my final music festival concert

This post is also long overdue, but better late than never!! Maria at ProfIntern had arranged for me to photograph three concerts for the summer music festival in Saint Petersburg as part of the short internship program she had created for me, since I am a photographer. You can see pictures from the first and second concerts here and here. This was the final concert I photographed and it was absolutely wonderful!! Not only that, but Maria came with her husband – you can see a photo of her below!

The whole process of photographing the concerts was a very good experience for me – the people who ran the music festival were very happy with my work and I was able to enjoy three fantastic cultural events (at amazing venues no less!) while capturing new photos and experiences – something I love. Saint Petersburg is kind of the cultural epicenter of Russia and you can see how much Russians love to go to concerts, theatre, ballet, etc. They excel in their music like they do in ballet and I really enjoyed these events – it was a new aspect of Russian culture that I was able to participate in, and one not really open to a foreigner otherwise.

So I hope you all will enjoy my photos from this last concert, and I hope you will be able to gather and sense the overall mood that was there. Plus, it is very appropriate now to look back at the summer months and wonderful times as winter rapidly approaches…..

this was my favorite image from the evening - the female violinist pausing with her instrument.

this was my favorite image from the evening – the female violinist pausing with her instrument.

rehearsing

rehearsing for the concert

rehearsing for the concert

rehearsing for the concert

rehearsing

rehearsing

the full concert hall

the full concert hall

part of the orchestra

part of the orchestra

the guest Italian musician

the guest Italian musician

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a Bokeh of the orchestra

the pianist

the pianist

one of the audience

one of the audience

Maria came to this concert! This is her at intermission :)

Maria of ProfIntern came to this concert! This is her at intermission :)

another musician

another musician – I think he’s playing the Oboe

orchestra at work

orchestra at work

again, the phenomenal female vocalist

again, the phenomenal female vocalist

another guest - I love it when they see me and smile

another guest – I love it when they see me and smile

musician playing the flute

musician playing the flute

orchestra at work!

orchestra at work!

the director of the music festival - playing her violin

the director of the music festival – playing her violin

the end :)

the end :)

A Cooking Lesson with Maria

A well known Russian treat, which can also serve as a healthy breakfast, are little cheese fritters – in Russian, they are called Syrniki (Сырники). Syrniki are made with a Russian cheese which is similar to quark, or so I’m told by my European friends. We don’t have quark in the US. Tvorog (Творог) cheese is like a really dry cottage cheese – it reminds me more of what it was that Little Miss Muffet was probably eating as she sat on her Tuffet eating curds and whey. Traditionally, tvorog is quite low in fat, but I’ve been told by friends that Syrniki can be made in the US using full fat cottage cheese and draining it through a cheese cloth. When I have successfully rendered Syrniki at home here in the States, I will report on that. In the meantime, I like to think of it as a treat I get to make when I go to Russia.

I’ll never forget the first (and last) time I tried Tvorog while I was living in Russia in 2011. I was regularly trying to buy new food products and see what they were all about. I had developed a great liking for Russian smetana (sour cream) and was curious about this dry looking cottage cheese that was sold everywhere. So I bought some, and I did not like it. To me tvorog tasted kind of like the squeaky cheese that the French Canadians love so much on their Poutine – it’s great when combined with fries and gravy, but pretty strange on its own. However, I have since learned that tvorog is delicious paired with fresh honey or some fruit preserves and now that I am back in the US, I miss Tvorog (it became my breakfast of choice while we were at Estonian dacha). So while I was in St. Petersburg collaborating with Maria at ProfIntern, I asked her if she could show me how to make Syrniki, as I had been wanting to learn the recipe and since they are just so darn tasty!

First, I should list the ingredients needed for Syrniki and some variations. Depending on how many people you want to feed, that will depend on how much quark (tvorog) you want. I made them for a fairly large dinner party shortly after Maria taught me how to make Syrniki and I used a full 500 grams of quark and 2 eggs instead of one. So let’s go by that number and if you want to cut the recipe in half and make less, you can (although I think it’s always better to have leftovers!)

