Russia has a fun little tradition of making a Day Off so complicated that you almost wish they would either 1.) just let you have the freaking day off! or 2.) just forget the whole thing. Instead of giving us a holiday, we have to make it up at the weekend.
Entering the second half of May, we were all sent a calendar for keeping the next month straight. A week looked like this:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday/Saturday, Saturday/Sunday
Holiday, Holiday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday/Saturday, Saturday/Sunday
Holiday, Holiday, Holiday, Thursday, Friday, Tuesday/Saturday, Sunday
When you have a schedule that changes daily, and taking into consideration that you’re in a different part of the city depending on which day it is, this can get confusing. I had to remind myself frequently which ‘real’ day it was and which ‘actual’ day it was. Some of my students informed me with a grin that the crazy holiday schedules is the government’s only proof that they’re actual doing something.
For the first holiday weekend, I accompanied my Russian family to Novgorod. We rented a car took off for the countryside along with the rest of St. Petersburg. Novgorod boasts the oldest Kremlin (fortress) in Russia, and it’s beautifully preserved. It was so refreshing to get away from the city and spend time in a clean, peaceful town. We explored the many churches, did a river tour, visited the monastery and went to an open-air museum of wooden houses built in the old Russian style.
The next holiday weekend I was home alone while my family went to Belarus to visit Uncle Misha. (Isn’t that the greatest sentence ever? “What did you do this weekend?” “I went to Belarus to visit Uncle Misha.”) The first day of the holiday I had a Skype date with Daniel to celebrate our one year anniversary, then I had a diligent day of Getting Stuff Done That’s Been Put Off for Far Too Long and Needs to Happen NOW. The next day I went to a small city near St. Petersburg called Gatchina to explore the palace and the adjacent park. The palace was the official imperial residence or second residence for several tsars, including the Romanovs. During World War II the palace was occupied by the Germans and then destroyed as they fled the city. Restorations from this damage are still taking place.