Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lock up your New Maidens!

The next day I finally woke up around noon, the sun having been mostly-downish for approximately six hours.

After a typical Russian breakfast*, I headed out to find Novodevichy, a convent founded to celebrate some military victory or another in the early 16th century. They great thing about all of the ancient religious sites in Russia is that they seem to amass a rather twisted and sordid history of near destructions, rebuildings, repurposings, and myriad other transformations depending on the sociology-political environments that they endure. Such is the case for the beautiful riverside convent Novodevichy, named "new maidens" to commemorate all the young ladies of unknown progeny or ill repute coerced into interning themselves there. Under Soviet rule it was made into a museum of women's emancipation and apartment buildings, and as a way of trying to make amends with the Orthodox church it was converted back into a theological institute, and is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the highlights was actually an art exhibit that had various insights into Russian philosophy and ecology, which had English translations that were so exquisitely poetic that I didn't know if they were accidental or purposeful.

If you are going to be locked away against your will, at least let it be somewhere beautiful.

I was caught in a sudden downpour of phenomenal cosmic power before going home to be taught the secret recipe for traditional Russian borscht, which, at the conclusion of my lesson, proved to be the most delicious one I had ever eaten. Russian food is enormously underrated, I tell you. I hardly even miss the word "picante."

Finally, it was time to catch the train to Novgorod. I read from some reliable source that the less you pay for your ticket on a Russian train, the higher the potential for interesting social interaction, so of course I insisted on purchasing a third class open bunk accommodation for approximately 30USD for the eight hour overnight ride to Novgorod. It would be an evening to remember, for better or worse. I was vehemently urged by all Russians to sleep on top of all of my belongings, surely a great sign.


*Consisting of black tea and a grimace.

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