August 14, 2008

Yesterday, although admittedly not a shepherd’s delight, was an ok sort of day. That is until I got back from work and found out that somebody had tried to deliver me a “povestka” (summons) to the draft committee - a body that, a-hem, well, oversees military drafts and such. I, being ever so slightly above draft age, am a qualified telecommunications engineer with a military rank of lieutenant. The latter was slapped on me when I graduated and every now and then I am still wanted for field-training. This rather annoying event creates all sorts of complications: being off work for a couple of weeks at a time not convenient to myself, missing out on quality time with my wife and children at the beginning of the school year and, simply, spending a fortnight in the company of strangers I would not normally choose to socialize with in the first place. As I did not sign for delivery I will not be expected to show up, so I won’t.

The army and I stopped talking a long time ago. The last face to face encounter was when I was changing my address and had to go and get my passport stamped at the draft place. I was a little worried I might be asked to complete all those field-trainings I owed them, but I guess, as any self-respecting bureaucracy, they got different departments for different things and the departments don’t communicate all that well. The chap in charge, a sub-colonel of this or the other, got mildly pissed off at the fact that I didn’t care to come and get my promotion signed some years ago. He was nice bloke though and didn’t want to let me go without said promotion put in my papers although I tried to reassure him it was perfectly fine with me. He had three pens in his possession and one by one they all failed to work, I swear I saw them running out of ink on me. He finished the job with one of them old-fashioned pens that you dip into the ink first. The tip of it broke off as he was writing. I still have this record, a four word sentence written in four different pens.

When I was a boy I dreamed of becoming a soldier. My favorite museum was the Artillery Museum. It displays articles of warfare dating back to medieval times. It also has three or four rooms devoted solely to WWII. Last summer a friend with a son came to visit and I took the boy to the museum. He loved it. I was disappointed. The magic was gone, my eyes saw nothing but piles of old junk. Directly opposite the Artillery Museum stands the Peter and Paul Fortress, an establishment I did not care for during my boyhood (apart from maybe its dungeons and bastions). Nowadays I find the walk through its courtyards quite a relaxing and pleasant activity.

The founding of the fortress is considered to mark the founding of the city itself. Its history is a gruesome affair. Many forced laborers died while building it. Its dungeons were used as prison cells. However, its Cathedral, along with other features and splendid views of the Winter Palace across Neva, make a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress a must-do. When in town, go and explore it on your own or, better yet, book one of the guided tours offered by Ost-West Kontaktservice.

Filed under: Sightseeing in St. Petersburg
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 2:26 pm