When you want to go to a Monastery, but you end up in a Kremlin you didn’t know existed

04/11/14 I guess I should have researched Yaroslavl’ better.

(It makes me wonder if the Kremlin used to house the monastery, or at least had something to do with it, although I am still not sure).

Christina hadn’t been feeling well the night before, so I didn’t rush her to get up in the morning, which caused us to have an even later start to our morning than we had had the day before. After we were finally done getting ready in the morning we decided it was finally time to ask about our train tickets. The next day we were scheduled to take a train out of Yaroslavl’, but the train station on our arrival tickets and the train station on our departure tickets looked different so we decided it was best if we asked someone about it. I had been hoping to ask the lady who I had talked to the day before, but she didn’t seem to be working at this time so I was forced to ask someone else. The two ladies at the front desk who were there when I asked informed us in no uncertain terms that the two stations were the same, which made traveling more convenient for Christina and me, but I also decided it would be best to get to the train station a little bit early in order to leave extra time for any possible complications.

The day before, we had decided we wanted to visit a monastery that seemed to have some importance to Yaroslavl’. (We tended to leave a lot of the mystery of places in the dark until we got there and could see it for ourselves, only looking up general information. If we didn’t understand something, of course we would look it up later when we had access to the internet). When we made it to the area where we thought the monastery was located, we became sidetracked by another beautiful brick church. The inside of this one seemed to be closed, so we only took pictures of the outside. The sidewalks and crosswalks to make it over to this church from where we were had been very inconvenient and poorly designed, but the journey to the other side where we thought the entrance of the monastery was, was even worse.

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(The church that sidetracked us)

Once we made it inside the walls of the enclosed area, we found a ticket stand. The stand sold tickets that granted one access to a variety of historical attractions within the walls, and we decided that it seemed interesting, so we took the time to see a few. A lot of our time was taken up trying to find the attractions we had paid for because there was no map that let us know where we were going within the walls of the Kremlin.

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(Near the church and Kremlin)

The first exhibit we went to was a historical one, at which time I realized we were inside the Yaroslavl’ Kremlin, a place I didn’t even know existed. The exhibit had artifacts dating back to the thirteenth century that ranged from old jewelry and tools to old armor, so it kept us entertained for a while.

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(Another picture of the church that distracted us)

The next exhibit we had tickets to that we stumbled upon was called “The Treasures of Yaroslavl’.” We hadn’t actually intended to buy tickets for this one, but the lady at the ticket booth gave them to us. They weren’t very expensive so we didn’t complain. The treasures consisted of pieces mostly related to Orthodoxy, which makes sense since orthodox churches can be very elaborate. My favorite pieces that I remember were small pendants that had bright pictures painted onto them in detail. All of the colors stood out from one another, but they all worked together to form a beautiful image. The most elaborate pieces, perhaps, were ones covered in tiny pearls. Due to their age, they had to have been hand made because there would not have been the technology to make them with a machine. I can’t imagine being able to see properly after finishing a piece of work like that.

Finally we made it to our last exhibit of the day. This one translated to something roughly along the lines of “The Word about the Campaign of Igor,” which we didn’t find out until later that it was an epic based off of an unsuccessful campaign that happened in the time of Kievan Rus. We decided we would both have to look it up later to better understand it since the exhibit was completely in Russian, and I found quite a bit of information (which I haven’t had time to fully sort through), but the general idea seems to be that this manuscript is sort of the life story of Prince Igor from 1185, focusing mostly on his unsuccessful campaign, but covering other topics too.

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(The only picture I took inside the Kremlin because I didn’t feel like paying the 100 rubles to use my camera inside exhibits, even though 100 rubles is like $2.50)

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(The Kremlin from the outside)

By the time we finished looking at the exhibits in the Kremlin it was around 4:00 p.m. However, since the sun has started to set around 4:00 p.m. it felt much later. We were leaving the Kremlin to find someplace to eat. Instead of immediately finding a place to eat, we noticed how beautiful the sky was, causing us to spend at least another 30 minutes taking pictures of another church we found and strolling along the back of the Kremlin until we found a river. Near the river were four metal trees that had padlocks all over them. They reminded me of those bridges all over Europe that have the padlocks for couples on them, except they were trees that seemed to have been specifically placed there for the purpose of having lovers’ padlocks hung from them.

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(The church we took pictures of)

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(The river from a distance)

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(The lovers’ trees)

We walked closer to the river and found that it was partially frozen, since large, jagged pieces of ice were floating on the surface. It was very interesting to me because seeing a frozen lake is one thing, lakes don’t generally have flowing water, but I have only ever heard of the concept of a frozen river before. No, it was not completely frozen, but it was frozen enough to make me think that it was a very odd sight for me since I had not seen any such thing before.

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(A bell tower near the river)

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(The partially frozen river)

After we spent enough time enjoying the river and the surrounding scenery, we finally dragged ourselves back to the city center to try to find something to eat. I made it very difficult to find something to eat since I have already been in Russia for four months. Although I love Russian food, I have unfortunately started to associate it with what my host mom in St. Petersburg feeds me, which isn’t always appetizing to me and is often repetitive. That is not to say it is bad, it is just tiring for me since I eat it every day. Therefore, while I have been on vacation from St. Petersburg I have insisted on finding cuisine that is not Russian, which can be difficult in cities that are not as well known.

