Friday, April 26, 2013

Russia, Day 3

We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel.  The oatmeal (British translation: porridge) was fantastic.  I think it achieved this level of scrumptiousness because it had the unexpected combination of salt and butter added to it, lots of butter.

We took a walk around Suzdal before getting our bus back to Vladimir and then to Moscow.  There was a little market going on that was interesting to walk through.  There were stands selling basic tourist stuff on one side, and a very long bench with older people sitting on it, a small collection of home-made preserves, honey, flower bulbs, veniki (bundles of dried birch branches used in the banye), root vegetables and other things for sale.  We stopped at a stand with a woman selling homemade mead.  We tried various flavours, including mint (which we bought), berries and even horseradish, which was better than you might suppose. 
A street going towards the cathedral in Suzdal.
Dried mackerel at a small store near our hotel. 
More dried fish.  Surprisingly, it was not that smelly, even though there were three cases full of fish.
The Suzdal market.  To the left is the long bench of older people selling homemade goods.
A random wooden church.
A lot of the houses had intricate work like this around the windows.
A horse carriage near the cathedral.
The homemade mead we bought in Suzdal.  It was really good.
We walked to the cathedral and had a look around the grounds.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get in to the cathedral as it was closed, but we did get to see two wooden church, something I really wanted to see.
Suzdal Cathedral.
Tom in front of the cathedral.
Me in front of the cathedral.
There were piles of melting snow everywhere we went.
A wooden church across a field from the cathedral compound.  I wish I could have gone inside a wooden church, but the few that we came across were all closed.  
An onion dome on the wooden church in the cathedral compound.
We walked down a small, dirt covered lane and saw a run-down looking church.  We went into the church, passing thru a dark vestibule, before coming into a somewhat large, well lit room occupied by a black robed priest, sitting at an easel.  He stood up and greeted us curtly, showing us into the sanctuary of the church, asking us to put some money in the box if we wanted to buy any of the slender, beeswax candles that are iconic in orthodox churches, before returning to his easel.  As we passed the easel I say that he was painting an icon.  Tom and I bought some candles in order to thank the man and show our appreciation.  It was very interesting to see the difference between the big cathedral and this tiny, assumedly very poor church.  The set up was the same, of course, but the items used to decorate the church where just as flashy and elaborate as you would see in a cathedral, if only of a lesser quality.  
As we left I noticed that there was a room full of stuff for sale, and I love a gift shop.  We walked in and saw what must have been close to one hundred, hand painted icons on one side and a few books on the other.  I instantly knew I would love to have one of these as my ultimate Russian souvenir.  Tom called the priest in and asked him how much the small icon I was eyeing was; and then I was introduced to another annoyance Tom mentioned: Russians who wont speak Russian to you, even if your Russian is light-years better than their English.  Even though Tom and this man had been speaking Russian to each other since we entered the church, as soon as Tom asked him to clarify the price, he seemed to assume Tom could not speak Russian.  Instead of saying the price again, he had to go get a pencil, find a scrap of paper, and write down the price; it was 10,000 rubles, or roughly $300.  And so my hopes of this bad-ass souvenir (well, bad-ass to me) were dashed on the rocks of finances. 
There were various posters in the vestibule area showing the priest’s work to restore the church.  He seemed to be financing the restoration by the sale of his icons.  There was a larger church next door to this one, but it was closed.  I have a feeling it is too larger to restore at the time. 
The interior of the small church that was undergoing renovations.
The church we went into was the one of the left; the one on the right was closed and I am guessing they cannot afford to begin renovating it.
We made our way to the bus station via taxi and got out tickets to Vladimir.  There was a bunch of mid-teens guys on the bus who seemed to think it was their duty to DJ for everyone.  I nearly jumped for joy when they finally got off.
Doing my best Lenin impersonation.
Tom, going for more of a man of power approach to his Lenin impersonation.
Our train back to Moscow was called an electrutshka, which basically means no toilets (it is a nearly four hour ride) and no individual cabins, but it was not too bad.  As we got closer to Moscow we had more and more people on the trains entering from one side of the carriage, making a sales pitch about anything from camouflage rain ponchos to holographic prints of marine life to shoe polish to singers (including one man who had an amp and microphone and a duo of boys singing R&B to an accordion accompaniment).
Please note that this man actually had a full amplifier and mic stand with him on the train.
Having some beer just off Red Square while waiting to meet people for dinner.
Once we got back into the city we met some Americans Tom knows at an Indian and Tibetan restaurant.  Both of the Americans are also PhD students doing work on Soviet history.  Dinner was good, and I was finally able to try Tibetan butter tea, which I have wanted to try since first seeing Seven Years in Tibet nearly fifteen years ago.   

Nothing more eventful happened, and we went back to Tom's to sleep.

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