Russia
Vasyl'evsky Ostrov

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9 travelers at this place:

  • Day59

    Hello St. Petersburg

    August 2 in Russia

    We had a very nice sunset on the Baltic Sea yesterday! Now our night on the ferry is over and we have arrived in St. Petersburg on 9am this morning. For the passport control we waited in line for about 2,5 hours, but finally we are in Russia now.

    The first impression of St. Petersburg: A huge harbour, a flat city without many skyscrapers and a metro system deep under the earth with very long escalators. In the next days we will explore the city.

    Nach einem sehr schönen Sonnenuntergang gestern Abend haben wir heute Morgen gegen 9 Uhr den Hafen von St. Petersburg erreicht. Danach standen wir erstmal für 2,5 Stunden in der Schlange für die Passkontrolle, aber jetzt sind wir in Russland.

    Der erste Eindruck von St. Petersburg: Ein riesiger Hafen, kaum Hochhäuser und ein U-Bahn System was tief unter der Erde liegt, sodass man gefühlt 5 Minuten Rolltreppe fährt. Wir sind gespannt was wir in den nächsten Tagen so entdecken...
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  • Day9

    A flurry through St Petersburg

    October 17, 2017 in Russia

    Three full days in St Petersburg wasn't enough to do it justice - particularly when our days were packed full of events and scurrying to and fro on buses. About 170 people came to St petersburg, so more time was spent doing head counts than actual sightseeing, however now that I'm in sochi (I'm massively behind on these blogs), I dont regret participating in the regional program at all. It's much easier to mingle when there are 170 people, compared to the 25,000 in sochi. All my friends I made were from the regional program, and at Petersburg is so beautiful. It has been a real highlight of the trip.

    There has been this interesting dynamic at the WFYS festival - it has been heavily funded by the Russian government, which has been in contention with the organisers of the World Federation of Democratic Youth. The regional program particularly was funded to promote russian tourism, which I have no issue in supporting - just not at the expense of leftist discussion. The regional program did generally balance this pretty well, but often we felt like celebrities in a tourism add.

    I am so grateful I wrote a long cover letter for my application to this festival, and I'm lucky that there are comparatively few Aussie participants. In St Petersburg, I was selected to attend a session of the youth parliament, as a participant of the WFYS festival representing Australia. I've attended peace conferences, but it was interesting being in a parliament session where everyone has different opinions, politics and agendas. Unfortunately my translator earpiece wasn't working, so I couldn't understand the passionate speech given by the Cuban representative, nor the heated discussion between Israel and sympathisers with Palestine. It was very interesting and an honour to be chosen as one of five people to observe this session. At first I was really passionate, wanting to start a career in politics of diplomacy, but as the session wore on, and in the following days at the festival, I've realised the value in NGOs, particularly the value in peace activism.

    The issue I have with peace conferences - or any large gathering of like minded people - is it becomes a repetition of rhetoric. In Hiroshima for the conference on the abolition of nuclear weapons, I dont know how many times we sang 'we shall overcome' and spoke about the horrors of nuclear war, but there was little talk on 'how' this would be achieved. The same was true for the parliament session, where most people spoke about the importance of youth involvement in politics, with little real step forward - so, if we need more youth in politics, lets promote education! Workshops! Volunteer groups! Exchange programs! The next step in coming up with ideas on how to achieve the goals always seems to be lacking. If I worked as a politician or as a diplomat, having to tow the line might make me angered with the bureaucracy of such large democratic systems. NGOs have a smaller reach perhaps, but you can be a part of the direct change, and create grass roots movements to lobby to the powers that be to make a policy change. This is all something I will have a serious think about once I'm home in Australia.

    The five of us selected for the parliament session the next day met in a round table discussion with the chairman of foreign affairs in St Petersburg, and the head of the St petersburg economics university. This was mainly to promote tourism to the city of Petersburg, and there was a lot of 'I love russia, yes I would love to come back, your city is beautiful.' I didn't mind doing this almost sycophantic work, as it was all true - russia is glorious and the negative American stereotypes need to be eradicated. The most beautiful moment from this meeting was when we asked the chairman what he wanted us to take away from our time in St Petersburg. We expected him to say 'the high culture of the hermitage' or 'the spectacular rich architecture'. His reply instead was 'St r petersburg has seen much war - please take away from our city a sense of unity and peace.' I did leave old Leningrad with this feeling, particularly after partying with friends from Africa, south America, West Asia and the Middle East, and all the Europeans and Russian students. It is a wonderful city.

    They say the hermitage takes at least three days to see every room. So they allocated us 1.5 hours, on a busy weekend. If I can have a (rightly so too) unpopular opinion - although the hermitage was beautiful and extravagant, I think I liked chatsworth and the Vatican more. Chatsworth house in the peak district of England is a manor house still lived in - you get to see the bedrooms built to sleep royalty, and the ballrooms and drawing rooms. It felt like a house, albeit an excessive one. The hermitage was mainly destroyed during the revolution, but was painstakingly rebuilt afterwards. It is now more a gallery than a house, and a busy one that is ironic as 'hermitage' means 'lonely place' given its sheer size. I think this fact is a perfect conclusion to the history of the building - the gaudy lifestyle of Katherine and the Romanovs with their millions of paintings (if you spent 2 minutes looking at each of her paintings, it would take you 6 years to view them all), you can understand why the communist revolution burnt the building to the ground. Their people were starving whilst the Romanovs lived in unbelievable luxury. It is nice to see this space is now a gallery, open to the average man. Our tour guide deserves a mention of her own, she was one of the most elegant women I have ever beheld. She knew so much about the Romanovs, and was so proud of old St petersburg history, but had interesting side comments on the Russian tendency to personality cults - whether it be the Romanovs family, Lenin, or now Putin. She was wonderful and embodied the grace and history of the hermitage, and the somewhat uncertain future of Russia.

    Where we spent 1.5 hours at the Hermitage - the most famous and beautiful palace in Europe - we spent around 5 hours the next day playing sport and visiting the FIFA stadium. I was so disappointed about this when I first saw it in the itinerary, but it was actually really nice to run around after all the sightseeing and discussions. The sports were vaguely based on the soviet гом excessive regimes, where their tag line was something like 'be healthy for labour and defence of the soviets!'. The one activity me and thankfully a couple of other communist comrades found a bit sickening was the laser rifle shooting. Like I said earlier, this festival has been a tug of war between WFDY and Russia, but perhaps in this aspect Russia won. How can you shoot guns at a peace festival? I was giving off about it to my English comrade, and a Russian local volunteer disagreed wholeheartedly with us, saying that the guns weren't real and that it's to re-enact the winter Olympics where you cross country ski and shoot guns at targets. Still, a gun is one of these images - like a rose or a dove - whose symbolism proceeds it, and that symbolic metaphor has no place in such an event...
    That all said, I shot 10/10 targets, and was first in my group to do so. Although I am a peace activist, the fascists should watch out if they face me in a revolution! Pew pew!

    After running around, we had a farewell dinner and headed back to the hotel around midnight, where I had to be up at 4am to catch my flight to sochi. I have never had such little sleep as my time in Russia at this festival. I can't say I haven't packed everything in, but as my lack of blogging shows, I'm exhausted, out of eyedrops, and dodging the dubbed 'sochi flu'. I will definitely come back to St petersburg (maybe even to study?) to absorb the city and its culture more. This whirlwind trip was just a taste of future travels.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Vasyl'evsky Ostrov, Vasilinsaari, Василеостровский

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