Russian Soul and the Circus

Day 4 was another day of touring Moscow but this time the theme was the "Russian Soul". Konstantin was our tour guide. There was minimal traffic in the city on this Sunday morning when we started out. Konstantin was candid with us about the suppression of religion under communism and the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church and religion in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Our first stop was Christ the Savior Cathedral. During communism churches were destroyed or used for storage or offices. This church had been destroyed and when the Soviet Union fell, the state rebuilt this cathedral. We arrived as the bells called everyone to church. I learned that in the Russian Orthodox religion church goers stand for the service which can be two hours or longer. I didn't go in the church when others did but heard it was beautiful and the choir was singing as church was in session. Instead I took advantage of some emerging sun light and took some pictures of the outside of the cathedral.

I find that I am drawn to archetecture and art when I travel. The "onion domes" on Christ the Savior Cathedral were typical of religious structures in Russia and I loved them. The sun would come out and light up the gold domes. The contrast of the gold domes with the white church and blue sky was breathtaking. Add to that the church bells singing for 15 minutes and you have a beautiful moment in Russia.

Our next stop was to Novodevichy (New Maiden) Cemetary. This is the "second most important cemetary" in Russia. The most important cemetary is where Lenon and the Zsars are buried. I am going to assume that the Russians have a bit of a different view of death than we do. I have never taken a tour of a cemetary in the States, but this tour was more like a history lesson of whos who in Russian history. Another long lecture. I ended up listening but wondering off and observing the different Russians tending to the graves of their loved ones.

The grave plots were like little wild gardens filled with flowers and greenery. The cemetaries I have been to in the States have been well manicured and have short cut grass everywhere. This cemetary felt wild and romantic. Loved ones planted new plants or tended to exsiting ones. Konstantin (our Program Director (or tour guide)) told us how every year he goes with his mother to visit the grave of his father. They then drink to his father (without clinking glasses). I think I recall that his mother tends the father's grave just like I mentioned above.

Something else that was amazing and different about the Russian Cemetary was that so many of the headstones were incredible works of art. It was as though we were getting a history lesson and an art show.

Day 4 ended with a trip to the Moscow Circus. I tend to think that things like this are only for tourist but our group was the only tourist there. Everyone else was Russian. I haven't been to the circus in years and remember them as these big over the top productions. I wasn't sure how the grown up version of myself was going to feel about it. I have to admit I was charmed. There were a few things that triggered concern like the real tiger (pictured below) that you could take your picture with, or the bears that were muzzled in the show, but over all it was an evening well spent.

The acrobates at the end took my breath away and I could feel the magic of the circus working it's way into my soul. It was a spectacular evening!

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