С Днём рождения Петербург!

27th May was St Petersburg’s 308th Birthday. Friday night (although it wasn’t actually dark) there were fireworks over the Neva. They were quite good but the main thing was the atmosphere, so many people went to see them and everyone had champagne (or beer) and were cheering. There were militsia absolutely everywhere, presumably to stop people doing illegal things such as drinking on the streets or trespassing, but their efforts were poor/non-exsistent and everyone was drunk and trying to swim in the river.

Saturday the celebrations continued. In the morning there was a parade along Nevskii Prospect, but it took me about an hour to find said parade and they had blocked all routes to Nevskii Prospect. Handy. First came about ten various marching bands from various military academies, the marines and universities.

The female soldiers of the Russian army. Yes in knee high pvc boots and mini skirts. The security guards at the hermitage wear similar boots with mini skirts and bomber jackets and I have seen many policewomen in stilletto’s. Clearly fashion does not exclude the country’s armed forces.

Next there were people in fancy dress, horses and carts and float, then the public were allowed to tag on the end and join in the parade.

It was pretty good! But pouring with rain and really hot. Nevskii prospect was closed all weekend which was amazing, there were little stages all along it with performances of music and dancing. By the metro there was an old drunk man playing the trumpet standing on a bin and he was surrounded by a huge crowd cheering- definately the faviorite of the festival!

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Here comes the Sun

The weather here has taken a turn for the..crazy. Last night was torrential downpour and blazing heat and today it is around 30 degrees and clear blue skies. Whats going on Russia? I know I have been asking for heat but this is a little much. The Russians are loving in. Despite many babs still sporting their winter coats, most of the older men have taken to the beaches donning speedo’s. They sunbathe against the fortress wall standing up, form volleyball teams and swim in the Neva (which is dirty and diseased. lovely).

We had heard about a beach themed bar just off the main street so on Saturday we decided to check it out. In was unexpected, yet also expectedly Russian. The bar was down a few alleys behing some run down work-shop type buildings and basically consisted of a porta cabin with a bar in and a load of sand with “beach chairs”, ie straw chairs and a few wooden crates with rugs on. On Saturday it is the city’s birthday. There will be parades, fireworks- just lots going on! Very exciting.

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One month to go!

Some intersting/not interesting  but typically Russian happenings this week:

Our friend has started dating a Russian girl. He says it is exhausting having to make sure he is polite and gentlemanly all the time, and paying for all the meals and buying her flowers all the time is getting too expensive. Why don’t we get this treatment?! I have also reaslied that if you are reasonably young man you can not sit down on public transport. Your duty is to give your seat to old men, children, old ladies and all women in general. This means that as long as none of these groups of society are on the bus or likely to get on the bus, you may take a seat. But may also be yelled at by an old bab anyway.

My friend Jen’s hoz came into her room to show her a WWII bomb he keeps in his bedroom for luck. I would say its very lucky it hasn’t blown up.

Depiste it being around 20 degrees here (yes plus!!) all the old babs are still wearing thick coats done up to the top, scarves wrapped tight around their necks and big puffy boots. They don’t even seem to notice the heat on the busses, (which all still have the heating on because apparently it can’t be turned off)! I think they have been cold for so long its in their bones.

Other than that I don’t really have much of my own news to empart. I have been trying to get my project done before the heat kicks in and I want to be outside all the time but it seems we have had our summer- one week of 20+ degrees and now its torrential downpour. White nights are approaching which is making it very hard to sleep, at the moment sunset is around 11:30 and sunrise is around 3:30. It will only get worse.

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С Днём Победы!!!

Today was “Victory Day” i.e the 66th Anniversary of the day Russia won the Great Patriotic War (WWII). The whole day was in fact extremely patriotic! The celebrations kicked of with a parade at 10am which we attempted to attend but due to the fact Russia’s entire population seemed to be in St Petersburg, we couldn’t see a thing.

The main event was the Veterans parade at 5pm. It begun with the army parading down Nevskii Prospect followed by a brass band, then followed the veterans.

The master of ceremonies announced their regiments and they were cheered by the audience as they went past and children went up to give them flowers. Some of them marched in their uniforms and some went past in military vehicles and just waved: they were all clearly very emotional!

The whole atmostphere was pretty overwhelming. Everyone was so patriotic: even the children were thanking the veterans for what they had done, people were clapping and cheering and shouting out what a great victory it was.