  • 500 grams (approx. 18 oz) of Quark, or the equivalent of strained cottage cheese
  • 6 – 8 Tbsp. of flour – Maria used Oat Flour in the photo below, but regular white flour works just fine
  • Salt to taste – don’t need too much, maybe a few pinches or 1/4 tsp.
  • Sugar – a few tbsp. Maybe 2 – 4 (I like things a little sweeter)
  • 2 eggs (if you want a batter that is less wet, I would use one whole egg and one additional egg yoke)
  • (Optional) Soaked and drained apricots, raisins or other dried fruit
  • Butter or oil for frying (I prefer butter because I think it goes well with the flavor of Syrniki, but it burns more easily)
  • For the Garnish, Sour Cream and Honey or Maple Syrup (or fruit compote)
Ingredients for Syrniki

Ingredients for Syrniki

As you can see in the photo above, these are the ingredients we used for the cooking lesson – nice and simple. When I made them the second time, I added some soaked apricots, which was also very tasty! Whatever you like will work. Next time I make them, I am definitely trying them served with maple syrup = yum!

what it should look like when all together in the bowl

what it should look like when all together in the bowl

Combine all ingredients except the butter/oil,  sour cream and honey into a large bowl and mix until well combined. Note: for a more dense cheese fritter, add more flour. In general, the above measurements are more like guidelines. I like my Syrniki with less flour, which also makes them stickier to work with. More flour will allow you to actually form little patties to fry. Or you can use a little less Tvorog – however you like is fine. I just dropped the batter by spoonfuls into the pan and shaped them like I did with Maria, as seen below.

Maria mixing the batter

Maria mixing the batter

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drop spoonfuls of the batter into a well oiled pan (I prefer to use butter)

drop spoonfuls of the batter into a well oiled pan (I prefer to use butter)

Once all your ingredients are well mixed, heat butter or oil in a pan on medium heat and start adding spoonfuls of the batter to the pan. If the batter seems too wet, add a little more flour to make it more manageable.

cook syrniki for a few minutes and then flip

cook syrniki for a few minutes and then flip

You may need to cook the Syrniki in shifts if they can’t all fit into a frying pan at once – that’s totally fine. Just keep adding a little more butter or oil as you go. Cook them on one side until lightly browned and able to be easily flipped and then flip them like you would a pancake.

nicely browned syrniki

nicely browned syrniki

Once they are all nicely browned and looking like little cheese fritters, you are ready to serve them!

the fruits of our labor

the fruits of our labor

Serve a few on a plate and garnish how you like them and then enjoy! We had run out of sour cream, so I just ate mine with honey that day, but I really think they taste best with a little smetana and fresh honey. Super easy to make and really quite a light and healthy breakfast or dessert!

As I mentioned, I hope to render the recipe soon using ingredients readily available here in the US and when I do, I will share my findings. For those of you readers who are in Europe, you are quite lucky to have easy access to quark! So go ahead and give Syrniki a try! They are super tasty. And Maria did such a good job teaching me to make them, I successfully cooked them again for a dinner party that was half Russian guests and they all gave me the thumbs up, so I was very happy about that!

serve syrniki with smetana and honey - yum!

serve syrniki with smetana and honey – yum!

and of course, syrniki go well with a cup of fresh tea :)

and of course, syrniki go well with a cup of fresh tea :)

Volga car tour in SPB – “Old Soviet Stuff”

I have one more post of concert pictures, but first I thought it would be nice to change things up a bit with a post about the “Old Soviet Stuff” Volga car tour my husband and I took while we were in St. Petersburg this summer.

Jon's stellar Volga car

Jon’s stellar Volga car

I love looking for new and interesting things I can recommend to my readers and so one day I found myself skimming through a St. Petersburg travel guide, as I usually do, trying to find unique things I’ve not done. Right away, an ad for a Volga car tour grabbed my attention because frankly, who wouldn’t love to ride around the city in a super stellar old Soviet Volga! So I emailed Jon over at WowRussiaTours and asked him if my husband and I could have a tour before we left for Estonia.

First of all, I would like to preface the rest of this post by saying that St. Petersburg is quite a large city and covers a good area. It’s very difficult to see all there is to see when visiting. It took me almost an entire year and subsequent trips to St. Petersburg to discover the things Jon showed us on the tour (some of them entirely new to me) because when you live in city center, you don’t often venture outside unless absolutely necessary. I taught English at a couple of factories outside city center when I was living there in 2011 and I dreaded the long haul on the subway out to the end of the Red and Blue lines. Which is quite ridiculous because most of the things that fascinate me about Russia are exactly there – outside the city centers. That’s where you see real life places where the majority of people live. And most of the people who live outside city center only come into center if they have to.

