ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (NNS) -- With a Russian Navy Band playing music at the pier, guided-missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) departed St. Petersburg, Russia, July 7 after spending four days celebrating the 300th anniversary of the beautiful port city.
The port visit included a Fourth of July observance and a birthday commemoration of U.S. and Russian naval hero Adm. John Paul Jones, solidifying ties between the two navies. It was the first visit of a U.S. naval ship to the city since 1996.
Throughout the trip, Nicholas Sailors enjoyed the rich history and culture the city offered through tours of sites including the Peter and Paul Fortress, the first permanent structure in St. Petersburg, and the Hermitage, Russia's largest museum housing masterpieces from Da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh. Crew members visited the great cathedrals of the city, including the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Russian Navy, and of Sailors everywhere.
On July 4, Nicholas Sailors accompanied Vice Adm. Scott A. Fry, Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, and Cmdr. Chan Swallow, Nicholas commanding officer, to the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery for a solemn wreath-laying ceremony. The cemetery honors the 1.5 million citizens of St. Petersburg who died while defending the city during the siege by Nazi Germany.
Nicholas crew members then prepared their ship for the highlight of the visit - a Fourth of July reception on the ship's flight deck hosted by Fry.
The event was attended by a "who's who" of Russian military and political figures from St. Petersburg, as well as American dignitaries from the city and from Moscow. A birthday cake honoring the United States and St. Petersburg, baked by Nicholas mess management specialists, was served to all guests. The Nicholas rifle demonstration team, led by Sonar Technician 3rd Class Blake Nosker, entertained the 200-plus guests aboard.
During the reception, Fry received a miniature statue of John Paul Jones to highlight the mutual interest between Russia and the United States. Jones moved to Russia after numerous heroic exploits earned him the honor of being considered the "father of the American Navy," where he performed as admirably in naval battles against the Turkish Navy as he did in the American Revolutionary War. A full-size version of the statue will be erected in St. Petersburg next year.
Crew members also found time to help those less fortunate, spending an afternoon playing soccer and red rover with children. Judging from the smiles on the faces of both the children and the Sailors, it was an experience that neither will forget. In addition, children from a local orphanage came aboard and were given personal tours around the ship. Paintings created by the children were given to the ship as gifts, and plans are being made to hang them in places of honor throughout the ship.
As Nicholas proceeded down the Neva River while departing St. Petersburg, local citizens gathered on the shore to wish them farewell and a safe journey. All the Sailors aboard Nicholas agreed the port visit was extremely rewarding, and St. Petersburg was a city they would definitely want to visit again, both by ship and with their families.
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