Monday, 23 September 2013

С Днем Рождения Воронеж!

Saturday 21st marked the two week-iversary of our arrival here in Voronezh and what better way to celebrate than a day of parades, street entertainment and fireworks! Before you think our new comrades rolled out the red carpet just for us, let me explain - День Города marks the anniversary of the founding of the town and, as far as I can tell, every fairly large city rolls out the bunting every year for a day of general merriment.

Determined to take every opportunity to take part, Isobel and I braved the winds to attend the opening ceremony in Lenin Square. When we arrived, a choir on the main stage were serenading the crowd. Soon enough they were replaced by two enthusiastic announcers who introduced the regional big cheeses like the governor of Voronezh and the head of the Church amongst others. They each made stirring speeches greeted with shouts of  'урах!' (some kind of intimidating sounding hurrah?!) from those who had gathered to watch. Isobel and I joined in to the best of our ability (i.e. enthusiastically and out of time whilst the Russians tutted at us). 

Following the speeches came a seemingly never ending parade. The first cohort, mainly made up of school age children, were representing the different regions of this city with gusto in their costumes.

We 'урах'-ed for central region to show our allegiance to the University - ВГУ represent!

The second section of the parade were small groups representing the different nationalities of the city, all in traditional costume.

The final section was representing the products and institutions of Voronezh - personal highlights include the Milk lorry complete with cows, the chocolate man and confectionery factory workers, the giant cola polar bear and the Voronezh Anti-Narcotics campaign (complete with needle and vein balloon!).

Isobel and I decided enough was enough when a giant sausage inflatable was being paraded past- tea break it was.

After a well deserved warm up, me and some of the other girls from uni were up and off to explore. The main street, проспект революции, had been pedestrianised a filled with stands (mostly candy floss and nick nacks) and stages with all kinds of entertainment. Just outside the cafe, they had turned one half of the street in to numerous different sports pitches where teens were playing football, basketball, volleyball and even ping-pong.

On the way to the parade in the morning, I'd also had to dodge skiers on wheels racing down my street!

On the sports stage, what I can only describe as an all round crazy man was challenging members of the public to competitions. These included the classic 'normal man whacking nails in to a plank of wood with a hammer vs crazy man whacking them in with his palm' and my personal favourite 'children trying to burst balloons with their breath vs crazy man doing the same with a hot water bottle'.

On the second largest stage of the day, there were several performances by very cute little ones in garish costumes and also some gypsy dance demonstrations. In a country that in the British media is very quick to brand intolerant, I was surprised how many different nationalities had been embraced in the celebrations: both in the parades and entertainment. Traditional folk dancers shared the street with Native American pipe players - it was refreshing to see.

Samantha and I are big fans of the arts so we set up camp by the State Art Academy, whose performances were the highlight of the day for me. From the accordionist to the opera singers and the string quartet, every performance outdid the last.

Scattered amongst the performances were ridiculous competitions run by their sponsor Софтком Банк, a bank which we'd never seen or heard of. After managed to avoid being pulled in to the limbo contest, the second time of asking me to join in they were not taking no for an answer. So I was pulled over the barrier to take part in a contest where I had to name musical instruments :| Taking pity on the short foreign one, they let me participate in English. Whether it be the fact I was the butt of all their jokes, or that fact they couldn't understand a word I said, I somehow won the competition and ended up with my very own Софтком Банк golf umbrella, which my host mum complimented me on enthusiastically on my return home.

After dinner and a lay down, it was up and off again to round of the day with a fireworks display down on the river bank. Though it was cold and drizzling, it was most definitely worth seeing the day's festivities through til the end.

As the entertainment on the river bank came to a close after the 15 minute display, we decided going for a beer was almost mandatory: big mistake! Everywhere was rammed and after we'd managed to nab a table (outside!) it took us nearly an hour and half to order and get our drinks! We were then regaled with Russian love stories and tales of the Napoleonic war from the standard drunk Russian man thinking he was educating the newcomers. An amusing end to the day and a good story to tell.

What shall week 3 bring...guess you'll see next week!


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