This past Friday and Saturday I went to the towns of Vladimir and Suzdal. We stayed overnight at an inn in Suzdal, which is definitely one of my favourite places so far in Russia. Upon arrival on Friday, there was a meal waiting for us which I think is probably the best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life. The entire excursion was very contrasting to Moscow, with Suzdal being a small town of only about 10,000 and Vladimir about 345,000.
In Suzdal there were parts that felt like you had traveled back in time, with old wooden churches and incredible views that you would see during the 19th century or in a movie. We visited the Vladimir-Suzdal museum and heard five men sing in a cathedral in the style of old Russian monks. It bothered me to listen to it as if it was entertainment or as if they were signing for us; I’ve always disliked old cathedrals turning into a business through tourism, but I still loved going and listening to them. The artwork in Russian Orthodox churches is better than the artwork of any other churches I’ve ever been in.
It was during my time in Suzdal and Vladimir that the Orthodox cross finally made sense. I had always been confused at why it seemed like the left side of the diagonal bar on the bottom was pointing up to heaven and the right down to hell, because that is the opposite symbolism of what one would expect in typical Christian theology. I think it was in the Cathedral of the Assumption that I realized I was looking at it from my perspective rather than Christ’s, and when you flip it, the right side is pointing to heaven and the left to hell.
I found it interesting how churches and home were built with two parts: one for winter and one for summer. It’s always neat to see how humans change their habitats to adapt to their environments. I also like learned about Andrei Rublev, and I’m still getting used to the idea that I actually stood underneath paintings from the 14th century. I was very amused when our tour guide explained how “West” is the direction of hell in Orthodox theology and “East” is the direction of paradise. That might explain some of the animosity between the two “halves” of Christianity. I bought a wooden Orthodox cross, a spoon from Suzdal, a book in Russian about the icons of Vladimir, an icon with Mary and the baby Jesus, a ceramic plate, and two shot glasses.
On the way back to Moscow I sat in the front of the bus and was able to take better pictures because I had a good view. Someday I will go back to Suzdal and stay for several weeks, because two days is definitely not enough time, and I want to eat at that inn again.