Today, I forayed into the wilds of metropolitan Moscow on my own. I feel so accomplished. And brave.
(Before I tell you about my journeys...here's a look out my window today. Moscow has been very foggy today.)
So: an unaccompanied excursion for me today. So far, Tim has been on all of my treks to the grocery store, on the Metro, to church...everywhere. I've been really scared to go anywhere on my own, but I gave myself a goal today to go visit the little church across the street from our grocery store.
Easy peasy: I know my way there and back and it's only a 10 minute walk. A perfect test for my Russian navigational skillz.
I was a little anxious leaving our apartment, and I mentally double- and triple-checked everything as I locked our door. Passport? Check. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Camera? Check. Bus and Metro pass? Check check.
Once I was out of the building and on the street, though, I felt a lot better. As with most scary experiences, it just took that first nudge to get started, and the rest wasn't that bad.
As soon as I got to the church, I felt a little weird about just standing around and taking pictures. It's not really in a touristy neighborhood, and I didn't want people to judge me as just some annoying tourist snapping pictures of everything.
But whatevs, that's exactly what I am--and I will probably never see those [judgmental?] Russians again. So there. Another sticker for my Brave Chart.
So: here are some pictures of that cute little church:
(sorry the pictures are so dark...I'm still trying to figure out how to use our camera...)
These are large icons of the saints, on either side of the main entrance. I love them so much. Russian Orthodox churches are so beautiful. I just wish you could see inside of them--most of them you aren't supposed to take pictures in. I did manage to sneak a few in a couple of the other churches I saw today.
My plan backfired--it must've worked TOO well, because soon a woman came over to me and started saying something like, "Шелфкйсдфишйлекафйишелфчласдфчшечгсйднвлсй?"
To which I tried to reply, "Я не гаварю па-русский" (Ya nyeh gavaryu pa-ruuski), which means "I don't speak Russian."
To which she replied, "Плскйфошиенфаслкдйфлсйафд. Eyou xhave Russian eiss."
(You have Russian eyes.)
I thanked her, flattered that I must not have stuck out as much as I thought I had, and she left with her dog to leave some flowers at the foot of the icon outside the church.
Thank you, Russian lady, for being kind and not making me feel like a total idiot.
From there, I decided to walk down the street a little bit further and see what else was on that street.
See the little "11" on the building?
That's the building number. Most of the buildings are numbered, and that's how they do most addresses. Instead of saying 2039 Leninsky Prospekt, they'll say Leninsky Prospekt, Building 11, Apartment 142.
It's mostly on the grid system, so the building numbers get bigger or smaller depending on the direction you're heading.
On my way back to our apartment, I saw another church as I was crossing the street:
This woman was about my age, just making sure her headscarf was on before she goes into the church. All of the women wear headscarves in the church--it's considered irreverent if you don't.
You can see a woman in the background, too, worshipping before one of the entrances.
Their churches are so beautiful sometimes it makes me want to cry.
(In a good way.)
Headscarves at the entrance, in case you forgot yours or don't have one:
Russian Orthodox churches are usually built in a cross shape, but still very round. Like this:
They don't have benches for people to sit on, the worship is done standing.
I wish so badly that each of you could experience the profoundly sacred experience that is being in a Russian Orthodox church. They are a glorious piece of heaven on earth. Here's what it's like looking from the entrance into the church:
They are absolutely gorgeous inside. There are different stations set up with icons, where people will worship by bowing, making the sign of the cross, praying, and meditating. You can buy a candle to light and leave at the station. Everything is quiet and still, and you are surrounded on all sides by murals, golden icons, candles, and velvety fabrics. It takes my breath away every time.
Of course I know I'm being incredibly simplistic about this rich religion, so take it at face value. We were able to take a tour last summer that told us all about the unique symbolism in the church building itself, as well as the way the church operates and how people usually worship, so you're definitely just getting the ClifNotes version here.
Once I left that church, I checked the map to see where I was and if I should walk home. Lo and behold, on the map, there was a cluster of little churches not too far from me. I decided to walk over and see what it was.
When I got to the right location, I found a beautiful park.
There was a huge wall surrounding the churches on all four sides, so I tried to walk around to see if I could find a way in.
I finally found the entrance, and found out it was a monastery! It was originally built in 1591, and it's a whole cloister of buildings surrounding the main church.
I didn't see his grave, but apparently the famous Russian writer Solzhenitsyn is buried here.
The entrance to the main church.
I tried to sneak another picture of the inside...
This is in one of the naves. It kind of shows you what the altars are like with the candles in front.
A sneak shot of the main altar, with the wall of icons. I can't remember what it's called...actually, I think it's called the veil. Behind the veil is the Holy of Holies, where only the priests can go.
A room off of one of the naves, with some of the robes from the priests.
A barrel of holy water for people to drink or wash their hands or feet with.
One more sneaky shot...
After that, it started raining really badly so I decided to walk home. Luckily, I wasn't too far away (this amazing place is less than a mile away from our apartment. Isn't that incredible?? Someone needs to come visit meeeee!!).
I made it back from my adventures in one piece. I even rode the bus. (!!!!) I'm pretty sure I deserve not one, but TWO stickers on my Brave Chart for that.
Home again, home again. This is the back side of our apartment building.
I love that gate. It's so pretty.
I got home and hung up my wet clothes to dry while I had hot peppermint tea in a blanket on the couch.
I think I'll just stay here forever.