Yesterday, May 9, was Victory
Yesterday, May 9, was Victory Day in Russia (and I imagine in other places, too). Victory day is the celebration of the end of WWII when the Nazis surrendered to the Red Army in Berlin. Matt, Sid, and I heard there was going to be a military march in Palace Square next to the Hermitage (the Winter palace and art museum in St. Petersburg). We,, we got there at the tail end of the parade, at about 10:20 in the morning. It was pretty neat, no artilerary, though… There were tons of people on the sidewalks, as it was a day off. It seemed that people were going somewhere, and going nowhere at the same time. Following that, we went over to the Peter and Paul fortress, however, it wasn’t too exciting as most of it was under resturation. After that, we had lunch at a Russian pancake place - not too bad. We went to a cathedral that looks very similar to St. Basil’s in Moscow, but must have been a copy/wannabe as it was built a few hundred years later. This cathedral is called the Church on Spilled Blood. We went to a Baskin and Robbins where we paid 35 reubles, or about $1.16 for a really small scoop. We then went to this huge shopping mall which was a mix of shops and department stores and walked around for an hour or so. By this time, 5pmish, we went back to the hostel to rest as we were very exhausted. We rested for about an hour. By this time, it was about dinner time. We decided to go to Pizza Hut, as our attempts to find two Russian resturants failed. It was alright, kind of pricy. We heard that there would be fireworks down by the water (the river going to the ocean, I think it was called Neva Heba, or something like that) at 10pm, so we decided to walk casually (about an hour) to get there. This was near the Hermitage. Have a look at a map, which I may put on the site later in the month, and you will see the Hermitage is across the river/canal from the Peter and Paul Fortress. There is an island a little off from between the two, so picture there is a bridge to this island from the Hermitage area, and another bridge (same road) going to the land mass that the Peter and Paul fortress was on (keep in mind, the fortress is technically on an island…) You know what, Click on this link map which is a map of the area. Make sure to open it up in a new window. Now, you see the bit of land in the bottom left of the map? There are two bridges, one going kind of south east, and the other kind of north east, they are on the same road. The Peter and Paul fortress is the egg shaped very small island with what it looks like walls - this island is in the bottom left part of the map, north east from the island with the two bridges. Ok. Now. We made our way to this island with the two bridges. we were at the top right (north east) part of this island, and faced the fortress island. We got there at about 9pm. There were already hundreds of thousands of people, dead seriously! By 10pm, look at all the roads around the river – totally filled with people, the police closed the roads to traffic, and people were literally packed in. The fireworks started promptly at 10, or a little there after. Let me say this, they were no 4th of July fireworks. Sub-par at best. It went on for about 15 or 20 minutes. It looked like they shot them from artilerary cannons - very loud bangs with a plume of smoke from about 7 or 8 of these canons. It was a same routine every 30 to 45 seconds - they all fire at the same time, and wait. The fireworks were some cluster-type fireworks that made a lot of crackling sounds, and then there were two big-bang fireworks. Each time this happened, people went (ohhhh, ahhh… yeeaaah…). As if they had never seen fireworks before… During this time, people were drinking beer, and other alcohol on the streets, something I think is completely legal here. After the fireworks were over, people started to walk in every direction. The roads were littered with broked shards of glass. It made our hour walk back to the hostel a technical one, as we had to manouver around drunk hoolagans and broken bottles. It was entertaining, none the less. At any moment, it seemed a riot could have broken out, and we were right in the middle of it - but for the most part, people tended to keep calm. Some acted silly… A few people climed on top of a parked bus (one of those overhead electric buses) and were jumping up and down… It seemed everyone was walking up the same road in the same direction we were walking - the main road called Nevsky Prospect. Look at the map, you can see the road in the bottom left, you see the word Nevsky. Click on the down arrow once. You see, our hostel was near the “M” (metro station) in the bottom right of the map where several roads meet - you can see the train tracks coming from the south and stopping at this metro stop - this is the Moscow Train Station. Any way, this was an hour walk, and loads of people were walking down this road - it was obviously closed, whether the police wanted it to be or not. At the peak, during the fireworks, there had to be over a million people around the area. The population of the city is a little over 4 million. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were closer to 2 million. Unfortunatelty, I don’t have any photos of this event as I let Matt and Sid convince me not to bring it as they didn’t want us to look like tourists - which I understand.. but I regret not getting it camera. I think the walk home was more entertaining than the fireworks display itself. All in all, this is a cool city. I think I could live here given the opportunity - although, I would need to learn the language as english is not that common. We are leaving for Moscow this evening - our train leaves at 11:56pm, and arrives in Moscow at 8am. I am really looking forward to seeing Moscow, but I had fun here. I would recommend this place to anyone in the future..