Quite clearly, I am failing miserably at keeping up with my New Year’s resolution of writing here regularly. I still have six months to improve. In the meantime, here is a note from a little holiday I went on a month and a half ago.
Russian governments have always been very generous in granting their citizens public holidays. One cannot miss an opportunity to remind one’s fellow countrymen about the greatness of their fatherland and to graciously let them celebrate it in their dachas or banyas, depending on the season. Having found myself with a couple of days off, I got in the mood for an excursion – and, very unexpectedly, I went to St.Petersburg. It is worth mentioning here that 1 May, International Workers’ Day, was one of the most important state celebrations in the Soviet Union (and, for that matter, all Eastern Block. My Mum still every now and then remembers the horror of being dragged on stage in front of a parade comprising of the entire town, in an attempt to praise the best students, school Stakhanovites of a sort). While now for most Russians 1 May is just an additional Saturday, for the Communists, still a prominent (albeit divided) political force, it is still a holiday of political importance. That’s why this 1 May they held not one, not two, but three simultaneous rallies, all of them in the very same place: in the square in front of Issakievsky Sobor, just off Nevsky Prospekt, one of the most famous sights of St.Petersburg.
An additional day off proved to be a day for political activism of all sorts. Here is a pro-Putin rally I saw on Nevsky Prospekt, just around the corner from the communists:
I was brave enough to chat a little with the gentleman in a hat. He said they often rally there on weekends and public holidays to protect the fatherland – and such a cause knows no days off. They were distributing pamphlets to convince their audience that some reactionary fractions in the Duma are hindering Putin’s enlightened decisions and – as one of their posters read – that Putin should receive absolute power to lead the country to full prosperity. According to Levada Center, Putin’s approval rating in May was as high as 80%. One could then wonder, why are they still there?
St. Petersburg is famous for its gates. Many of them look a little old and rusty, and thus the inhabitants of the buildings behind them hang little signs saying “Gate in use. No parking”. Here is my little collection of those:
Above all, St.Petersburg is just a perfect place to mindlessly wander, following the best example of all the literary characters of the Golden Age:
P.S. The whole trip to St.Petersburg was completely unplanned, absolutely spontaneous. By the time I decided that I want to go, all the train tickets had been long sold out. I ended up going with blabla car, which turned out to be a bus, which turned out to be a marshrutka. I came back by a blabla car, which turned out to be an uncomfortable minivan. This complete lack of scheduling is what I liked most. There is tingling in my fingers, I want more, that must lead somewhere!