So, that being said, if you really want to get to know St. Petersburg and it’s old Soviet side, this is a fantastic tour because Jon takes you quite a good distance and makes it a point to take you outside the center to where very interesting parts of the city can be seen. I highly recommend the tour, especially if you have limited time and want to see as much as you can. Also, Jon is quite the history buff and knows his Soviet history – he will give you really interesting pieces of information that you may not have known about, like the Khrushchyovkas – a vast part of the Russian landscape which you won’t see inside city center.

For myself personally, the best part of the tour was getting to ride around in the old car. It’s kind of a fun and romantic way to get around, considering the Volga was the car made for the Soviet nomenklatura. Being a lover of vintage Soviet cars (I really really want a Lada!), the Volga tour was perfect for me. We even got pulled over by the Russian police for document check (doesn’t get much more authentic than that!)

The tour begins with Jon picking you up and heading off to the Geological Institute to see the “The Industry of Socialism” map. There are lots of other interesting things to see at the Institute, especially for the geology buff. After the Geological Institute, we headed over to the Petrograd side of the city to see Krasnoye Znamya (The Red Banner Textile Factory). This building is super cool (see below) – it’s really a shame someone isn’t doing something with it. It could make a great hotel or artists’ loft space. I just cannot tell you how impressive it is the first time you see it – like this giant industrial beacon hiding over on Petrograd.

After that, we headed over near where I was staying my first two weeks in St. Petersburg (by Park Sosnovka), to the Robotics Institute – another impressive old Soviet building, surrounded by the typical block-style Soviet housing that I love so much (Khrushchyovkas). Jon mentioned how he loved the contrast there in architecture – the hip and, at the time, modern building for the Soviet elite contrasted by the crowded (and now often dilapidated) apartment buildings where the average Soviet citizen lived. You really really need to see this side of the Russian cities when you visit, or you can’t understand the contrast. I remember the first time I went to meet with my Russian tutor in 2011 – he lived around Komandantskiy Prospekt metro stop. It was so overwhelming for me, coming from city center with the old architecture (which isn’t very tall), only to be surrounded by rows and streets of these apartment buildings, which were cheaply made to accommodate as many people as possible. It’s like an entirely different world and it’s typical Russia – one of the things I love (not to mention it’s like eye candy to a photographer). No matter where you go in the former Soviet Union, you will see this integral part of life.

Our final stop was to Finlyandskiy Vokzal where, of course, you must see Lenin! What Soviet tour would not include a statue of Lenin? And there he stands, in front of an elaborate fountain garden by Finlyandskiy Railway station. We did not opt for this add-on with our tour, but there is an option to stop at a Stolovaya and get lunch, which I would recommend if you’ve never been to one. It’s like a Soviet style buffet – very authentic and cheap and offering up some good Russian eats. The perfect place to try your first meat cutlet and borsch with vitamin salad!

In case you can’t tell, I’m really fascinated by Soviet history – it’s one of the things that brought me to study in Russia in the first place. Jon’s tour was really interesting and he shared my enthusiasm for this part of Russian history as well. I highly recommend this, or any of his other tours, which can be found here. You really have to sit in that car and ride around to get the full Soviet experience…..

“The Industry of Socialism,” a map of the Soviet Union, made of precious gems and stones - at the Geological Institute in St. Petersburg.

map of the Soviet Union, made of precious gems and stones – at the Geological Institute in St. Petersburg.

Sickle & hammer at the Geological Institute.

Sickle & hammer at the Geological Institute.

Gold.

Gold.

the old Red Banner factory

the old Red Banner factory

Red Banner Factory - on the Petrograd side

Red Banner Factory – on the Petrograd side

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mural on the side of a building - a tribute to Soviet heroes

mural on the side of a building – a tribute to Soviet heroes

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Khrushchyovka (old Khrushchev era Soviet apartment buildings).

Khrushchyovka (old Khrushchev era Soviet apartment buildings).

The Robotics Institute

The Robotics Institute

Kitty sitting in the window of one of the Khrushchyovka

Kitty sitting in the window of one of the Khrushchyovka

Khrushchyovkas - I have a serious fascination with the apartment buildings. They just look so cool.

Khrushchyovkas – I have a serious fascination with the apartment buildings. They just look so cool.

babushka's having girl talk

babushka’s having girl talk

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graffiti by the Robotics Institute.

graffiti by the Robotics Institute.

an old tram on the way to Finlyandskiy Vokzal.

an old tram on the way to Finlyandskiy Vokzal.

a woman staring at Lenin's statue in front of Finlyandskiy Vokzal.

a woman staring at Lenin’s statue in front of Finlyandskiy Vokzal.

