26 June 2007

Scarlet Sails (long)

Last Saturday, 23 June, was The Day of Scarlet Sails. It was the day that the graduates from the high schools, universities and military academies celebrate. This celebration, from what I've been able to find out, stopped in 1969. Then, three years ago, in 2004, it was re-instated. Last year we were warned to stay home, and we did. This year, though similarly cautioned, I ventured out. The city had done its best to try to avoid the mass of broken glass that followed last year's celebration by not allowing glass bottles to be sold anywhere in the city center. And, yes, I did have to move my car. This time, amazingly, there was a note on my windshield! I could read FORBIDDEN and the dates, so I thought I knew what it meant. Sure enough, a little time with my dictionary confirmed that I (respected driver) was not to park in the center.

Here they are setting things up in Palace Square. The sign reads, "Russia--Land of Opportunity". The chairs would be offered to gold medalist scholars--similar to our honor roll. These students had all 5's (A's). Silver medalists have no more than two 4's...I think. (I'll ask to get this clarified.) My friend A was a silver-medalist when he graduated. He said he felt like a show horse being awarded a prize.

This is the star attraction--THE ship with scarlet sails. It's waiting here, flags furled, in front of the Summer Garden. Later, as the culmination of the evening, it will sail down the Neva. Troitsky Most will open early to let it sail through. (Have I posted pictures of the bridges open? If not, I'll do that soon. It's really a beautiful sight.)

Pictured above is Troitsky Most, my most favorite bridge, with flags flying. (And, below, the street just before the bridge.) Who's been reading this blog long enough to remember who designed this bridge? Big points to the winner...

That night there was a concert in Palace Square. A brass military band played first. It was great! It wasn't crowded and we sat on the cobblestones and listened. It felt a little like Symphony in the Park on 4th of July back in Colorado Springs.

I thought these flag holders would be performing later. Turns out, they were just waiting to be planted in the crowd.

At 11:00 (Did you see the sign said 23 June at 23:00 at the top?) the festivities began in earnest. They were televised live for the first time. It was a spectacle! After some speeches, sails were raised around the angel and balloons were released.

After that, two Eurovision winners (I think...maybe just contestants...) sang. They were entertaining and not too ROCK-y.

The Hermitage clock to show you that it's midnight.

There were some strange entertainments. These are girls on some sort of automated track. They looked like birthday cakes you bake in a bowl and stick a Barbie in. They glided on stage and did some synchronized arm movements. At other times, girls were suspended in the air (HIGH in the air) and spun around and were superimposed over an ocean scene. And, there was a girl in a giant ball that was rolled onto the crowd. The crowd passed that ball (rave-like) around the square. Pix didn't capture that.

By this time, the square was full and the mood (not to mention the blood alcohol level) of the crowd was changing. We took our cue from a nearby celebrant who vomited all over the cobble stones and left. We walked down to the Neva to see the next part of the festivities. The problem was, people had been gathering there for hours. We were packed in and could see nothing.

Neither could the people in this photo. They scaled the scaffolding on this building. Then, they tore off the protective covering (see the top levels that are still intact?) so they could see better. They were well-chuffed (very pleased with themselves) until a woman came marching up the street. She really tore into them! I don't know who she was, but shortly after her tirade, the militsia arrived followed by the riot police. People scrambled off the scaffolding. Soon, others took their place. The scene played out repeatedly.

About 1:30 a.m. the fireworks started. (It wasn't really this dark...) It was so odd to watch fireworks as the sky got lighter...

After the fireworks, the crowd was very restless. We got tired of the broken bottles, the drinking and the unruliness and opted to go home.

Fortunately for me, I turned to see if friends were following just as the ship, flags unfurled, sailed down the river. It was beautiful! Unfortunately for you, I don't have a picture of it.

WHICH reminds me...Saturday morning I was looking at the smudge on my lcd screen on the camera and idly wondering what would happen if it was broken. That night, after a bag search in Palace Square, I pulled out my camera to find (yep) a broken lcd screen. This means I have no options anymore. I can only point and shoot. I think I may be looking for a new camera soon.


Tami said...

Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us! It's great learning more about Russia culture and hearing about life there. Someday I'm going to make it to St. Pete's...it sounds like a beautiful city!

MoscowMom said...

Thanks for taking the time to do that post; I love reading about the different celebrations... It's interesting that we didn't have that here in Moscow!

votemom said...

sounds like a really cool tradition. too bad it ends up just turning into a drunken party.

the scarlet sails are beautiful on the water.

did you find another sw-er yet? did you know i am a sw-er? i will do your home study!!!

Rachael said...

I saw something somewhere (on the internet maybe?) about the Russian girls at high school graduation and how they dress, with the short skirts and stockings and big hair bows, and then go trouncing around town drinking and splashing in fountains. This reminded me of that on a grander scale. It's actually quiet fascinating!

Loved seeing the sky lit up late at night -- kind of reminds me of Las Vegas.

Too bad on the camera. I had a similar incident recently, you know and had to replace mine. Hope you can keep showing us the pics though!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Was the Troitsky Most designed by Mr. Eiffel of towering fame?

Jenni said...

Thanks for sharing some more Russia culture with us. Very interesting!

Sorry about your camera though.

Debi said...

you have the coolest blog!!

kate said...

rocketgin wins the bridge contest! ;> maladyets.

Anonymous said...

How did I miss every single one of these events when I was there last year? Well, I saw the Land of Opportunity signs, but I don't remember anything else. Was I just such a tired stick in the mud that we slept through it all?