I have now been home for exactly a week, and have only just had the time to sit down and write the post that I had planned on writing the day I returned. My final few weeks in St Petersburg were not all that different from previous weeks. I spent time in Museums and strolling around the increasingly chilly city, and watched as, first the canals, then the Neva and finally the sea froze over. The longer nights, the lowering temperatures and the lack of Christmas celebration in Russia all signalled that it was time for me to take my leave and return to the warmer climes of England.
My final weekend saw a visit to the Political History Museum of Russia which, unsurprisingly, was incredibly strangely set out. As you enter you get given a sticker (yes a sticker) that seemed to have no purpose. No one checked them and I have since decided that they are usually given to young children, and apparently also to naive foreigners. Having received your non-descript sticker, you then enter a large room filled with letters and artefacts, mainly from the 1917 revolution. Very interesting artefacts that seem to have no visible order or logic to them (surprise, surprise). This room has two doors and, as luck would have it, I went through the right one, which just so happened to be the right-hand door. This (shock) was not signposted and had no indication that this was the correct door to go through. Nevertheless, through I went, and was suddenly transported back 100 years in time to 1815, and was taken on a whirlwind history of the Tsars of Russia, mainly detailing how they let their countrymen become so impassioned with righteous indignation that they staged a full-blown rebellion. This while very interesting, was quite overwhelming as there were drawers and drawers of papers and letters and lots of pictures and other interesting items, but they had little to no information about them, and sadly my Russian is not yet advanced enough to read detailed letters from emissaries and other officials.
Having left the realms of the Tsardom behind, we then moved onto Lenin, the revolution and other similar topics. Again we had many, many letters, guns, items of clothing and documents detailing the events of the revolution and the subsequent civil war. These objects were lightly explained and slightly overpowering as there were literally hundreds in each room. Having trawled through as many of these documents, photographs and other memorabilia as we could, we headed into the next section which was of course…The resignation of Yeltsin in 1999. Having watched Yeltsin’s resignation speech and Putin’s New Year inauguration speech in tandem (a very interesting viewing experience that allows one to really understand the nuances of each speech) we started (very logically) going back in time. We wandered through the rooms of Perestroika and Glasnost and found ourselves – once again – in the civil war era. How very, very logical.
Then we wandered back downstairs intrigued at which time period we would find ourselves in. We then re-entered the first room and took the right-hand door and found ourselves with…(take a wild guess) Stalin. Of course, what could be more logical, having gone back in time to then follow Stalin’s career (and why Perestroika and Glasnost that we had seen earlier, had to happen). And having seen the delightful years of Stalin’s rule we then went on a tour of Russia’s space race, they’re entry into rock and roll, the start of the hippie movement, and other such cultural phenomenons. This museum was incredibly interesting and had some amazing artefacts, but again the organisation was, as is commonplace with Russian museums and galleries, bizarre and a tad overwhelming.
Having wandered around the Political History Museum of Russia in a state of confusion for a few hours we then wandered across the island to look at the Cruiser Aurora which played a large role in the Russo-Japanese War. She was then home to a mutiny and fired the initial blank in St Petersburg that signalled the start of the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917. Having run low on time, and in dire need of some sustenance in the form of Pad Thai, we decided not to board the Vessel and instead stared at it from the safety of the river bank.
Thus ended my final weekend in St Petersburg. The following week I took advantage of the long-discussed Pishki and ate more than I strictly should have. I also took advantage of the abundance of Georgian restaurants in St Petersburg, as Georgian food is delicious and is sadly lacking in England. The rest of the week was spent organising my belongings and making sure I had all my important and tiny pieces of paper on hand so that I wouldn’t get arrested at the airport. I did not, in fact, get arrested at the airport, and thankfully I made it home and the thing that brought me the most joy about coming to England (where it was 23 degrees warmer than Russia and pissing with rain) was the grass. The thing that I have missed the most in England without realising it, was the abundance of greenery we have, hedgerows, trees and grass, even in winter and it is oddly soothing to see them. So I will spend my time in England staring at the grass and hugging my dogs and inform you all how it goes.