Now I'm just procrastinating, and I'll probably regret it tomorrow when I have to do my whole weekend to-do list in one day, but... you can't work all the time, right? (If you could really call what I do "work.")
So after we returned from Estonia, I hung around Pskov for about two and a half days. It was pretty murky/icy/wet there (in fact, there may have been some swearing and a minor temper tantrum about this $#%* country and its @#$% lack of *!&@ functional sidewalks on the way back to Amara's apartment from the bus station), so the pictures aren't great, but here they are anyway.
Here's Pskov's kremlin. It's my favorite kremlin ever. It's really beautiful. See? Inside:
From the outside:
From the ramparts:
So Amara convinced me that it would be a good idea to climb up on the ramparts to get a good view of the river. I did so, not considering that I am a total wimp about jumping down from things (I'm afraid it'll hurt...), so there was a Moment in which I couldn't figure out how to get down and wouldn't let Wes help me. But they were patient:
And they even helped brush off my coat when I finally got down (the muddiest, but safest, way possible). Aww, what great friends!
We saw Wes off on the train to Moscow→Kazan, and the next day while Amara went to work, I took a day trip to Stary Izborsk and Pechory, two villages near Pskov.
Stary Izborsk (Old Izborsk) has the oldest stone fortress in Russia! It's from around the 13th century.
I was the only tourist there that day (it was snowing), so I had the place to myself. There's something to be said for wandering around old fortresses and villages completely alone. The silence was amazing. And when I did run into people (locals), they were all so friendly! It wasn't the most exciting tourist destination ever, but for those reasons, it was still well worth it.
Izborsk also has twelve springs named for twelve virtues (wealth, happiness, health, etc.). Or eleven virtues plus "the spring of maiden's tears," actually. They aren't labeled – you're just supposed to intuit which is which. I drank a tiny, tiny bit of the water (in case it does have magic properties) and immediately regretted it, being the cleanliness-obsessed American I am. No parasites yet, though, so hopefully I'm ok. On the other hand, I'm not measurably wealthier or healthier than before... but who knows which one I drank from?
Pechory, a name derived from the Russian word for "caves" (пещеры/peshchery), has the oldest continuously-functioning monastery in Russia. (It achieved that status by actually falling in Estonia, not the USSR, during the years between the World Wars, the time when most other religious establishments in the Soviet Union were being closed, looted and turned into museums of atheism.) It's also pretty geographically unusual – it's nestled in a ravine that used to house hermits' caves! Here's me in the skirt they made me put on over my pants:
A view from beyond the walls:
And the chapel (red building), holy well (green pavilion), and entrance to the caves (yellow building).
The former hermit caves are catacombs, and have been for centuries. The air inside allegedly preserves the bodies of the monks and famous/good people who are buried there. I couldn't go in because a) I wasn't in a tour group and b) I'm not Orthodox. I'm not so into lying about religion, but if a tour group had presented itself, I might have either tried, or tried to argue that being baptized Methodist is *practically* the same thing as being baptized Orthodox. Oh well. Caves are kind of creepy, anyway.
So that was Pechory. It was much cuter and more charming than my pictures captured, and if you're ever in the area, it's worth seeing.
When I left Pskov, I got to spend about 12 hours in Moscow between trains, during which time I wandered extensively:
(The Kremlin from Bolshoi Kamenny bridge – the Kremlin's not my favorite, but I have to admit it's pretty impressive looking) and finally visited the Tretyakov Gallery, probably Moscow's most important (and famous) art museum. Many of the treasures of Russian art are housed there, and it was fantastic to see them in person! Besides tons of nineteenth-century Russian art, I even saw Andrei Rublyov's famous Old Testament Trinity icon! By the end of the day, my feet were killing me, and I was happy to get on the train back to Taganrog. And thus ended my Thanksgiving trip. (Well, after another 17 hours on the train. But I was asleep for most of that.)
Teaser: my next trip should have even murkier photos, because if all goes as planned, it will be up to Murmansk (above the Arctic Circle!!!) sometime in late January. I can't wait!