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Published: October 16th 2013
Again and once more I bought a guided tour with Pervye Linii agency to the town of Valdai. It can be reached by public transport (such as bus), but I'd rather have this comfortable one-day trip. Besides, I would require a taxi to reach the monastery, which was quite far from the town and could not be reached on foot. Could be, but not reasonable.
The five-hour road to Valdai, with the second half of it being more picturesque than the first thanks to the gradually changing terrain , the plain transforming into hills, went smoothly and I enjoyed observing a lot of small crooked shabby houses along the road and the autumnal yellow dance of leaves. The guide had a peculiar manner of speech, as most of them do, but I did not listen to it.
Valdai is a town on the banks of the scenic Valdai Lake on the highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg – rather a favourable location, that’s why the town prospered in the XVII-XIX centuries and trades developed in it. The whole Russia knew the Valdai bells, small and large, founded by the local craftsmen. The bells museum was the first place we
saw. It is the only such museum in Russia, and housed in the XVIII-century church In The Name of Martyr Ekaterina (rather non-standard in appearance), and features a small though remarkable collection of bells and handbells, as well as data on Russian bell foundries and craftsmen before the October Revolution. Bells were brought from different places in Russia, Sweden, Germany and some other countries. I most vividly remember a modern small souvenir bell dedicated to the memory of the victims of 11.09.2001. The museum guide talked for more than an hour, I guess, but I left the museum as soon as I have read the captions and looked at all bells. There were different types of them, such as ship, railway, animal’s bells. While I waited outside for the group to return, I heard the bells ringing – undoubtedly, it was part of the excursion.
Weather was excellent for the first half of the day. I got tired of waiting and decided to have a glimpse at the lake, taking a nice photo of Tritsky Cathedral against the foreground of the lake and some houses. Finally, the group returned and we were on the road to the monastery, about
ten kilometers, winding through forest with patches of water appearing here and there. This is part of Valdai National Park, the lake and forest complex designed for organized leisure. The convenient location from both St. Petersburg and Moscow accounts for its popularity among the local population.
We soon reached Iversky monastery, located on on an island, and were to gather in front of its gates in some 10-15 minutes. I contemplated the monastery from the small wooden pier, yielding a good view of the monastery's front. The monastery was founded in 1653 by Patriarch Nikon (has nothing to do with the photocamera!) after the image and likeness of Greek Iversky Monastery on the Mount Athos. As in the case with other Russian monasteries, its history was not a ‘bed of roses’, but nowadays everything is all right.
I listened to the guide’s story about the Iverskaya icon, pictured in summary form on the entrance gates. In the IX century, iconoclasts wanted to destroy all icons but a woman saved it by putting it afloat to the sea, and, what with one thing and another, it reached (no doubt, with the help of magic) the Athos Iversky Monastery and
bells museum is inside
settled above its gates. The guide was very talkative, so I gradually detached from the group and wandered on my own. The monastery is a true treasure, it is admirable in any direction you see, and I later realized that the aesthetic pleasure was most important for me on such trips. Gradually the weather changed, the skies were overcast, and the group finally entered the Iversky Cathedral to listen to its story and admire its icons, offer prayers and light a candle for one's favourite saint. The guide showed us a very old wooden door, courtesy of Belarusian artisans, adorned with carved tulips. It had been my choice not to enter any churches some years ago, but now I decide not to waste my opportunities. Of course, my mind wanders nowhere near the Biblical or Orthodox themes (I was never baptized and practice no religion), but mine is the aesthetic pleasure! As I stood there a thought came to me to light a candle for… for the sake of lighting a candle and putting it where it should be, without praying or other purposes, for the first time in my life. I hope this was not a wrong act, simply
a symbol of my well-wishing.
We soon returned back to the town for a short visit to the Museum of District Town for an exhibition about Alexander Nevsky. I hoped to see some specific things related to the life in a small town in this museum, but it happened to be under repair and so we saw only the aforesaid exhibition. It was a small room with remains of old weapons, books, pictures, and chain armour, all depicting the life and deeds of the great Alexander Nevsky. The museum is near the pink Troitsky Cathedral and Freedom Square. The place, however, looked sort of gloomy and deserted. I went to a snack room and had some cheap food.
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