Sailing Ships, Politics, and Dosteovsky: Day 5 in St Petersburg

Remember the nice Russian women who spoke English and were on the train with me when I got on in Irkutsk? Well, Natasha really did mean her invitation to come check out the ship she crews on, the Mir. It’s a large sailing ship used as a training ship for the merchant marine cadets. (I just checked and it even has its own wiki page, so google it to see lovely pictures until I can get mine…groan…off of my camera finally.)

Aasa and I headed out to the quay where the ship is moored, next to an old submarine that’s now a museum and by a lovely Russian Orthodox Church. We managed surprisingly to get there right on time, and were wondering what to do to hail the ship as neither of us wanted to pass the “no entry” sign at the bottom of the ladder even though we had an invitation. Shouting “ahoy” seemed appropriate for a sailing ship yet also extremely embarrassing. Luckily for my dignity, one of the crew members came out on deck and we called up to him to ask for Natasha.

We then were lucky enough to get an hour tour of the ship. You have an idea that the ship is big when standing on her deck, but it just didn’t really sink in how big (capacity for 200 people) until we got to go all around it. We saw the officers’ dining area, the crew’s dining area, and the captain’s (which made me feel like I was in a Horatio Hornblower novel of the Napoleonic wars). We saw where they store the sails. Since the crew member who repairs their sails was there, we got to see the cuff-like device they use as a thimble to get the huge needles through the fabric of the sails. We went down into the warmth and noise of the engine room (which made me feel like I was in a movie set.) We saw the navigational bridge and got to try out a sextant, which was incredible.

After our tour, we sat in the crew’s lounge and had tea. Unfortunately, Natasha got called away to lead a school tour. Since it was a busy Sunday, we left.

We stopped for lunch and then headed over to the Museum of Political History. The museum apparently acts as a concert venue on Sunday afternoons, so we couldn’t see all of the exhibits, but as we were both pretty tired we didn’t mind too much. We started out looking at an exhibit of documents and photographs (and a few artifacts like uniforms) from the Russian Civil War. The English language guides were extensive. The highlights were the room that was Lenin’s office and the room next to it which was also a recreated office. We could see the balcony where Lenin would address the crowds.

We then ran upstairs to a one room exhibit on the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the title of the exhibit indicated that it would address whether the collapse was natural or a “criminal conspiracy”, it was really just an exhibit of (interesting) political posters and an outline of the events leading up to the collapse. Not that I think the collapse was a criminal conspiracy, but I was hoping to learn more about various schools of thought in Russia and how they viewed the collapse. What I got out of that was at least the museum curators view the collapse the way we do in the West.

The last part of the museum was what we had come for, so it was unfortunate that it was on the end of the route. I was exhausted, so I only took a twenty minute walk-through. This part of the museum had displays (photos, articles of daily living, documents) on the Stalin period through Brezhnev. The most interesting display to me was the nook that was set up to look like a samizdat writing/publishing room. (Samizdat was the underground publishing movement under Communism.)

I wanted to take a look at Dosteovsky’s
neighborhood on my way back so I detoured a few blocks to see the street he lived on and a couple of houses where Raskolnikov might have lived. (I already posted pictures of those and the WordPress app even uploaded it in duplicate so you can enjoy it to your hearts’ content.)

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