History and MXAT

Saturday, January 16

I started the day with breakfast in the little bakery near our dorm. They have the best French croissants! Then back to the dorm to work on homework. (Yes, there is homework.)

A number of students headed for Izmaylovsky Market, known for having wonderful Russian souvenirs at good prices. (Although with the current exchange rate, almost anything is a good price!)


Lenin’s Tomb

Some of us headed to Red Square, to check out Lenin’s Tomb and the State History Museum. Lenin’s Tomb is very dark; no pictures are allowed; and there are lots of very serious guards. A number of important Russians are buried along the path leading to and away from the tomb.

The State History Museum had lots of archeological finds dating back to the Stone Age and every era thereafter. I enjoyed seeing Peter the Great’s sleigh. (Not all that big given how important and tall (6’7″) he was.) Rooms representing more recent centuries included in the showcases a few manakins wearing clothes of the period.


Peter the Great’s sleigh

Saturday night four of us attended a student production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play written by Tom Stoppard which is tied loosely to Hamlet. The play was performed in Russian in a small arena (70-80 seats) in the theatre district. Since I am not the most fluent Russian student, I was glad I read the play in English before we went. A lot of the humor in the play did not require full understanding of every word spoken, however!


Moscow Theater District

We enjoyed dinner in the theatre district before returning to the dorm. Even at that hour, the Metro trains were still running every two minutes!

Женя (Jeanne Palleiko)


Free day at the Tretyakov Gallery

Our first free day in Moscow was Sunday, no tours, no classes, no schedule! It was tempting to stay cozily in the dormitory all day, but we braved the -14 degree weather and headed out to the Tretyakov gallery. The Moscow metro alone was worth putting on many layers of socks and sweaters, but the gallery was truly spectacular.


Ivan Kramskoi, Portrait of an Unknown Woman

The Tretyakov houses the finest collection of Russian art in the world, from pre-Mongol icons to the legendary landscape painters of the nineteenth century. We saw works by Ivan Shishkin, Ilya Repin and Ivan Kramskoi, as well as Andrei Rublev’s famous Trinity icon. The gallery was also free for students, and to celebrate we treated ourselves to lunch in the cafeteria.


Dessert at a Moscow Столовая


There are numerous cafeterias (столовые) in Moscow that serve delicious lunches for bargain prices. The only drawback is the lack of labels, in either Russian or English, so we have been pointing in the general direction of the thing that we think we would like to eat. Some experimental pointing has resulted in surprises like strawberry juice (pleasant) and beef tongue (not quite as pleasant).


Suzdal’ and Vladimir

We are back in Moscow, and have started our classes, but we spent several days on a tour of several cities outside Moscow. We’ll be posting about this adventure a little bit at a time over the next few days, as well as sharing updates about our classes and field trips in Moscow.

We arrived in Suzdal’ in the evening, and checked into our very cosy hotel, that resembled a log cabin from the outside. It was about -15 degrees celsius outside, but we braved the wintry weather and headed down the street for a dinner of moose dumplings and блинчики (Russian pancakes) at a nearby restaurant.

In the morning we went to an open air museum about ordinary life in old Russia, where we saw many historic wooden buildings, including both a summer church and a winter church (usually neighborhoods had both, the winter church was smaller and easier to heat). We also heard the bells ring at a monastery, and ate lunch in the market square.


Winter church (foreground) and Summer Church in Suzdal’


We only made a brief stop in Vladimir in the afternoon. It was only 4 o’clock, but the sun was already setting. In spite of the cold, there was a Christmas festival going on, with a skating rink, a fun fair and many beautiful holiday lights. We briefly toured the Assumption Cathedral, and saw frescoes painted by the legendary Russian artist Andrei Rublev, and then headed back to Moscow in the evening.


Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir