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

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