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27 January the hero city, that was surrounded by German, Finnish and Italian armies for more than 2 years, celebrates the release. In the Siege Leningrad was isolated from the rest of the country, and the courageous people tried to defend their homes.
872 days of the Siege are known in our history as the most tragic, deserving memory and respect. Courage and high spirit of the defenders, sufferings and patience of the city dwellers will always be something to learn for all the future generations. Here are 10 dreadful and amazing facts about the Siege.

1. “Blue division
Officially German, Finnish and Italian soldiers took part in the Siege of Leningrad. However, there was one more group known as the “Blue division”. It was considered that it consisted of Spanish volunteers, as Spain officially was not in the state of war with USSR.
The truth is, on the contrary, that the “Blue division” was a part of the giant crime against Leningrad, as it consisted of soldiers, officially employed by Spanish army. For Soviet soldiers it was the weak spot of the aggressors, as historians say that due to poor food and mistreatment of their own command the Spanish soldiers often moved to the Russian side.

2. “Road of life” and “Lane of death”
The “Road of life” helped people in Leningrad to survive in the first harsh winter of the Siege. In the winter of 1941-1942, when the Ladoga Lake was frozen, the ice served as the connection with the “main land” to transport food and evacuate dwellers – over 550 thousand people.
In January 1943 the Siege was first broken, and on the released spot they built a railroad, which was called “the Road of Victory”. A piece of this road was very close to the German territory, so not all trains got through. This piece of the road was nicknamed the “Lane of death”.

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3. Harsh winter
The first winter of the isolated city was the hardest in the history. From December to May the average temperature was 18 °C below zero, the lowest – 31 degrees. At some places there was about 50 cm of snow.
In these conditions the city dwellers grabbed every opportunity to get warm. The homes were heated by iron stoves, and the people burnt everything that could burn: books, paintings, furniture. The central heating system of the city was out of function, as well as draining system and running water.

4. Heroic cats
In the modern St Petersburg there is a small statue of a cat. It is not very well-known, but this is the monument to cats, who saved the city twice. In the first year the people ate all their pets, including cats, and thanks to that lots of them did not die of starvation. However, in the following years because of the absence of cats the city was flooded by rats. After the breach of the Siege one of the first trains that came to Leningrad, brought four cars of cats, and they saved people’s supplies.

5. 150 thousand bombs
During the Siege Leningrad suffered innumerous aviation and artillery attacks, which took place a few times a day. Totally, there were about 150 thousand missiles and 107 thousand bombs thrown at the city.
To inform the dwellers about the attacks, there were 1500 dynamics installed on the streets. The signal was metronome: the fast rhythm meant the beginning of an attack, slower rhythm – the end of it. Now the sound of metronome is one of the symbols of the Siege and the courage of Leningrad’s people.

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6. Three waves of evacuation
In the years of war the Soviet soldiers performed three evacuation campaigns in the blocked and starving city. Totally they evacuated about 1.5 million people, which was almost half of the population.
The first campaign was arranged in the beginning of war – 29 June 1941. However, the people did not want to leave their homes, so only 400 thousand people were taken away. The second campaign took place from September 1941 to April 1942, and the main way of evacuation was the “Road of life”, which saved about 600 thousand people. In the third campaign in May-October 1942 about 400 people were taken out of Leningrad.

7. Minimal food kit
The main problem of the blocked Leningrad was starvation. The crisis began in September 1941, when the food supplies were bombed. The peak of starvation was from November to December 1941, when soldiers at the front got 500 grams of bread daily, the workers of hot shops at factories get 375 grams, the workers of other industries – 250 grams, and the rest of the people – 125 grams (3 small and thin pieces). The bread was made of rye and oat flour and waste, it was black and had bitter taste.

8. The case of scientists
In the first 2 years of the Siege about 200 to 300 employees of the universities and their families were sentenced for “anti-soviet, contra revolutionary and treasonable actions”. As the result, 32 highly qualified specialists were sentenced to death, 4 of them were shot, and others sent to labor camps where a lot of them died. They were rehabilitated in 1954-55 and there was another case against those who sentenced them.

9. Duration of the Siege
The Siege of Leningrad was 872 days long (8 September 1941 – 27 January 1944). It was first broken in 1943. 17 January the town of Shlisselburg was released by Soviet soldiers, and the overland corridor between Leningrad and the main land was created.
After the release of the Siege the city was surrounded for another half a year, as the German troops were located in Vyborg and Petrozavodsk. They left only after the campaigns in July and August 1944.

