After having a nice wander around the cemetery, we walked down to the Neva, where there was an amazing tall ship visiting from South America, the Simon Bolivar. As this is the only other major thing I've done this week apart from the weekend, here are my photos of the cemetery and the ship (and a Soviet submarine) on the Neva:

We also went out on Thursday night to say goodbye to Pippa, who flew back to England yesterday. It was a really nice night, but of course it's sad to see Pippa go. She's been one of my closest friends here all year, so it'll be really strange not having her around! I'm not going to let it get me down though, I know she'll have loads of fun back in England with her friends and family, and I can't wait to hang out with her in Manchester and Nottingham next year :)

Tonight I'm getting the train to the city of Petrozavodsk for a few days, where I'll hopefully visit the famous nearby island of Кижи (Kizhi) and do a few other exciting touristy things. I'm sure I'll have plenty to update on when I get back on Thursday!

Naomi :)

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