Monday, March 10, 2014

International Women's Day and a Trip to Gatchina!

March 8 was International Women's Day! A wonderful holiday celebrated largely in the former USSR and parts of Asia and Africa. Women get flowers, candies, smiles, and wished "с праздником" (literally: with holiday) all day long! There are also lots of big parties, concerts, special television broadcasts, and even movies revolving around the holiday released strategically to cash in on the celebration. This year Women's Day fell on a Saturday, and in true Russian style this means I had a five day weekend! Friday- Tuesday no classes! Unfortunately, I made this exciting discovery too late...while my American friends are jetting off on their spring breaks to Ecuador, Colorado, Puerto Rico, and Revelstoke and my better-planning friends here are exploring places like Sweden, Finland, and Paris to name a few, I decided to go to...Ukraine! Haha just kidding I stayed home and watched TV and baked banana bread...
I really wanted to go south- I have a dream to explore all the places in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea that I've read about in Lermontov and Pushkin and Tolstoy, but Sochi is kind of off-limits right now with the Paralympics still going, the Black Sea is all ensconced in the Crimea kerfuffle (not sure if there are actually any visible effects on the Russian coast right now), and I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg. I was left with few options at short notice, as Russia is vast, winter is cold, and I didn't have a huge desire to travel by myself and didn't think I could find a partner willing to go to Voronezh or Nizhny Novogorod* at such short notice...

On Friday I went to the Russian Museum on a trip organized by my university (but not free -_-). I had visited the museum before but this time I thought I would take advantage of having a guide- although she didn't really reveal any great secrets of the art and only took us on a brief circle of the most famous exhibits, and, again, I THOUGHT it would be free...but also, my host mom was raving about the new temporary exhibit of traditional women's costumes.
So I fell in love again with Ivan Aivazovsky's moonlit seascapes and thought the women's costumes exhibit was pretty good, although small. The Russian Museum of Ethnography right next door is basically full of national costume exhibits from all across the former USSR and have a much more detailed and extensive collection- it is my favorite museum in Saint Petersburg and I would recommend it all day long!
"Moonlight 1849", my favorite!

On Saturday, Roman and I took a little road trip to the small town of Gatchina. One of the many day-trip worthy sites around SpB (Pavlovsk, Pskov, Peterhof, Kronstadt, Staraya Ladoga), Gatchina is home to an impressive palace built by Paul I, a giant park, and more! (Actually not much more...)
The palace was excellent, very unusual architecture style for the time, and we basically had it to ourselves, the weather wasn't good and we got there right when they opened. Entrance for students is only 100 rubles (~$3.50). There were some parts that have not yet been refurbished after bombings in WWII, and we were completely alone in some of the rooms and it felt so real, so full of history and fate and it was wonderful! There is also a passage to the church- still holding services, a collection of East Asian art (we couldn't really figure out why), a children's play room, and a mini-tour every half hour of the secret tunnels under the palace!
The Palace
Storage/Escape Tunnel Under the Palace!

It was too cold to enjoy the park, so after the palace we stopped at KFC for a quick lunch (healthy and culturally significant, I know...) then did a little exploring. We had read online that somewhere in the area were some natural geysers and decided to check them out! Unfortunately, although we had several sets of directions, it was pretty much impossible to find the geysers! We drove a bit to a neighboring village, Korpikova, which is largely dachas and barely inhabited in the winter. The roads are old and not maintained, but we braved them! We tried to "turn right at the old bridge", "go straight past the wooden building", you know, real clear directions like that, and eventually stopped to ask a man who was filling up jugs of water from a pipe in the frozen over river, but he had no clue what we were talking about...We drove around some more, really interesting "real" village Russia, and eventually found a parking place near the edge of a forest that vaguely matched the description we had. Thankfully another couple came trudging out of the woods just as we arrived, laden with jugs of spring water. They explained that close by there was a small lake with another water pipe and they actually knew about the geysers! (And the man wished me с праздником!) But apparently the
geysers were a good hour's walk through knee deep mud and not very good until April or instead we just went to the little lake. It was lovely, and we got a jug of ice cold fresh water to take home with us! (Note the shoe covers we stole from the palace to protect our shoes from the mud!)
We drove home through a series of Soviet villages. I will DEFINITELY be back in the spring or summer to take pictures, it was fascinating. Villages with names like "Bolshevik", identical Krushchev blocks of apartments that made us wonder if we were driving in circles, abandoned and rotting was like stepping 50 years back in time.

Anyway, sorry for being so long winded but my Women's Day was amazing! I definitely recommend a Gatchina day trip if you're in the area.
On Sunday I took advantage of Roman being the only person I know with an oven and we made a yummy vegan banana cake! (Would have been cupcakes but we didn't have a pan). I think this is going to be my go-to breakfast for the rest of Lent, so easy to make and actually good!
My plan now is to develop a series of to-go travel plans so that next time an opportunity presents itself I can jump on it! Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading!

*Neither the most exciting destinations 

No comments:

Post a Comment