10. Victims
At the process in Nuremberg the Soviet Union announced 630 thousand victims of the Siege of Leningrad, however, the historians doubt this number. The real number can be up to 1.5 million people.
Apart from the number of deaths it is absolutely dreadful why those people died. Only 3% of all victims died in bombings and aviation attacks – the rest did not survive starvation. Dead bodies lying on the streets were usual thing in the days of the Siege.

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New Year is the most beloved and expected holiday in Russia, which is more popular than Christmas. Some traditions that all Russians follow at this time seem strange for foreigners, however, if you are planning to celebrate New Year in the most mysterious country, you should know at least the main ones.
Big night from 31 December to 1 January.

The celebrations begin on 31 December
In the last day of the year you need to clean your home, decorate the tree (if you haven’t done this yet), cook A LOT of food, choose a fancy outfit, prepare the dining table, decorate your house, check and pack all the presents, dress up and be beautiful, fresh and smiling until the new year. This is the task for a special operative group of FBI or an ordinary Russian woman.
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Royal dinner for New Year’s Eve.
For New Year celebrations a standard Russian family cooks enough to feed an army. Usually they have a few salads with plenty of mayonnaise, some cold and hot starters, one or two main courses and a cake. The main fruit for New Year is tangerine – seems like Russia is flooded with them from December to January. There is also lots of alcohol, so if on 1 January you wake up with your face in the salad, that means the celebration was brilliant!
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No New Year without Champaign.No New Year without Champaign.
The most traditional drink for New Year’s Eve is Champaign. This tradition originates from the 1950s, when the government decided to demonstrate its support to people and announced that every Soviet family will have a bottle of Soviet Champaign for New Year celebration. Since then everyone drinks Champaign, even if normally they don’t like it. You should make a wish at midnight while the clock on the Kremlin’s tower is ringing, write it down on a piece of paper, burn it, throw the ashes into your glass of Champaign and drink it up. If you are quick enough, your wish will come true!
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New Year Tree.
Just like in Western countries it is traditional to decorate the Christmas tree, in Russia we decorate New Year Tree. Actually, it used to be Christmas tree before the revolution in 1917, and after that the atheistic Soviet government substituted Christmas with New Year. Everything is done identically to the Christmas decorations in the West – but a week later.
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Paper snow flakes
You will not see this anywhere except Russia. We cut beautiful and delicate snow flakes out of paper and put them on every possible surface. Most common place is windows and mirrors, and this indeed creates the feeling of a coming holiday!
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Congratulations from the President
Most Russians celebrate New Year at home with their family. What do they normally do there? Watch TV! It is surprising how we are not tired of watching the same movies and songs over and over again every single year. But the culmination of this epic TV marathon is the New Year congratulations from the President broadcasted just a few minutes before midnight. The most patriotic citizens listen to in standing on their feet with a mandatory glass of Champaign in their hand.
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Old New Year.
This is probably the most weird concept of the whole holiday period. After the revolution in 1917 Russia moved to the Western Gregorian calendar from the Julian one. However, everyone remembers the date of the New Year according to the Julian calendar, which comes a couple of weeks later – on 14 January by the Gregorian calendar. For us this is another good reason to celebrate, as there is never too much of a holiday!
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Christmas greetings from St Petersburg! This

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This world cannot live without wonders. Surprisingly, it is harder for us to believe in ourselves than in a fairy tale. Every day we seem to be playing roles in a performance of an unknown author, who must be laughing at us, but still gives us hope for tomorrow. So let us never lose this hope and believe in the better tomorrow! May the light of street lamps illuminate your way, as the snowflakes will be sparkling like stars on the road. May this light be within your heart and give warmth to your family and everyone surrounding you. Merry Christmas!!!

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There are lots and lots of picturesque places in the Northern capital of Russia, however, there are views that are more popular than others. If you don’t have photos with them, no one is going to believe that you’ve been to St Petersburg. Here are some spots that you will definitely want a picture of:
Peter and Paul’s Fortress. Being the very heart and the very beginning of St Petersburg, this is quite a remarkable place. The spire of the Peter and Paul’s Cathedral is the highest point of the city centre and one of the landmarks. The typical postcard picture is the cathedral spire caught between the two halves of the Palace Bridge going up. Have a night walk and see if you can get such a photo.

