Trip Start Jun 30, 2006
42Trip End Jun 30, 2007
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It was a miracle we got there at all, given that 'there' ended up being the bus stopping at a crossroads to a road only slightly better than a dirt track, with no sign of the bus station indicated in Lonely Planet, or even a sign for a bus stop
Suzdal it was! Well, another 2km away down the side road at least. We were thankful at least for Suzdal's high latitude (or is it longitude? Pretty ironic that I once came 2nd in a state-wide geography competition) and it being summer, which meant it wouldn't get dark for about another half hour - time enough to walk at least most of the way to the town. It was another stroke of luck that we found the first hotel I wanted to try- it was in a run-down monastry complex that looked practically deserted, and I was just going to try the building in which I could at least see a light on in (but no visible door at all!) when some lad leading a bike (seems like the thing to do at midnight. Earlier we had passed more pounding bass, disco lights and young'uns milling around in one little village street than in all of Moscow) came by and understood my shocking Russian enough to point us in the right direction.
The place looked nice enough, despite people milling around carrying towels and basins, leaving me in doubt as to such facilities as showers, or in fact even bathrooms at all. The man at the counter looked bemused as two girls trudged in at midnight and asked in halting Russian (placed under this pressure of the moment, I forgot half the phrase I had painstakingly learnt!) if there was a room. There wasn't. But, miracle of miracles, the manner of this refusal wasn't the 'Nyet!' accompanied by the glare and turning away we'd received in Moscow. He actually SMILED, looked HELPFUL, and indicated for us to sit down.
15 minutes later a kindly old chap showed up and gestured for us to follow him
We got an early start the next morning, feeling nice and refreshed and all the psychologically-better for having found some friendly individuals
The only other thing worth mentioning is one cathedral (the interior of which is pictured in the gallery) we went into, where after 5 mins of looking around and entering a side area, we were suddenly set-upon by a man in black, urgently ushering us into the main hall, along with other visitors, and locking the door behind us. We really had no conception of what these diabolical men in black were up to, and just stood around joking that we were going to be gassed. Well dammit, you never know, people had been THAT nuts and awful to us in Moscow....
Anyway, the mystery was finally solved when they all went up onto a slight wooden platform, one with a folder in hand. Obviously they were going to sing. Unfortunately, the leader VERY pointedly said no photos or filming, and Charis at this point couldn't turn on the video camera to at least record the sound, lest it beep. But I really don't think it matters anyway, and that it's better this way. I'm a novice to actual church-going, and to religious singing, but listening to them was beautiful, and emotional, and memorable and spiritual. I can't say I've ever had anything I'd call a 'spiritual experience' before, but if this wasn't I don't know what it. I got shivers all over and nearly burst out crying.
The more I see of European churches, the more I can so easily understand the sway that religion held, and still holds here. Maybe in Australia some find the church comforting, agree with its tenets, bond with their fellow church-goers.
Embarrasingly, I was reading Nietzche at this time - The Birth of Tragedy - so there's a video of me straight after the performance, enthusiastically ranting on about how right Nietzche was, that music, in its non-reprosentational, indiscernible and Dionysian nature, is the closest we come to 'god', or the ultimate reality, as it were; while art such as painting is merely an artist's representation of the physical world of 'phenomena', which are representations themselves, music gives us direct access to the underlying fundamental reality of being, the so-called 'will'. Now, my grasp of philosophy is atrocious, but I do feel I can agree; musics' fundamental (to me, at least), abstract nature in relation to other arts, and in and of itself, and yet its ability to move so powerfully, seems like something 'spiritual', beyond my limited comprehension.
as for what it was like on a non-philosophical level, I really know nothing about music, so I can't describe it. I suppose it's traditional Russian orthodox chanting/singing (it had elements of both, ranging from deep deep melody to such clear, beautiful high notes that I couldn't comprehend that one of these very manly gentlement were producing them. Surely the Russians had a secret stash of eunuchs!), I assume heightened by the unique acoustics of the church dome. They had CDs of their performances for sale, of all things, but I was too afraid that a recording wouldn't capture how incredible it really was, and that I would spoil the perfect memory, that I didn't buy it.
Well, I guess I'll have to start going to church more often! And stop reading philosophy, before I develop an anuerism.