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(Another picture of the river and sunset)

Eventually we found a restaurant that claimed to be Chinese, but also served sushi and some other suspiciously non-Chinese dishes. I would say the food was mediocre for me at best since I have had some really great Chinese food in the past, but it wasn’t Russian food so I was satisfied. In addition, I knew going into the restaurant that finding real Chinese food in a small city in Russia was unlikely. One of the dishes Christina and I ordered was calamari. It was supposed to be an appetizer, but as I mentioned before, Russian’s don’t quite understand the concept of appetizers. The waitress made sure it was delivered after we had finished our actual meal. The calamari was good, not great, but it was also different from any Calamari I had tried before. With it came an odd spiced powder that looked garlicky to me. Christina said it was a little garlicky, but was flavored with other spices as well. I don’t like garlic so I decided to refrain from trying it. Even if it wasn’t the best meal for me, I am glad we both came away satisfied, at least having eaten.

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(Inside of the restaurant)

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(Painted on the ceiling of the restaurant were some fish)

When we returned to the hostel, I realized that we needed a taxi to take us to the train station in the morning and that we didn’t have a number to call to ask for one. I decided to ask the lady at the front desk about it and I was a little confused by her answer at first, but I understood that she would take care of it. All of the women who worked at the hostel turned out to be very sweet and very helpful. Even if the other people our age didn’t speak to us because they heard us speaking English, I still had very pleasant interactions with the staff who tirelessly tried to help us with everything we asked.

I think one of the most frustrating parts of this hostel were the other people who stayed there. They felt the need to stay up really late and speak to each other in the room when other people were obviously trying to go to bed. Of course this was not the hostel’s fault; it was the fault of the inconsiderate people who we had the misfortune of staying in the same room with.

Chinese and Stress

Today I am so tired and I haven’t done much of anything. I think it is because I was so stressed out yesterday. August 26th is the birthday of two of my immediate family members – my father and my youngest sister. My father has been very busy, but I was going to try to Skype them both if I could. On top of trying to deal with the time difference, the fact that neither of these to family members really uses social media or replies to their email often (which are the only ways I can contact people right now) makes it so I have to coordinate everything through my mother who is also busy and I had to calculate another time difference to attend my online orientation for my upcoming study abroad program. I forgot a few pieces. As I was still attending my online orientation Guoda and Tautvydas came home and I felt very rude because I could not fully concentrate on what they were saying when they were talking to me because I had to listen to a person I could not even see on my computer. They also were preparing dinner (another delicious pumpkin) because they were inviting a friend over to eat with them. There I was, still on my online orientation and trying to figure out when I could talk to my family while all of this other stuff was a swirling mass of business around me, or maybe just in my head. I think all of these things together stressed me out too much. I have probably been stressed too much this whole trip (since I left the United States) trying to get everything to run smoothly so I would be able to go to Kazan’ and St. Petersburg, and now as soon as I get a little bit stressed I wear myself out by over stressing.

In the end I didn’t get to talk to either my father or my sister for their birthdays. I had to give up and ask my mother to say happy birthday for me. At the time I felt so defeated by having to ask someone else to say happy birthday to my own family members for me! I felt like it was such a pathetic thing to do, and I felt terrible for having done it. In reality, it was not my fault. I did try to be able to talk to them.

All of this stress from last night traveled over into the morning. This morning I did not want to get up, I did not want to eat breakfast, I did not want to work on my blog, and I did not want to start my day. I did not post anything yesterday and I told myself that because I had time in Lithuania, I have to try to post something every day to try to catch up from not posting anything while I was in Kazan’. I am working on a few posts that concern my time in Kazan’, but they aren’t finished so, I missed a day.

I did eventually drag myself up to take a shower and work on my blog. I didn’t get out of the apartment until lunch time because I was writing, but I told myself I had to go somewhere to eat lunch so I would get on my feet and start walking.

There is a small Chinese restaurant in the area that I am staying. When I was walking with Tautvydas and Guoda they told me that they had not been there because it seemed suspicious to them. It is in an old, blue wooden building that looks like a house. The paint is peeling and faded in some areas, and you can barely tell from the outside that it’s a restaurant. The only indicating factors are the smells that waft through the window every time I pass by and two Chinese lanterns hanging from the corners of the patio cover. It is probably semi-new because it does not show up on a map if you try to look it up.

When I left the apartment for lunch today I decided I wanted Chinese food so I went to look inside of this restaurant and told myself that I would find another place if this hole in the wall Chinese restaurant didn’t look appetizing enough to me. I shouldn’t have even questioned whether or not the restaurant was good. I haven’t been to other Chinese restaurants in Vilnius, but the places that are hard to spot are usually the best. Upon walking inside I discovered the restaurant was almost full. It wasn’t a very big restaurant, but it says something about a restaurant, especially when it is not easily noticeable, when it is full. I took the last table, a two person table that was situated right in front of the door, leaving about five feet for people to enter and stand in between the table and the door. During the time I sat at this table waiting for my order and eating my food, I observed many groups of people coming to the restaurant for lunch hoping there was an empty table.

I ordered fried rice and sweet and sour chicken, which are two of one of my sister’s favorite dishes when we go out to eat Chinese food. I knew they weren’t going to taste the same, but I wanted something vaguely familiar so that I could compare the different flavors with those that I remember from places at home.

Although the inside of the restaurant was decorated with Chinese decorations, a blonde and obviously Lithuanian, waitress took care of my order. As I started to look around and listen, I noticed the restaurant was playing old American rock music instead of something that would create an atmosphere more representative of China. I seem to experience strange music with restaurants that serve international food often though. Not only abroad, but also in the United States. It is sort of like the people running the restaurant aren’t quite sure what music would make an appropriate match with the food and the decorations to create a full picture.

I think (I am not sure though) that this restaurant was the first place I have been that hasn’t been packed with tourists. I believe I was the only one in there who was speaking English (although I immediately switched to Russian when the waitress didn’t at first understand me). Tourists from other countries normally speak English here because, as Guoda said, it is a common language between small countries. Again, when I spoke in Russian to the waitress, I realized that even though English is widely used, it is better to know another language, too so that one can have more opportunities to communicate with the rest of the world.