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Savior on the Spilled Blood. This is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in St Petersburg, and also one of the most “Russian” construction in this very European city. This church looks like a stone flower, and its other peculiarity is that it is built right on the canal. When you look at it, it seems like the building is floating. So the program view is the canal embankment, leading to the cathedral.

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Palace Square. You cannot possibly visit St Petersburg without taking a picture of its main square and the building with the longest façade in Europe – the General Staff Building, which was recently restored and is now housing the Impressionist collection of the Hermitage. Make sure the central arch of the building is right in the middle of your photo, and the Alexander’s Column in the centre of the square divides the shot into two equal parts – proportion is the key to harmony!

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St Isaac’s Cathedral. This is the fourth biggest cathedral in Europe, so there is absolutely no chance you can miss it. It is photographed from all possible angles, in all seasons and at all times of the day, so there are millions of pictures with this view. The most popular one would probably be the shot made from the St Isaac’s square, from under the monument to Nicholas I – look for the horseman in the centre.

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Bank bridge. This is not only a beautiful and popular tourist spot, but also one of the “magic” places of St Petersburg. If you wish to have financial growth, make your wish between the golden-winged griffons, and they will fly to fulfill it as soon as they can. As a bonus, you can take a postcard picture with the bridge, which has already become one of the symbols of St Petersburg.

DENTAL HORRORS OF THE RUSSIAN THRONE

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Nothing surprising that even the members of the imperial family were helpless and lost facing different diseases, which sometimes were rather peculiar. However, even in this very special field they occasionally were quite initiative and tried to cure illnesses by their own efforts. For instance, the Emperor Peter I was such a multi-talented ruler, that he attended medical lectures, and was particularly fond of pulling out teeth. By the way, the teeth were not necessarily holed, sometimes they were absolutely fine.

The desire to learn more and more new things made the Emperor to be the first in the line for new skills and information. The fearless Peter liked practicing the new things he learnt straight away, especially those he was taught abroad. He was particularly glad to learn dentistry, and as soon as someone of his associates complained about a toothache, he grabbed his box with medical instruments (which he always carried everywhere) and pulled the tooth out.
Very often good teeth also suffered from Peter’s enthusiasm. You can still see the proof of it in the Kunstkamera museum, where the dreadful instruments and the collection of teeth, pulled out by the imperial hand.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!!

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If the whole Earth population is reduced to a village of 100 people, then, considering all proportions, this village will look like this:

– 57 Asians;
– 21 Europeans;
– 14 Americans (Northern and Southern);
– 8 Africans;

– 52 will be women;
– 48 men;
– 70 non-white;
– 30 white;
– 89 heterosexual;
– 11 homosexual;
– 6 individuals will possess 59% of all the world’s wealth, and they all will come from the USA;
– 80 will not have adequate housing;
– 70 will be illiterate;
– 50 will not have enough food;
– 1 will die;
– 2 will be born;
– 1 will have a computer;
– 1 (ONLY ONE) will be highly educated.

If you look at the world from this point of view, you see that we are in great need of sympathy, understanding, patience and education. Just think of it.

If you woke up healthy this morning, you are happier than 1 million people who will die before the next week.

If you have never experienced a war, an isolation of a prison cell, pain of tortures or starvation, you are happier than 500 million people in the world.

If you can go to your church without a fear of being trapped or killed, you are happier than 3 billion people on earth.

If you have food in your fridge, you are well dressed, you have a home and a bed,
you are richer than 75% people in the world.

If you have a bank account, money in your wallet and a few coins in your pocket,
you belong to 8% of the most wealthy people in the world.

If you are reading this, you are blessed twice, as:
1) someone is thinking of you;
2) you don’t belong to the 2 billion people who cannot read, and…
3) you have a computer!

Somebody once said:

– Work as if you don’t need money,
– love as if you’ve never been hurt,
– dance as if no one sees you,
– sing as if no one hears you,
– live as if earth is paradise.
There is always something to be grateful for. We thank you all for being with us today, for our great experiences in the past and for our mutual great plans for the future. Happy thanksgiving day!!!

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OPEN ART FOR EVERYONE

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You can visit Menshikov Palace, which is a part of the Hermitage Museum, for free. This is something pleasant that November 2016 offers you. 