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Finlyandskiy Vokzal.

Jon's Volga car in front of the Khrushchyovka

Jon’s Volga car in front of the Khrushchyovka

 

The Italian Pianist – photographing concert No. 2

This will serve as a short post, mainly to present some of my photos from the second concert I photographed for the summer Music Festival in St. Petersburg, as part of the short program arranged for me by Maria at ProfIntern. The concert was located in city center at the Mikhailovskiy Palace on Sadovaya Street – a beautiful concert hall. For those of you just tuning in, you may also be interest in the concert in Pushkin that I photographed as well.

The concert featured a fantastic young Italian pianist. He was so incredible and emotional when he played, I’m pretty sure every young girl’s heart was fluttering as they watched – in fact, when I was out back at intermission, there were a bunch of young Russian girls waiting in line for the toilet and the pianist walked by and I could see them all staring at him in admiration and sighing as he passed. It tickled me a bit!

So here are some of the photos of him playing so you all can enjoy it too! I had wanted to upload a short video, but it seems it is too large, even in it’s reduced size.

the concert hall

the concert hall

practicing.

practicing.

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adorable attendees :)

adorable attendees :)

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The MC.

The MC.

trying to see over heads.

trying to see over heads.

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The director of the music festival and musician, Maria.

The director of the music festival and musician, Maria.

looking out over the filled concert hall

looking out over the filled concert hall

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photographing the concert in Pushkin.

When Maria at ProfIntern and I were discussing what sort of program she could arrange in the few short weeks I was going to be in Saint Petersburg, I asked her if she might be able to find something photography related for me, since that’s what I do – take pictures. While I am no longer working full time as a wedding or portrait photographer, photography is still my passion and I know how to photograph events. Maria was very excited when she wrote to me and told me that she had arranged for me to photograph concerts in a summer Music Festival that takes place in some of the palaces of Saint Petersburg. The people in charge, however, were not so excited to have a foreigner with limited Russian skills (which is totally understandable), so I was a bit nervous about my first concert and how I would handle everything with my not-so-great Russian language skills (I did improve during the 6 weeks I was in Russia and Estonia, but I need to study more).

The people in charge of the Music Festival agreed to allow me to photograph the first concert and then see how they liked my work. The concert venue was really spectacular. I was given instructions and made my way to Pushkin – where Catherine’s palace is – via metro and marshrutka, lugging my heavy camera gear with me. I had also come down with a terrible cold and was not feeling good that day, but I managed to get through the concert and do my work well. I got to the park and found where the concert would be on the map and headed in that direction – I needed to take the ferry across to the little island where the concert hall was, but when I got to spot where I should board, it seemed as though nothing was running to the island until the guests actually began to arrive. Fortunately, Information was located nearby and I went inside, inquiring where I should go since the ferry was not in operation yet. It took about 20 minutes, but the man there was very helpful and managed to arrange for some young man to row me and all my equipment over to the island in a tiny row boat! I was holding my breath the whole way, as I was imagining the boat tipping over with me and my expensive camera equipment, but alas, we made it there quickly and easily and most importantly, on time.

I don’t want to bore you with the whole story of photographing the concert – that is not interesting. I just wanted to mention that the people in charge of the festival were very happy with me and my work and invited me back to photograph two more concerts. It was nice for me because this is something foreigners do not get the opportunity to do, unless it is arranged, as Maria did for me and I was able to enjoy three musical cultural experiences. All the musicians were fantastic, but I think my personal favorite was the Russian folk ensemble – those who know me well know I am a sucker for an accordion and a balalaika! So here are some of the photos from this first concert – it was such nice weather in Pushkin that day and there was a lovely atmosphere.

Catherine's Palace, Pushkin.

Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin.

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People out in the park.

Practicing.

Practicing.

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guests arriving to the island.

guests arriving to the island.

old man relaxing on a bench on the island.

old man relaxing on a bench on the island.

two of the musicians (vocalist on the left, pianist on the right).

two of the musicians (vocalist on the left, pianist on the right).

a little girl posing for her mother.

a little girl posing for her mother.

some of the musicians arriving to the island.

some of the musicians arriving to the island.

very happy attendees, enjoying their champagne and the scenery.

very happy attendees, enjoying their champagne and the scenery.

the concert hall on the island at Pushkin.

the concert hall on the island at Pushkin.

the female vocalist - she was incredible.

the female vocalist – she was incredible.

the male vocalist - also very entertaining.

the male vocalist – also very entertaining.

the music festival brochure.

the music festival brochure.

another little girl playing outside with her mother at intermission.

another little girl playing outside with her mother at intermission.

the balalaika ensemble - they were so good.

the Russian folk ensemble – they were so good.

The director of the music festival playing along with the ensemble.

The head of the music festival playing along with the ensemble.

the Russian folk ensemble

the balalaika ensemble

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the female vocalist.

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the male vocalist.

the male vocalist.

giving autographs

giving autographs

the director posing for a photo.

the director posing for a photo.

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random images from Saint Petersburg…..

boats on the canals in city center.

boats on the canals in city center.

I realize I have been very aloof the past couple months. I was quite busy while in Saint Petersburg, photographing concerts and seeing what Maria’s business (ProfIntern) is all about first hand (stay tuned to hear all about both things). Then my husband and I headed off to Estonian dacha in the small Russian populated town of Aseri, Estonia (seriously the best time ever!) We were there for almost 3 weeks and just got home from both countries the other day and now, it’s time for me to post all the wonderful things that went on during the 6 weeks I was abroad.

I will begin with a bunch of random images I took my first few days in Saint Petersburg, because I am not in the mood to write anything right now – ha! My apologies. I really want to get my blog posts rolling, so please allow my images to spark your imagination :) There are a bunch here from the area where I stayed in SPB for the first couple of weeks, near Politekhnicheskaya metro and Park Sosnovka. It was great to stay there because it is a completely different experience from living in city center and had new sights to explore. Unfortunately I was sick and the weather was “meh”, so I didn’t get to do as much of that as I would have liked, but still – you’ll get the picture.

Enjoy! I truly love Saint Petersburg – it always feels like being at my second home. And in summer time, the city comes alive with the long days and there is no where else I’d rather be during that time…..

 

Russian soldiers marching in some sort of parade.

Russian soldiers.

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street musician.

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block style housing.

block style housing.

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the pond and beach across the street from where I was staying.

the pond and beach across the street from where I was staying.

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going for a walk in the park

going for a walk in the park

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more block style housing, close to where I was staying the first weeks.

bus stop.

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“Khrushchyovkas” (the name for Soviet era block style housing)

statue of Lenin by Finlandskiy Vokzal.

statue of Lenin by Finlandskiy Vokzal.

Vitaminiy Salat with Kielbasa.

Vitaminiy Salat with Kielbasa – two of my favorite eats.

Lada :)

Lada :)

standing out at Vosstaniya Ploshchad.

standing out at Vosstaniya Ploshchad.

random old bank near where I was staying.

random old bank near where I was staying.

by Ploshchad Muzhestva.

by Ploshchad Muzhestva.

the Church on Spilled Blood on the most perfect day.

the Church on Spilled Blood on the most perfect day.

Instagram pictures from Russia!

Hi Everyone!

I am currently working in Saint Petersburg with Maria at ProfIntern, and have been very busy. But, I wanted to share with you my Instagram pictures and let you all know that you can now finally find and follow me on Instagram here.

Stay tuned for more posts with many new pictures from Russia (and Estonia in July), but for now, here are some of my iPhone pics from Instagram.

Much love from the Motherland!

Lindsay

 

looking outside my bedroom window during white nights

looking outside my bedroom window during white nights

my breakfast of choice when in Russia :)

my breakfast of choice when in Russia :)

LOVE block style housing - down the street from where I am staying

LOVE block style housing – down the street from where I am staying

the pond across the street from where I am staying.

the pond across the street from where I am staying.

going to see Aida at Mariinsky Theatre!

going to see Aida at Mariinsky Theatre!

walking home during the white nights - never gets dark

walking home during the white nights – never gets dark

cool building on the way to the metro

cool building on the way to the metro

First time eating Tvorog (quark) for breakfast with fresh honey

First time eating Tvorog (quark) for breakfast with fresh honey

walking in city center

walking in city center

view of the Fontanka canal

view of the Fontanka canal

along the Fontanka canal

along the Fontanka canal

super old orange Lada

super old orange Lada

walking home around 10:30 p.m. LOVE white nights!

walking home around 10:30 p.m. LOVE white nights!

super cool metro station nearby

super cool metro station nearby

one of my favorite Russian salads - Vitamin salat

one of my favorite Russian salads – Vitamin salat

Lenin looking out over Finlandskiiy Vokzal

Lenin looking out over Finlyandskiy Vokzal

at the local market

at the local market

eating Solyanka to keep warm

eating Solyanka to keep warm

dinner at a friend's dacha in Primorsk this past weekend.

dinner at a friend’s dacha in Primorsk this past weekend.

Block style housing in the neighborhood

Block style housing in the neighborhood

and the pond at the nearby park

and the pond at the nearby park

tea Maria made yesterday evening - so pretty!

tea Maria made yesterday evening – so pretty!

 

White Nights in Saint Petersburg!

Another guest post from Maria Lobanova at ProfIntern, which includes a review of the Russian White Nights from GoBackpacking.com

And I leave for Saint Petersburg in T-minus 5 days to work with Maria for a few weeks, so I will be sharing new stories and photos from Saint Petersburg and Estonia, as my husband and I head to our dacha in July. 

So here is to get you all excited for the Russian White Nights! During this time of year, there is no where else I’d rather be than my favorite and most beautiful city!  Please check out my previous articles about White Nights here and here!

You can view the original article on the ProfIntern website here: http://www.profintern.com/articles/white-nights-in-saint-petersburg

Some people think that white nights are the period when the sun does not set at all. In fact, white nights are the nights which do not become too dark. In St. Petersburg, the white nights peak falls on June 22 and the white nights officially last from June 11 to July 2. White Nights of St. Petersburg are a reward for all of the darkness during the winter months.

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The middle of summer is the time when the northern capital of Russia is a magical experience. So this is one of the best periods to come for our programs.

During the longest days of the year, Saint Petersburg turns into endless walking: the historic city center, river Neva and small canals, even after midnight, have a romantic golden glow, and thousands of people – citizens and tourists – go for a walk.

The White Nights season is the perfect time to be a tourist in St. Petersburg as it means you literally have more hours in the day (of sunlight that is) to do your sightseeing.

Not only that, but shops and restaurants tend to stay open late, so you are always able to keep yourself busy, and you don’t have that blanket of darkness that causes a sense of uneasiness in a foreign city to hold you back.

Lebyazhya Kanavka around 2 a.m.

Lebyazhya Kanavka around 2 a.m.

In addition to the longer sightseeing hours, the following make it a great time for a tourist:

The White Nights Festival

The last ten days of June in St. Petersburg turn into the White Nights Festival – a time full of around the clock activity. This international arts festival fills the city with top opera singers, ballet dancers and musicians putting on performances in the “Stars of the White Nights Festival”.

The “Scarlet Sails” celebrations happens during the White Nights Festival and involves a huge public event with fireworks that also marks the end of the school year in June. Tons of boats full of pirates take sail on the Neva River, while millions of people watch the event.

Scarlett Sails lit by Fireworks.

Scarlett Sails lit by Fireworks.

Several carnivals present themselves to the public during the White Nights Festival, with the most popular one being in the suburb of Peterhof.

White Nights Bike Tour

If you’re looking for unique experiences, getting on a bike at midnight and going on a tour of the city that ends at 2 in the morning could be something worth writing home about.

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Midnight Boat Rides Through Canals

The canals and waterways of St. Petersburg are what make it feel like Venice, and the best way to experience these rides might just be at midnight during the White Nights Festival.

By taking a tour at this time of day, you get to experience the vibe of the city at “night”, as the sun finally sets and the bridges and buildings take light.

a boat on the Fontanka.

a boat on the Fontanka.

Nothing can be better than going out during this amazing period of time, observing raising the bridges, meeting people and absorbing the magical atmosphere of the city!

Victory Day Celebration – May 9th

I know I’ve posted twice already about Victory Day, but below is another guest post by Maria Lobanova at ProfIntern. The original link can be found here: http://www.profintern.com/articles/victory-day-celebration-may-9th

I would also like to say a few words about my experience of the Victory Day celebration. I was hoping to be able to compose two posts about it this year (one from me and one from Maria), but it seems I will not have time to do so. Still, Victory Day is one of my favorite memories from my year abroad in Russia. Many Americans are very patriotic – about the US, liberty, our war veterans (my father, grandfather & great grandfather are all Veterans) – Independence Day is a big holiday for us. But we don’t tend to realize that other countries feel the same about their own history and its heroes, their country and culture and that patriotism is not just an American entity. In Saint Petersburg, I saw entire families gathered on the streets to watch the Victory Day parade, there were children giving flowers to the veterans and survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, the young woman next to me yelling “Spasibo!” (thank you!) throughout the entire parade, and I experienced the emotion of what this day commemorates. I realized Russians also share patriotic sentiments about their past and their heroes, just as we do. I may not be Russian, but I could understand the significance of Victory Day – especially in Saint Petersburg where hundreds of thousands of people died during the Siege of Leningrad and I was able to watch some of the survivors of the siege march by. It was a really wonderful experience. If you find yourself in any Russian city on May 9th, I highly recommend going to the afternoon parade. You will also likely see a few of the older generation marching by with posters of Stalin, Lenin and other Soviet leaders and carrying the Communist flag. Overall, I found it to be a really interesting cultural experience. In fact, I think I still have my St. George ribbon around somewhere…..

And now, for Maria’s article and some more of the pictures I took that I’ve not yet posted!

Russian veterans posing outside the Winter Palace.

Russian veterans posing outside the Winter Palace.

The Great Patriotic War became the most fearful ordeal for the Soviet people. Victory Day forever became the most joyous holiday of the most important and personal event. In honor of this holiday great songs were written and great movies were filmed. No matter how many years have passed, we will never forget their sacrifice and the glory of the heroes will never fade, memories of heroism and courage of the people will never be forgotten.

It’s a great opportunity for foreign guests to become a part the Victory Day celebration on May 9th,  to see the traditional parade, the grand parade of troops and the big concert on Palace Square, there are also events dedicated to the Day of breaking the siege of Leningrad in 1943 held around the city: there are concert venues on squares and prospects where performances are held to honor the great holiday. Everyone congratulates the veterans, heartily thanking them and presenting them with flowers.

One of the traditional events is a trip of veterans by retro trams. The Leningrad tram is a symbol of courage and the strong spirit of besieged Leningrad. It was the only form of transport which worked throughout the war. It carried tons of cargo and delivered fighters to the front line – its ringing sound spoke about the coming Victory in the war.

In the evening of May 9, Russian people revere the memory of fallen heroes with a Moment of silence, remembering those who fought for the freedom and independence of the country and the lost residents of besieged Leningrad.

The colorful closing of the holiday is fireworks and salute, which can be best observed on the banks of the Neva on Vasilevsky Island, or on the Palace Embankment.

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Public display of brotherhood on Victory Day.

Public display of brotherhood on Victory Day.

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Spring and Labour Day, or Pervomai

Another guest post by Maria Lobanova at ProfIntern.

The original post by Maria may be found here: http://www.profintern.com/articles/spring-and-labour-day-or-pervomai

Russian Labor Day Poster

Russian Labor Day Poster

Spring and Labour Day is celebrated in Russia on the 1st of May. Many remember the holiday as Labor Day.

This holiday has ancient pagan roots. For thousand years before Christ, the people of ancient Rome worshiped the goddess Maia – the patroness of earth and fertility. In honor of the goddess the last month of spring was named May. On the first day of May they celebrated sowing for it to be productive.

In Russia, Pervomai has been celebrated since the time of Peter I as the sowing and spring holiday and had no political character. People held the holiday festivities, concerts, performances and fistfights were the most popular amusements.

Political history of Pervomai began in the late XIX century, after the protests, when the Paris Congress of the II International in July 1889 offered to celebrate the Day of Solidarity of the world Proletariat annually on May 1st. Since that day the workers of different countries started to organize demonstrations, during which they tried to defend their rights.

May Day demonstrations in Russia started in 1897. That day in the country for many years has been associated with thousands of protesters, brass bands, red banners, portraits of political leaders and balloons. Soviet citizens waited for the holiday, thoroughly prepare for it, and whole families or large companies went to the streets.

In 1992, the International Workers’ Day was renamed into Spring and Labour Day.

This year in St. Petersburg the main event will be held at Gostiny Dvor starting from 15:00 to 18:00. Citizens and guests of the city will plunge into the festive, spring atmosphere and, paying tribute to the history of the holiday and national traditions, will take part in interactive entertainments, contests, as well as participate in a dance flash mob.

It is time to enjoy the sun, spring and weekends!

Another Russian Labor Day poster

“Happy Holidays Comrades!”