On the 9th of May every year, the whole of Russia celebrates Victory Day. This recognises the day Nazi Germany surrendered to the allied forces in 1945, marking the end of WWII. In Russia, WWII is known as the 'Great Patriotic War', and it is taken as a given here that the war couldn't have been won without the Soviet Union's help. Even now the Soviet Union has broken up, the day is still a huge event in the Russian calendar, and rivals New Year's Eve with its elaborate celebrations.
Wanting to see the parade of soldiers and tanks as it went down Nevsky Prospect, I got up bright and early to go and find a good place to stand. I reached what appeared to be a good vantage point along Nevsky at about 9.45am, and settled in as the road closed and police cars patrolled. Unfortunately, I was still standing there watching an empty road an hour later - it turned out there was no parade along Nevsky in the morning. I was rather surprised, as were the hundreds of Russians also waiting, as everyone seemed to think there would be a parade at 10am, and Nevsky was closed for quite a while around then. As I was waiting, taking in the beautiful Victory Day weather, I took a few photos of what I assumed were parade preparations (including synchronised street cleaning machines!)... Some of them turned out quite nicely, even though I didn't actually get to see a parade, so here are a few of my pictures:
As you can see it was crazily busy along Nevsky, so when my Russian friend Yaroslav came to meet me he suggested we leave the city centre for somewhere a little quieter. We walked to one of Petersburg's islands (Petrogradskaya) and met up with a couple of his friends, who were going to the Museum of Russian Political History. On the way to this island, I took a few more photos of the general Victory Day decorations and celebrations:
(Top: Air balloons bearing the flags of the Soviet Union and Russia, flying above the Peter and Paul Fortress; Middle: The Rostral Columns on Vasilevsky Island were lit for the occasion; Bottom: Victory Day decorations on the Vasilevsky Island spit)
Though I'd been to the Museum of Russia's Political History already (a couple of weeks earlier), Victory Day is one of very few days a year when the museum is free of charge, so I joined the trip. The museum was good, as it was the first time, and we decided to walk to Finlandsky Vokzal (train station) afterwards. From here we intended to get a water-bus to the Central Park of Culture and Relaxation (a bit of a mouthful), though in the end it turned out to be too early in the year still and we got a land-bus instead. I was happy that we went to Finlandsky Vokzal though, as I had wanted to visit it for a while - it's on a huge square with a big statue of Lenin and lots of pretty fountains. Here are my photos of Finlandsky Vokzal and Ploschad Lenina (Lenin Square):
As I mentioned earlier, after Ploschad Lenina we went to the Central Park of Culture and Relaxation. This is a lovely big park situated on Yelagin Island, where we had a nice Victory Day picnic in the sun. We made friends with a dog that came and sat near us, but in the end it wouldn't go away and got a bit annoying... We even gave it food and it didn't seem to want it, so I'm not sure quite why it got so attached to us! It was quite funny, though. We also got to see Yelagin Palace, which is within the park and is rather pretty. To round off my victory day pictures, here are mine from the ЦКПиО park:
(Top: A lake in the park; Middle Top: Our 'friend' the dog; Middle: Lovely view across a lake as we ate our picnic; Bottom Two: Yelagin Palace, within the park)
Though I didn't get to see any parades on Victory Day, the day was still absolutely lovely, and missing the parades just gives me another excuse to come back to Russia again...
