Saturday, February 18, 2006

I’ve now been in Vladimir for a month, and it’s a strange mixture of feeling like I just got here to feeling like I’ve been here forever. It’s been a great month, full of experiences I could never image and resulting in a warm, fuzzy love for this cold tundra.
We had our second trip this weekend to a nearby town called Suzdal. Its claim to fame is being Russia’s largest open-air museum because the town has basically been shut off to the outside world in order to preserve its quaint historic features. It has a population of about 12,000, most of whom making their living off tourism and/or cucumbers (they’re famous for these, they even have a cucumber festival in July). Suzdal also serves as a religious center for the Russian Orthodox Church, which is convenient seeing as there’s a church or monastery about every other block. It’s an absolutely adorable town, and very Russian in that fact that they’ve worked extra hard to ensure that there’s no Western influence (read – no McDonalds, and sadly, it also lacks the casinos that dot Vladimir’s skyline). They’re also famous for a beverage that translates roughly into ‘honey beer’ but is essentially the nectar of the gods. Quirky old Russian babushkas with no teeth sell it all over town, telling you when you buy it that they’ll see you back the next day to get more (which is, from experience, somewhat false… we were back within the hour).
Our guided trips included an old, deserted church on the outskirts of town, a much prettier church with beautiful blue domes with gold stars, and a monastery. Otherwise, we did a lot of walking around town and haggling with more babushkas for souveiors (which I discovered I’m surprisingly good at).
After seeing a few Orthodox churches, I’m beginning to think I like them much more than they’re more dramatic counterparts in Western Europe. My absolute favorite part of these churches is the interior walls. Unlike Western churches, which are usually very tastefully, elaborately, and richly decorated, Russian Orthodox churches are absolutely covered in paintings. From bottom to top, and literally all over the church, murals depicting Jesus and his travels as well as a kind of ‘wall of fame’ for icons. It reminds me of the bulbous circus lady who is so covered in old, faded tattoos that you can’t even see her skin. Though it’s nowhere near as elegant, I think it’s that much more beautiful in its eagerness and drive to tell the story of the Bible to the illiterate masses.
For now, I’m back in Vladimir busily working on applications for a summer job, so if you know what you’re doing or where you’ll be, let me know so I can be insanely jealous of you. Suggestions also appreciated.

also.. if anyone can figure out this billboard that we saw in moscow...


At 11:43 PM , Blogger Bob Wiley said...

I can't say what that billboard means... but your last few entries were hilarious :-D I feel for you about the Valentine's Day Disaster... but I'm sure you can look back on it and laaaaaugh :-) I want to try this honey beer stuff! I know how you must feel about Vlad (think: CJ) but at least he likes you. I hope you don't get sick again, sick while away from home is the worst kind. Good luck with summer jobs, I'M jealous of YOU for having things to apply to!


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