Despite of feeling very tired and ill and not having enough sleep the night before, I got up at 6.30am for today is the Victory Day Parade!
Went to bed late the night before coz my laundry wasn’t done till past midnight, then I began waking up intermittently from 5.30am onwards coz I was subconsiously afraid that my alarm might wake the rest of the girls up. :(
Physically, I really needed to stay in bed, but hey, this is the biggest V Day parade in history (well, besides the first one I suppose) and I really shouldn’t miss it! So I dragged myself out of bed, had some breakfast, bumped into Alex (I think that’s his name anyways) and we headed off together.
Alex is this Slovenian guy who I at first thought was just over-enthusiastic but very nice. He showed me photos of his foray into the Kremlin and of night views of the city, and gave me some of his medicine for sore-throats. So I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have some company for a day.
But as I walked with him to the parade, I realised that he was getting more and more eccentric by the minute. He tends to get over-excited and started talking quite loudly.
As we neared the route of the parade, we found out that all streets leading to the main route were blocked off and guarded. I more or less just shrugged. I mean, what are you supposed to do? Fight the Russian police?
But Alex was incredulous.
He first tried speaking to the guards. They don’t speak any English and his Slovenian appeared to be semi-passable as Russian. Then he started pestering them. At each road block, there was a line of guards. He went from one to the next, going from asking nicely, to pleading, and then to finally hands-up-in-the-air-are-you-guys-effing-serious loud and obnoxious.
After exhausting each guard at a roadblock, he proceeded from one road block to the next, saying loudly, to passersby, “WHAT IS THE POINT OF A PARADE IF THE PUBLIC CAN’T SEE IT?!” “I’M NOT A TERRORIST! I JUST WANT TO TAKE SOME PHOTOS!” “STUPID RUSSIAN MENTALITY!”
At which point I started distancing myself from him. Dude, however adventurous I felt, I didn’t feel like seeing the inside of a Russian police station.
At one point, he went up to some people setting up stalls selling Russian flags and military-style hats and declared, “WHY WOULD WE WANT TO BUY THESE THINGS WHEN WE CAN’T SEE THE PARADE?! JUST GO HOME!! EVERYONE GO HOME!”
Obnoxious as he was, he did have a point. From where everyone was, you could see zilch. Each street was guarded and views blocked by huge dump trucks. This was obviously a parade for the TV cameras, for the world’s media. We found out from some passersby that the parade had always been open to the public each year, but perhaps due to the high profile of this year’s parade (foreign troops marching in it for the first time ever and all), they weren’t not taking any chances.
While roaming the streets aimlessly (with him screaming at random people and me following wearily behind since I had no where else to go but at the same time didn’t wanna miss out if for some miraculous reason they got sick of him and let him through the barricades!), we ran into an Italian journalist who was also trying to get pass the roadblocks. In contrast, he was reasoning with the guards very nicely while showing them his proper credentials.
Alex suddenly decided that he was a journalist too and pulled out some random business card from his wallet and started waving it about. The guards took, at least, the Italian seriously and examined his credentials, made a few calls, and waved us down to a checkpoint further down the road where we might have a better chance of getting in. Aha! Hope at last!
So we somehow tagged along and the journalist (I’ve forgotten his name now) for some reason embraced us as well and took us under his wing. At the designated checkpoint, the same explanations and discussions ensued and I was now introduced as his “colleague from Hong Kong”. I’m not sure if journalists would wear just a t-shirt with a backpack, but I tried putting on as journalistic a face as I could and decided it’s best if I didn’t say anything. Meanwhile, Alex was at the front waving about as usual.
Discussions and phone calls amongst the police ensued and we stood around waiting and hoping and acting all journalistic. But after a long while, the final answer was no. No amount of pleading and yelling from Alex could change their mind.
The Italian told me under his breath that my friend is crazy. I made sure I clarified that I’ve just met him.
So now it’s the three of us, this rag-tag team of I-don’t-know-what-to-call-us just roaming about. We floated along with the disappointed crowd and eventually found ourselves in a square that was open to the parade route and wasn’t blocked off! It was the Pushkin Square and it was full of people! Must be one of the only places left where the public could see it!