The next day, my friend Katie and I decided to take a boat trip around Petersburg after school. We found a stand selling tickets, and as luck would have it there was an English tour leaving in around half an hour's time. Shockingly for Russia, this was the same price as the Russian tours, so we decided having a guide we could fully understand would be the better choice. The weather was good yet again (last week was definitely the best so far, weather-wise), and we embarked on our hour-long trip along the Fontanka and Neva rivers. Though we didn't really learn anything new from the boat's guide, it was great to see the buildings from the river and was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I took tons of photos, as always, so here are a few of the better ones:
On Thursday, my flatmates and I missed school in order to visit our landlady Roza's dacha (country house) again. We'd only been once before, way back in November, when it was extremely foggy and rather cold, so we jumped at the chance to see the countryside in the sunshine. Unfortunately later in the day it got quite cloudy, but the morning was very sunny and we managed to have tea and cake out in the garden before the sun disappeared. It was probably a good job that it got cloudy anyway, because I was starting to get sunburnt! Pretty ridiculous considering I'd been battling the snow in Petrozavodsk just a week before... That's Russian weather for you. Anyway, here are my photos from Roza's dacha, this time with considerably less fog:
(Top: Roza, Maddy and Mike eating cake in the garden; Next 3 pictures: Stream & coast right by Roza's dacha; Middle: A crow Roza claims has been visiting the dacha for 15 years, which her and her husband feed and talk to; Bottom: Me eating cake; Very Bottom: Typical Russian cream cake, they sell a lot of these here, and they are delicious)
After school on Friday, Katie, Marion and I visited the Dostoevsky House-Museum - a museum in the flat where the world-famous writer Dostoevsky once lived. The museum comprised of two large modern rooms containing photos, paintings, manuscripts and other personal objects; and Dostoevsky's actual flat. We chose not to pay for the audio guide, which was a bit of a mistake since there was hardly any information around the museum, but you could still tell what most of it was. I found the flat itself more interesting, as it's always nice to think that you're standing in a place where someone so famous lived and worked. I don't have much more to say about the museum, but it was a nice place to visit and if you're a fan of Dostoevsky's work it gives a nice insight into his personal life. I took a few photos during my visit, which you can see here:
The next day, I went on a trip to the nearby naval town of Kronstadt with my friends Katie, Karin and Clara. I didn't really know much about Kronstadt before I went, but it was a beautiful day and the town turned out to be really very nice. It's basically the Russian version of Plymouth (the city I'm from) - lots of sailors, navy ships and a lighthouse - only prettier. It takes around an hour to get to the town from Petersburg, a journey we took on a маршрутка (marshrutka - taxi-bus) for around £1.20. The bus ride was nice, as part of the journey was across the Saint Petersburg dam, a 25km long flood protection measure, which also handily provides drivers with beautiful views across the Gulf of Finland.
Upon arriving in the town, we walked towards the seafront and looked at Kronstadt Lighthouse, several naval ships and the statue of Peter the Great. The main sight in Kronstadt is the Orthodox cathedral, though this was unfortunately under restoration when we visited. It was still possible to see the dome though, which was a very impressive sight. If I return to Petersburg one day I'll be sure to visit the Sea Cathedral in Kronstadt. Here are my photos from our walk around the seafront area:
(Top 4 pictures: An old cannon, View down a canal to the Gulf of Finland, Kronstadt Lighthouse, Me in front of Kronstadt Lighthouse; Top: There were several anchor statues like this, very nautical; Middle Top: Statue of Peter the Great; Middle Left: Statue of a naval captain; Middle Right: Kronstadt Sea Cathedral; Middle Bottom: Eternal flame memorialising different uprisings and revolutions; Bottom: Another canal)
After lunch, we decided to go on a boat trip out of Kronstadt harbour, which took us around part of the Gulf of Finland littered with forts. As we were sitting outside and the commentary was in Russian, we didn't learn all that much about the area's history, but it was really nice to get out on a boat again and see the nearby sea forts close up. Here are my pictures from our boat trip:
Shortly after our boat trip finished, we headed back to the bus stop for the trip back to Petersburg. I had an absolutely lovely day in Kronstadt, and I thoroughly recommend it as a day trip, especially if you're interested in naval history. That night I stayed up until stupid o'clock watching the Eurovision Song Contest... I'm a huge fan and have been watching it for as long as I can remember, so I couldn't miss out just because I was in Russia! I passed up on my first opportunity ever to vote for the UK however, as I was all about Ireland. Unfortunately they were beaten by a much poorer entry from Azerbaijan, but I'll just say they were robbed and leave it at that.
Since it's already getting late here and I'm extremely tired, I'll stop here with this post. Since Saturday I've been to the Cruiser Aurora (again!), the Cabin of Peter the Great, the Museum of the History of Religion, and the inside of St Isaac's Cathedral, but I'll have to write about those next time! I'm doing so much recently that it's become very difficult to keep up when writing my blog!