This Sunday was “Day of Russia”. What is this you ask? Nothing. It used to be “Independence Day” but then the government cottoned on to the fact the need to have become independent from something so they had to change the name. There are lots of holidays like this in Russia because the Soviet Government wanted to give people something to celebrate to nurture patriotism and prevent them from celebrating religious holidays. Russians don’t seem to care about this holiday, it wasn’t really celebrated in any way.
Also this weekend there were a lot of important people in St Petersburg for an economic conference. The newspapers informed everyone that due to security people’s phone calls will be listened in on. Brilliant, nice to know. Also all these important people have sirens on their cars so they can get places quicker, this is apparently normal it is possible to book a taxi with a siren so you are ensured to get where ever it is that is so important quick enough! And it will only set you back about £50. However, the government are thinking of making a law that says only emergency vehicles can have sirens and exceed the speed limit, what an idea!
Anyway, due to the wonderful weather this weekend we decided to take a trip to Pavlovsk and Tsarskoe Selo.
Pavlovsk is the name of a small town about 40 minutes from St Petersburg city centre, where there is a palace, “Pauls palace/Павловский дворец” (They translate the name Pavlosk as Paul) and general countryside. We took the metro and then the marshurutka- a wonderful form of Russian transport which is a taxi that has a route like a bus, i.e a rickety old mini-bus run privately so they can charge you anything (but it was still about 50p for a 40 minute journey!). The mini-bus went through the town of Pushkin (where Tsarskoe Selo is) which is a pretty typical, run down looking Russian town, and a nice drunk with no teeth got on and decided to spend the whole journey talking to our friends cousin who knew no Russian and was pretty confused by the whole situation. It was entertaining so we didn’t interrupt!
Anyway, we got to Pavlovsk after a very bumpy ride, had some Russian cuisine from a street stall (“pies” with potato and mystery meat in, shoved in the microwave gourmet) and went into the palace gardens. The gardens turned out to be not so much gardens as a huge forest.
Without any maps or signposts available it took quite a while to find the actual palace and other monuments we were meant to see, but we found a few eventually.
On our adventures we got bitten to death by mosquito’s they are just everywhere, saw some red squirrels, saw people swimming in the lakes (some lakes more like ponds..) and had to use toilets which you stand on (apparently this is the norm, judging my foot marks on public toilets..). A pretty Russian experience.
We then got an actual bus to Tsarskoe Selo. I have already been three times but it was nice to see it in summer with all the flowers and gardens.
Seeing as it was a holiday weekend it was busy, so we didn’t get to go inside but we had fun sitting in the sun and watching all the Russian photo poses and watching the brides have their photo’s done. It is a Russian tradition to, after the wedding, travel around your home town taking photos in all of the important places. A few people realized that they could climb up onto these huge black statues of naked men in order to have photo’s, there were crowds of people underneath waiting to take the pictures, or just watching. One bride decided to climb up and give everyone a good look up her dress while she posed an old man next to us could hardly contain himself and was grinning and taking photos!