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ST PETERSBURG TRIP by somewhereinthemiddle



In the very early hours of Friday 3 June, 25 members and friends met at Belfast City
Airport for our flight via Heathrow to St Petersburg, Russia. This was the first UAS Field
trip outside the British Isles, and also the first visit by a West European amateur
archaeological group to that area, except for some small groups from neighbouring
Finland. Prof Yuri Chistov, Director of the Kunstkamera Museum, first suggested the idea
for the trip when he came at Dr Eileen Murphy’s invitation to lecture to us in March 2004.
The trip was planned and organised by our President Tom Hayes over the ensuing
months, in close collaboration with Prof Chistov and the English-speaking archaeologist
Dmitriy Gerasimov of the Kunstkamera Research Division, and with the Russian National
Tourist Agency, Intourist, who provided us with an excellent guide, Maria Luneva, for our
non-archaeology days, and arranged our flights, hotel and coach hire.

As our archaeological outings covered long distances, it was agreed we would alternate
days of sightseeing in and around St Petersburg with daylong coach trips with Dmitriy to
archaeological sites; these days averaged about 300 km. We started with a city tour on
Saturday morning, followed by a Russian lunch, a three-hour visit to the Hermitage
Museum (it takes nine years to see it all!), and most of the group went to the Bolshoi Ballet
in the evening. On Sunday, we set off with Dmitriy to the North-west of the city, towards
the Finnish border, visiting Stone Age (ca 5000 BP) sites on a lake shore, a XVI century
Swedish fortress (Kivenappa) with the site of a XV century church, and the Jalkala
Museum of Karelian archaeology, history and culture. This also had memorabilia of Lenin,
who hid out in a small farmhouse in the Museum grounds before the 1917 Revolution.

That evening most of the group attended a most enjoyable concert of Russian folk music
and dance (accompanied by free vodka on entering and at the interval)

The next day we went to Pushkin, also known as Tsarskoe Selo (Imperial Village) to see
the Palaces of Catherine the Great and Tsar Alexander, and to Pavlovsk (Palace of Tsar
Paul). These XVIII-century palaces are unbelievably impressive. One of our group asked
“How could Catherine afford all this?” to which the reply was “Well, she owned Russia!”

On Tuesday we set off with Dmitriy to the east, following the Murmansk Highway along the
south shore of Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe at 7,000 sq. mi., more than 47
times the area of Lough Neagh. We visited an Early Metal Epoch site (ca 2800 BP) at
Shkurina Gorka on the bank of the Volkhov River. Then we went downstream to Staraya
(Old) Ladoga, a fortress founded in the VIII century AD by Scandinavians or Vikings to
control the route through here, up the Volkhov to Lake Ilmen near Novgorod, thence by
overland portage (usually on sleds in winter) to the Upper Volga, down that mighty river to
the Caspian Sea, the Arab world, and Constantinople. The fort was commanded in the IX
century by Prince Rurik, who is regarded as the first ruler of Rus, the forerunner of Russia.
It was thus the first capital of Russia, a fact that was suppressed during the Soviet period.
The restored fort commands beautiful and extensive views of the Volkhov and the
surrounding countryside. It contains a XII century stone church with frescos of that period,
and a small wooden church, recently restored. On our way back to St Petersburg we
stopped to view the fort of Schlüsselburg, an XVIII century fort commanding the point
where the Neva River flows out of the lake to St Petersburg and the Baltic.

On Wednesday most of the group visited Tsar Peter the Great’s Summer Palace at
Peterhof, with its stunning gardens filled with fantastic fountains and cascades studded
with classical statues coated in solid gold. Meanwhile Tom and Angela Hayes enjoyed a
private conducted tour of the Kunstkamera at the invitation of Prof Chistov, including areas
currently closed to the public. After the Peterhof visit the party enjoyed a boat trip along
many of the canals and rivers, which criss-cross the city.

Thursday was another archaeology day. Dmitriy took us north along the west shore of
Lake Ladoga, viewing a cup-marked stone, a Karelian fortified settlement of the XIII-XVI)
at Tiversk, and several Stone Age sites in the beautiful forest around Melnikovo, including
one at which our party were able to pick up a number of quartz tools and cores from the
sandy soil. After a very enjoyable lunch at a country café we went on to the large fortress
at Priozersk, where the Vuoksa River flows into Lake Ladoga, after which we took the
three-hour journey back to base. That evening we enjoyed a private dinner for the whole
party in a separate part of the excellent hotel restaurant, to which we invited Prof Chistov
and his charming wife Elena.

Friday 10 June was our last day. In the morning many of the party took a tour of the St
Peter and Paul Fortress, which was the first part of the city to be built in 1703 by Peter the
Great, followed by a last opportunity to buy souvenirs before heading off to the airport. On
the way there we viewed a video made by a Russian cameraman who accompanied us on
all our outings, except the last day at Priozersk. He offered copies for sale to the group,
which most of us bought as really excellent souvenirs. We intend to use this in place of an
after-dinner speaker at our annual dinner in the Malone Lodge Hotel on 13 October (7.30
for 8, £20, book with Ken Pullen early).

As you see, this was a very busy seven days. The hotel was good, the food was good,
and nobody was taken ill or had an accident. We learned a lot about Russia, its delightful
people, its archaeology and its turbulent history. Altogether a memorable adventure for us

A detailed account of the trip, with a selection of the hundreds of photographs we took, will
be prepared in due course. Check in for later news.

TD Hayes

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