Thursday, September 23, 2010

Down With The Sickness

The downsides to being sick are obvious. 1. I'm sick... Nobody likes spending the day with their head spinning and their stomach hurting. 2. You don't see any of your friends. 3. You don't get any work done.
What it does mean however is that I can write blog posts! I'll keep this one short though, I'm on my last legs for the day. Our excursion this week was to the fortress of орещек, or roughly translated, "the nut" due to the fact that it looks like a nut when viewed from above(?) I can't say as though I found it to be particularly nut-like. The fortress is now largely a ruin, located on a wind swept island at the mouth of the Neva River on Lake Ladoga. Despite it's ominous, and decidedly melancholy appearance, the fortress has a fascinating history. Built first by the Swedes in the 11th or 12th century, and again by the Republic of Novgorod in the 14th, the land around Ladoga was the prize territory sought by the Swedes and Russians over seven hundred years of warfare. After it's seizure by Peter the Great during the Great Northern War, the fortress took on the role of prison, housing many famous inmates, such as Ivan VI, the ill-fated Russian heir to the Tsarist throne who spent all 24 years of his life in prison, before being shot and killed by prison guards during a botched breakout attempt by his supporters, to Lenin's older brother, who was hung beneath the fortress's crumbling walls. In more recent history, the fortress served as a vital bastion in the defense of Leningrad that prevented the Germans and Finns from completely sealing off the city. The fortress withstood three years of nearly constant bombardment from German artillery, and kept open the vital "Road of Life" across Lake Onega, allowing the beleaguered city to cling to life for the nearly 900 day siege. Surprisingly enough, the Soviet garrison of the fortress only suffered 24 casualties in almost three years of fighting. To put that into perspective, the 1943 offensive to break the German blockade only miles away ended in almost 50,000 Soviet deaths. Now the fortress is only a ruin, a stark memorial to a long history of violence and death.
That being said, the tour was fascinating, and it was quite enjoyable walking around, and in some cases climbing on, the rather surreal ruins of walls, towers, and churches. My friend Rob climbed the spire of the fortress's dilapidated church, a harrowing and impressive feat that I imagine required no small amount of skill/
Alas however, now I am ill, my plans to meet with Lyuda have once again been torpedoed, and my work load is piling up. Such is life I guess...

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