Since Tim speaks great Russian, he was automatically nominated to take a group of the senior missionaries out to Sergiev Posad as an unofficial tour guide. None of them speak Russian, and it's a whole lot easier to take a day trip when you take someone who knows the language. Go figure.
So, last Saturday, we took the train out with about 4 other senior couples. It's always so much fun to hang out with the senior missionaries--they are adorable.
This is Tim, explaining the significance of Sergiev Pasad while we were waiting for the Электричка (Elektrichka, train) to start moving.
It is a very significant site to the Russian Orthodox church, and it is considered a big pilgrimage site too. It's kind of like Temple Square for the Mormons, a little. There is a lot of history with the orthodox church here. It's an old monastery that was originally established some time in the 1300's, before Russia as we know it really existed. Back then, it was just a bunch of city-states ruled by individual princes.
When the Mongols took over Russia, the main monk Sergei (whom the site is named after) convinced the Russian princes to unite into one state so as to better fight off the Mongols, and they succeeded. Thus, Russia was born.
I spy kvass!
This was on the walk from the train out to Sergiev Posad. Kvass is....interesting. It's stored in a giant barrel with a spigot, and they'll give you a fresh glass right then and there. I tried to get the other couples to try it, but no dice. You probably wouldn't either, if you knew what it was made of.
It's basically a drink made with fermented bread. That's right. Bread.
I always pictured moldy, floating chunks of bread in yeasty foamy water, but that's not what it's like at all. It's more like a weird-tasting carbonated soda. It looks like Coke or Pepsi. Russians love it, and it's non-alcoholic so even us Mormons can drink it!
If you come to Russia with me, I will make you try it. At least once. It's not horrible, but it's definitely a taste you have to grow into.
A partially-collapsed roof due to fire, on the walk to Sergiev Posad. The building was still in full use--we saw several people walk in and out while we passed by. Go Soviets.
(It doesn't inspire much confidence in Russian Building codes, but I try not to think about that since I have to spend 30 seconds in the elevator of death each time I go in or out of our 8th floor apartment.)
Life outside of Moscow is so different. We took a train about an hour and a half outside the city, and out here it's so much more rural. It's hard to describe the environment--there is a lot more of the broken down, dilapidated buildings out here, but you also get the sense that you are at the beginning of the beautiful Russian countryside, with the bright green grass and sweet air and adorable dachas (summer cottages) everywhere.
Being a country girl at heart (Driggs, Idaho, guilty as charged), I didn't realize how much I missed that part of me until I got out of the city. I just wanted to go sit somewhere in the grass and pick vegetables from a garden, far away from concrete and cigarette butts and car honks and stinky Metros.
Our first view of Sergiev Pasad.
See those grey "skyscrapers"?
They are not skyscrapers. They are giant scaffolds set up around the main buildings at Sergiev Posad, for repainting and restoration purposes.
That's right. The main bulidings at the site we had come to by train for an hour and a half on a cold, windy day were completely covered up by ugly, gray scaffolding.
THIS is what it's actually supposed to look like:
But meh, it was still awesome. Just a little disappointing, because there are few things I love more than the blue and gold domed churches.
Entrance gate to Sergiev Posad. You're strictly forbidden to feed the pigeons, because the gilding on the buildings (haha, I'm such a good poet) is so expensive and they don't want pigeons pooping on it.
Our guide told us that long ago, the monks of the monastery had bought falcons to take care of their pigeon problems, but the only hitch was that the falcons preferred to eat the plump, domesticated chickens instead.
An aisle of souvenirs on the way up the hill.
Our wonderful English-speaking guide.
One of my favorite things about the Russian orthodox church--the beeswax candles. This was in an underground crypt/chapel where they had some remains of famous saints.
A natural spring of holy water. People come from miles around with empty water jugs to fill up and take home with them. I saw one guy carrying in 5 huge gallon containers to fill.
It should look like this:
But I'm not bitter.
Inside one of the main halls of the chapel.
I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the place which actually had Sergei's body, but they also had a couple of painted icons by none other than Andrei Rublev, the most famous Russian icon painter. It was amazing.
It was such a cool place to visit. It was pretty cold and windy, and some of the buildings were covered, but I still loved it.
On the walk back to the train station--more pretty buildings. Look at the beautiful wooden framework around the windows.
An old boarded up building.
The Russian train stop. You just walk right across the tracks to get up on the platform. NBD.
Our gaggle of senior couples, boarding our train.
More Soviet hazards--a foot-wide gap with a 6-foot drop.
Watch your step. Or else you'll probably die.
A group of birds is a flock, a group of sheep is a herd, a group of whales is a pod...what do you call a group of LDS senior missionaries?
My vote? A Warm Fuzzy. It could catch on. And that's pretty much what they are, anyway. Listen to how natural that sounds:
We took a warm fuzzy of senior couples on a trip to Sergiev Posad.