The largest bank of Russia – Sberbank – is celebrating its 175th birthday and free admission to the Hermitage is their gift for the dwellers and guests of St Petersburg. Even though they do not open the main complex for free access, Menshikov Palace is also an incredible place to visit. Honestly, how many of you have been there? Apart from the luxurious palace interiors, you have a unique chance to see the restores copy of the most famous painting by Jheronimus Bosch “Garden of Earthly Delights” (central part).
You can visit the Palace every day (except Mondays) from 12 to 30 November in the working hours of the Hermitage. Great time to see and learn something new!

HER MAJESTY’S BEAUTY SECRETS

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It sounds unbelievable, but the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter I, was known as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, however, she was not educated. She was mainly interested in her own beauty, dresses and parties, than in education and science. She never read books, and even being the head of the state she did not know, for instance, that Great Britain was an island. She was a living proof that beautiful women have only one task in their life, which is just sit and look pretty. Elizabeth loved dressing up, and after her death about 15 000 dresses were found in her wardrobes – sure, as an Empress she could not allow herself to appear in public in one and the same dress twice!

By the way, she was also known as “cheerful Elizabeth”, as her balls and parties were running up to 5 am and gained the world fame. But looking pretty was still important, so Elizabeth forbade to install candles and chandeliers up on the ceiling – they should have been on the level of her face, so no one sees the shadows under her eyes. Besides, the Empress could regularly check how she looked in the innumerous mirrors in the interiors – they came in fashion right in her reign. Coincidence? Don’t think so.

Elizabeth was particularly fond of masquerades, where she ordered all gentlemen to wear women’s outfits. The very thought of the poor men having to wear huge dresses of the 18th century can make you cry. On the other hand, the ladies had to wear military uniforms with very tight pants. Elizabeth strongly believed that there are no legs in the world that are more beautiful than her own, so she was very happy when the ladies did not look too well in the military outfits. Just as the queen in a well known fairy tale, she could not allow anyone to look better than Her Majesty.

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Recently on the Italian Sardinia island the ceremony for the most prestigious world award in the travel industry – World Travel Awards – took place. Within the contest which gives the award known as “Travel Oscar” St Petersburg has become the best in the nomination “Best travel destination in Europe” for the second time.

The responsible committee considers the safety of the destination, its infrastructure and hotel market, according to RATA-News. As the President of World Travel Awards Graham Cook announced, “everyone who voted determined St Petersburg as the best destination on the continent, which welcomes more and more foreign travelers from all over the world”.

This year Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Edinburgh, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Paris, Portu, Yorkshire and 3 Italian cities – Rome, Florence and Venice – took part in the contest for the most attractive destination for tourists together with St Petersburg.

THE OTHER SIDE OF ROYALTY

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Did you know that a lot of little pleasures of today have rather stinky origin? Saying “stinky” we assume the most literal meaning of this word you can possibly imagine. Just think about perfume and elegant wide-brimmed hats: where you think the ideas come from?

Both these things originate from medieval Europe, and were nothing else but the protection from anti-sanitary environment. Strong perfume was used to compete with the stinky odors, which were usual even in royal palaces, as with all the gold and luxury the residences of royalty and aristocracy did not have such things as bathrooms. Moreover, it was considered immoral and unhealthy to bathe, and a lot of people were washed only twice in their lives: at their birth and death.

Elegant wide brims of the hats have a similar story behind. In medieval cities and towns all the home waste was just dumped out of windows. If you were not attentive or quick enough, it could all land on your head, so these hats were invented as the means of protection.

At the same time in Russia the hygienic standards were almost like that. For instance, if you visit one of the Russian palaces, you can find strange sticks on the toilette tables beside a mirror. They were usually made of porcelain or gold and silver, but used for something not romantic at all. Those fancy hairstyles you see on the old portraits were inhabited by flees, so the noble ladies and gentlemen used the sticks to scratch their heads. Besides, they had pretty little porcelain boxes to put there flees they caught. What a peculiar medieval alternative to the modern toy dogs!

When you think of old times in this perspective, you probably are thankful that you were born and raised in the modern world with running water in every home. However, these are some facts that bring you closer to the old aristocracy and prove that they were humans just like us.

Follow the news and you will not miss any of the amazing facts and anecdotes we have in store for you!
P.S. We are not equipped with a time machine to bring you back to the times of the Tzars and give you a chance to see them in person. However, we have another interesting offer for you: what about coming to St Petersburg at half price next year and visiting all those royal palaces? You are also most welcome to tell your friends about it, or share on the forums you visit, so more people have the opportunity to walk around the palace halls, which are nowadays clean and shiny.

Safe travels and bright impressions anywhere you go!

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