Also, as the war was during the Soviet era it is considered a triumph of communism and the Soviet Government. We were suprised to see soviet flags hung in the streets and people waving them at the parade as it is quite a controversial topic, but a lot of people seemed to support communism: a man next to us who had the red soviet flag was approached by one of the veternans from the parade who shook his hand and thanked him for waving the flag! However, after the parade of the veterans came a parade of communist supporters, we were unsure why they were allowed to march, perhaps it was a particular regiment of the army but they walked down nevskii brandishing flags and portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Quite a few people left the sidelines and stopped watching the parade at this point but there was no protest. Jen and I managed to get under the barrier and stand with the policemen on gaurd to take photos and a little old lady next to us was, very emotionally, shouting out to the parade how wonderful it was they had Stalin’s picture and how wonderful communism was. With everyone getting so worked up, waving their flags, cheering, chanting and waving pictures of leaders we could almost imagine ourselves being in communist Russia: and it was scary!

After the parade I joined on the end as it was the quickest way or working my way home up Nevskii! There were so many people it took a very long time. On the way I saw this plaque which I had never noticed before:

It says “Citizens, in the incident of bombing, this side of the street is more dangerous”

Thought it was interesting!

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The view from St Olaf's

…is the most beautiful little city ever! The old town is almost 1000 years old: partly surrounded by castle walls and with old churches and pretty building doted around its cobbled streets.

We climbed all the way up St Olaf’s which was exhausting and the steps were rather treacherous. Worth it for the view though! St Olaf’s was the tallest building in the world in the 16th-17th century!

St Olaf's

The old centre is made up of little coffee shops and patisseries, craft shops (selling things like lace, felt, marzipan, knitted clothes, cotton, porcelain and glass) and restaurants. All the places were so quaint and all decorated in the same homely way. The shops sold things that were clearly made by little old ladies in their spare time and most of the cafes sold home made cakes. Everything about the town was just…cute.

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The Messengers in St Petersburg

I haven’t posted in nearly a month! Has been a busy one!

Over Easter my mum and dad came to visit 🙂 I played tour guide and took them all around the city. Luckily the weather was nice, although April really isn’t the best time to come as its still cold but there is no snow and not yet any kind of greenery; was sunny though! Day one we went to the Hermitage and got to see a military parade (they were celebrating Russia winning the second world war…) and went for a meal at the Stroganoff Steak house (where the steaks are bigger than your head).

We went to Tsarskoe Selo (the summer palace) and it was a scorching hot day (largely spent waiting to get in due to the wonderful Russian queing system) and Peter and Paul fortress.

Saturday evening we went to the Marinksy Theatre and saw the ballet of Giselle. It was beautiful! That week was a ballet festival and apparently the ballerinas were some of the worlds best. The dancing was incredible.

The following Sunday was easter (apparently one of the rare years when Orthodox Easter coincides with Easter in other churches). At midnight there was a ceremony at St Isaacs (apparently the first time in 20 years, in recent years it had been held in Kazan Cathedral but St Isaacs was the traditional place) which my parents saw on the way home from dinner. The traditional easter day cakes (called Kuhlichi) are basically large muffins with icing and sprinkles on top, and it is also tradition to paint eggs (sadly no chocolate easter eggs in sight!)

The basket of eggs my hoz and her grandson painted

And that concludes their visit (in a nutshell). It was lovely to see them but sad to see them leave! Only two months to go!

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Царское Цело

I am 21! Yay! My Birthday was fun 🙂 My friends threw me a party at their flat on Saturday night, which was a “suprise” but they really werent very subtle about it. In the morning they went to a pattiserie and bought croissants and things for breakfast 🙂 was lovely. And then that evening we went to a Georgian restaurant for dinner which was yummy.

This week has been reading week. We haven’t done much. I volunteered at the Hermitage a few days and me and my friend Alisa went to Tsarskoe Selo which is a summer palace about half an hour from the centre. It was Beautiful.

The snow had still not melted but it was beautifully sunny and warm for the first time since we have been here! We were sitting on a bench in our jumpers and a lady went past and told us not to get ill…this always happens here, people readily advise you on health matters whether they know you or not! We had made three mistakes 1. sitting on a cold surface with no blanket (we will no longer be able to have children), 2. not wearing a hat and 3. not wearing a coat (we will get a cold).

The gardens are meant to be the most beautiful part of the palace but of course there were no flowers or fountains and the lakes were indistinguishable from the land. It was still amazing though, the snow makes everything look so pretty.

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