Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wait... this town was founded in 862?

So yesterday I attempted to write but... couldn't get myself to actually do it with the ever so slow internet. So today, in honor of procrastinating and not studying I've decided to write!

Rostov- Yaroslavl train station (Which we took to go back)

Yesterday our group, for the most part, headed out to Rostov, which I just realized now shouldn't be confused with Rostov-on-Don. Rostov (also referred to in my guide book as Rostov-Veliky [great]) is about an hour out of Yaroslavl but it is still in the Yaroslavl Oblast. Oblasts I guess can be seen as big communities or mini counties in vast Russia. There might an official definition somewhere out there...

Before heading into the Kremlin

One of the churches inside the Kremlin

Rostov, as you can see from the title is said to have been founded in 862, which isn't yesterday's history. This town was around 138 years before Yaroslavl was even founded! And not to mention, WAY before America was 'discovered'. We headed out by bus and then came back by train, both fares reduced with our student IDs, the trip literally was roughly a 1 dollar or so. Once we got there we headed over to the Kremlin and that's all we saw, the town is a pretty small and quaint, surprisingly since it was once a very important town. I also just learned that actually Yaroslavl's "Kremlin" actually isn't a Kremlin but just a monastery... and here I was thinking it was both!

Closer view of the onion-shaped domes of the church

So we got to see The Assumption Church and walked around inside the Kremlin going up to the belfry where the bells are rung in the morning and evening and I also went to the Archeological Museum inside the Kremlin. It was very cool to see, especially the different artifacts found before the actually Russians we know came to be. We got to see some pretty interesting things like Q-Tips which were actually wooden, as well as Mammoth teeth... and I repeat Mammoth teeth!! I don't know, but I don't think I've ever seen teeth from Mammoths before. For all you Soviet Russian Film seers and lovers, some the film "Ivan Vassilivich changes professions" was shot here! We also got to see Lake Nero which is right behind the Kremlin. The lake seemed pretty big and extended pretty wide out in both directions.

Oh, but of course! Another church!

More of the onion domes, really amazing design.

Where the running scene was filmed for "Ivan Vassilivich"!

One thing that I've begun to realize over time that for the most part, in Russia, a lot of the drinks aren't refrigerated. That includes things like soda, juice, and even the water. Occasionally I have to ask if the drink I want is cold or if they have some in the refrigerator. The typically answer is no followed by removing said warm drink of the shelf to give to me. The common belief is that drinking cold drinks while the weather isn't warm will cause you to get a cold. And interestedly once I told my babushka that I had a sore throat, she instantly responded with "You've most of drank something cold!" But for me, in reality, my throat is sore because I wasn't properly 'covered' one night when we went out, having my throat exposed when it was really chilly out.

Unfortunately I tried to put pictures up and since it takes soooo long to load I'll try another time, until then you can enjoy this picture of a man painting the town of Rostov from Lake Nero.

Next weekend we're heading out to a town called Plyos which should be fun!

Panorama picture of Lake Nero

A man by the lake painting the town from Lake Nero

Saturday, September 18, 2010

1,000 years ago a man killed a bear...

As most of you probably know from my Facebook statuses, that last weekend (September 10-12) was the 1,000th year anniversary of Yaroslavl.

The town was glamoring itself up for the arrival of foreigners, Russian comrades, and even the Russian president himself Medvedev. Roads were being repaired, Churches retouched and many awaited the weekend with anticipation. We (being the other students on the Midd program and myself) spent most of the weekend walking around, taking in the city and the buzz of excitement from other people.

Legend has it the the town of Yaroslavl was founded 1,000 years ago, making that 1010... that's a REALLY long time ago. Side comment, an interesting thing one of the professors said her students from last year mentioned while looking at a 12th century church was that "America wasn't even discovered by then". Which makes Yaroslavl look like a babushka compared to the young United States. But yes, Yaroslav the Wise was said to have been sent by his father to rule around this area, cities such as Novgorod and Rostov already being here (If my memory serves me correct). So when he came upon this area, he noticed that there were people here (Pagans) who didn't follow what the church was instating in Russia.

The town people believed in this mystical bear... who was their God? So what did Yaroslav ultimately decide to do? Kill the bear of course, make the people turn to the church and then name the town in his honor. What's interesting is that the town crest, has both the bear and the axe, but the bear is CARRYING the axe. Weren't you just murdered with that axe? But none the less, the town is celebrating its 1,000 years of being around.

