July 3, 2008

Suzdal' and Bogolyubovo

I finally had a full 8 hours of sleep and the elves washed a few of the cobwebs out of my brain...

After some rousing renditions of three Russian folk songs (not bad for 9:00 on a Saturday morning), we boarded a bus to Suzdal' with Natalia, our trusty guide for all historical museum adventures.

Our first stop was a monastery that is now a living museum. The gardens are GORGEOUS - beds for flowers, medicinal herbs, and likely vegetables somewhere not along the walking paths. We heard a bell concerto when the clock stuck 11:00 a.m. I don't know how the one man played 11 bells - must have looked like a marionette with strings tied to every limb and digit - but it was terrific. A male a capella quartet sang in one of the small cathedrals. I'm rapidly running out of Kleenex - the tenor's voice was pure and clean and goosebumps and tears were rampant. The beautiful voices and acoustics made for a sound that was reverent, palpable, and ethereal.

The we went to the town's Kremlin (most of you likely know that the word 'kremlin' means fortress), where we saw another old limestone church with beautiful blue cupolas. The clock was interesting - it had letters instead of numerals. I didn't know that if you put two dots over a letter, it signifies that it represents a number.

There was an accordion player on the path to the Kremlin and he burst out in a rendition of "Milenkii ty moi" as we passed. I wonder if it was a coincidence or if Andrei had a hand in it, as this was a song that we had learned earlier in the day. Andrei has a very good voice and sang along with the musician, passing his hat for the effort.

Bogolyubovo had a convent, where we saw some very old artifacts, including a piece of sidewalk preserved from the 12th century. The real treat was walking to an old limestone church, which stands in the middle of a huge meadow. It reminded me of the fen near Elgin, IL with its narrow paths and explosion of wildflowers. Apparently, this church is a popular place to pray on the big holidays, but is not heavily populated - except for tourism - the rest of the year.

After the "work day" had concluded, Ira, Andrei and I went to an Armenian cafe - Shesh Besh - for dinner. Our shashlik was peppered with some pretty serious conversations about buying houses and cars in our respective countries, horoscopes, and how we met our spouses. My Russian must be getting better as I can now converse with Ksenia without much facilitation from Ira. It's easy to understand the adults if they speak slowly and enunciate, but the speech patterns of 7 year old girls is both rapid fire and skips from one topic to another, leaving me in the dust. Still, the sweet girl tries to talk to me and holds my hand when we're crossing the street, so all is right in the world.

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