Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

I am giving this post that particular title, as i wish to point out the many kind people who have helped us out on this trip - pointing us in the right direction, letting us change seats with them at the ballet (BL had a panic attack when we sat down in our seats in the 1st row of the 3rd tier), dragging us back on the train when we almost got off at the wrong stop in the middle of nowhere, et cetera.
Moscow commuter train
Today we slept in about 2 hours because someone forgot to set the alarm (dale). We raced to the train station and managed to make our train to the country, although to do so we had to skip showering and breakfast.
train platform sign, Moscow
The country was great today. The train ride was an adventure. I'm pleased to say that i successfully used my little Russian to purchase 2 round trip tickets to Sergiev Posad and found the right train. We almost got off one stop too soon, but some nice Russian girl saved us from our folly.
The Russian countryside is extremely pastoral, but much of it looks very poor - dilapidated shacks and barns and whatnot.
The train was very old and very crowded (some passengers had to stand for the nearly two hour ride). People would walk through the cars selling various goods, including steak knives, loofahs, wallets, and tazers.
Our trip to the country was for the purpose of taking us to the St. Sergius monastery. It is basically the Vatican of the Russian Orthodox church. It was full of Monks and pilgrims and worshippers. Surprisingly few tourists. We had a Russian guide, Sofia, show us around. In one of the churches they have a ceremony which goes from 5am-9pm 24/7/365, in which people line up to kiss and pray at the tomb containing the relics of st. Sergius. Pilgrims come of their own volition and sing through the affair. It was so beautiful and quite moving. I still think Catholicism is crazy, but they do have some lovely rituals. Although Betty Lou and i each raised an eyebrow when our guide told us that all of the wealth on display in the church (bejeweled icons and the like) is not to show off their literal 'wealth', but to symbolize the wealth that awaits us in heaven. Uh huh.
St Sergius Monastery building 

We took the train back to Moscow and wandered down Ulitsa Arabat, a wide, pedestrian street with vendors, shops, and restaurants. We found a lovely little cafe and had dinner and coffee and did a crossword.
I must mention the weather again. While there were moments today where it was sunny, they were fleeting. Most of the day was bitterly cold with snow blowing at a steep angle. I had to break down and buy a scarf.
Until the morrow,
BLou and Dale

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