The Pagan Bear parades around with the axe

So we walked around and saw a lot of cool things. We went inside the Kremlin which at one point served as a monastery and got a tour from a tour guide who spoke to us at the speed of light. Oh, and there was actually a bear inside the Kremlin who's name is Masha (in a cage of course). Then we walked around and saw this church (pic below) which is my favorite churches so far. It was recently built replacing a church formerly there but was partially destroyed around the time of the revolutions. In the picture, you can see two block memorials and a flame in the center. The left panel is dedicated to the men war soldiers that fought from 1941-1945 while the right panel is dedicated to the women who worked hard as the men fought. It was really nice to see a babushka slowly walk up to the memorial and bow her head to the statues, giving thanks for all they had sacrificed through the time of war. When we returned a day later, the memorial was adorned with many flowers people had brought.

The new church in the back and war memorial in the front

A close up of the church

Another thing we did which was really cool was go to a new place they had opened. This place is where the Volga River and the Kotorosl meet as the latter feeds into the Volga. I was told that near that location, is where Yaroslav himself killed the bear. Here there is a big plaza area with three fountains (one bigger one in the center and two smaller ones in front and back) which are coordinated and synchronized to music blaring from near by speakers playing from classical music to Phantom of the Opera. (And when you go at night there are lights as well!) Here there is a statue with several panels showing the town's history as well as with Yaroslav himself. Mind you, when we had visited only about three days ago they seemed no where near down, but I have no idea how the finished everything just in time for the celebration.

The new plaza area with the fountains & statue

Closer up to the statue
Little plaque: "So I killed your bear, I swear it was a mistake!"

It was really nice walking around and getting to see some cool things. I was surprised that I wasn't stopped by the police, being that there were so many officers practically on ever main corner. Saturday night, we headed back out to the plaza and got to see the fireworks. It was so hard getting through the crowd of people but luckily we did and found a good spot on the grass to see the fireworks. PS- If you're ever on a line in Russia, stick real close to the person in front of you... if not, it means "Hey anyone can come and skip me, I really don't care!" I really got to enjoy Yaroslavl and hope to see more stuff now that all the tourist are gone and things aren't under construction anymore. Hopefully they didn't just leave stuff lying around until the 2,000th year anniversary!

Fireworks on Saturday, could have sworn
95% of Russia's population was in attendance

Yaroslavl...ohhh, where's that in Russia?

If you've seen Soviet Russian films, then you are very familiar with this statue. Which is actually located outside of Moscow, not in Yaroslavl.

The typical question I got back home was:

Q: Where are you studying abroad in Russia?
A: Yaroslavl, Russia.
Q: Oh ok... where's that?

I guess many people thought that my response would either be A) Moscow or B) Saint Petersburg. The typical American probably wouldn't have heard of cities such as Perm, Ufa, Omsk, Yakutsk, as well as Yaroslavl if they weren't too familiar with Russia. I myself didn't know where Yaroslavl was until I began to study Russian and was deciding to study abroad. So I had to change my answer a bit. "I'm going to Yaroslavl, it's a small town 4 hours to the North of Moscow." That way people would understand, OH! So not too far from Moscow.

So, I'm here. Yaroslavl, Russia! A town of about ~600,000 dwellers who call this city their home. And from the months of Sept 2010- June 2011, this will be my home. I chose Yaroslavl for a few reasons. Out of the three cities we had from the Middlebury C.V. Starr schools they were: Moscow, Yaroslavl and Irkutsk. Moscow usually isn't recommended being that the city attracts many foreigners who don't rely on Russian to get around. Irkutsk was too far East for me, and the idea of being in Siberia for a year really didn't sell itself to me. Yaroslavl on the other hand wasn't too far away from the main cities of Russia, easily accessible from Moscow and the cheaper city out of the three.

The town is very historic (more on that later) and sprinkled with beautiful landmarks! Pretty much from any point in the city, odds are you will be able to spot a church and the city of course has a Kremlin, with a monastery inside. Rumor has it that Stalin never made it to Yaroslavl because one theory was that since in Russian, Yaroslavl is Ярославль and the letter 'Я' is the last letter of the alphabet, he never got done to the end of the list. But who knows what's the truth?

I won't be updating this everyday because seriously not too much happens on a daily basis. Breakfast, class, lunch, class, dinner, homework... that really isn't blog material and you'd be so bored reading about what we did in class. But, I will say that so far I'll be taking this semester: Russian Film, Russian Grammar, a Russian Writing Course, Russian Culture and one class which I am still looking for me; I might want to take a linguistics course with actually Russian students(but let's see how that goes!)

I'll write more about Yaroslavl in the next post!

and.. please excuse any bad grammar, Russian seems to be eating away of any existing knowledge of the English language.

One of the many churches in Yaroslavl