Military Parade, Saint Petersburg

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

On my first day in Saint Petersburg my wanderings took me twice through Palace Square, the huge square between the Winter Palace/Hermitage and a monumental building called the General Staff that used to house much of the royal administration.  In the middle of it is a giant column named for Tsar Alexander II.

Around 2:00 in the afternoon the square was nearly empty.  However, when I returned around 6:00 it was nearly filled up with thousands of soldiers in formation around the edges and a large marching band in the center.  "Wow, a real live Russian military parade," I thought and went into my National Geographic photographer wannabe mode, snapping pictures like crazy.  It was great - there was some ceremony with a few bigwigs involved, the band played the national anthem, among other things, the soldiers all marched around the square and then back into formation twice, the whole process taking a good two hours before the finish.

I found this all to be very fascinating, as did a few other tourists.  I couldn't help but wonder, though, "Where are all the spectators?  Why isn't anybody else watching?  Do they just have no interest?"  I mean, the lovers didn't stop necking, the cyclists didn't dismount, the rollerbladers didn't slow down, and few locals walking by stopped for more than a few seconds.  I also couldn't figure out what the occasion might be since I can't recall April 16th having any particular significance. 

Two days later as I was leaving the Hermitage I felt struck by deja vu.  The whole procedure was happening all over again exactly as before, except this time in a cold drizzle.  Amazing but true, this is all just a dress rehearsal for the May 9 commemoration of victory in WWII.

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