July 14, 2014
Vikings and Monks
We woke this morning in time to have breakfast before reaching our disembarkation point in front of a recreated Viking Village. The small tourist living history site set out to depict a Viking settlement as it would have looked a thousand years ago. While it appeared a bit funky at first, it turned out to be entertaining.
The presentation was by a docent actor dressed in Viking garb who proceeded to dress several of the tourist visitors in Viking costume. It was fun and I am glad I wasn’t selected for the show. The scale of the place probably accurately depicted actual conditions on the medieval waterfront. The woodwork was worth examining closely. The Ridge might need some new decorations.
We climbed aboard our bus and were transported a few miles to Kirillo. It was the site of the largest monastery in Russia. It was founded by a couple of monks who lived in a local cave. A century later, the stone church was the largest in medieval Russia. It took on the role of protecting the monks and their peasants. Known as Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, its location on Lake Severskoye was ideal for protecting the manuscripts and books produced by the monks. The place became a pilgrimage destination for the Tsar and it was granted donations and favorable tax situations.
By the 17th Century, there were two monasteries and eleven churches within the high walls and guard towers that fortified the place. It was besieged a number of times by Poles and Lithuanians. Catherine the Great confiscated its lands and turned part of the monastery into a prison. The Bolsheviks executed or imprisoned the monks and turned the place into a museum and saved it from destruction like most of the other places like it. Most of the icons were saved and are located in the museum while a couple of the most important churches are being restored. Evidently, even Vladimir Putin venerates these icons.
Icons are sometimes difficult to understand for us raised as Protestants. Russians see them as the depiction of the Gospel in much the same way as the written Gospel. The word “to paint” means the same as “to write” in Russian. Therefore, these paintings which can cover the entire interior of an Orthodox Church need to painted to accurately depict the Gospel as the word of God.
The restoration work creates a bit of a challenge to walk around. The flowers and the damaged walls interact nicely and the lake provides a nice place for swimmers and ducks. We climbed aboard our bus for a quick ride to the local high school. While it was not in session, a young student did an excellent job showing us the school and answering the questions in English. I was impressed. We even received a short musical presentation before heading back to the ship.
it is mid-afternoon and we still have a history lesson, a cooking lesson and a vodka tasting event before the day is over. All of this can be a tough go but someone needs to do it.
It is the morning of the next day. We are passing through the seemingly endless forests. I am trying to readjust my brain after the intense course in vodka tasting and traditions. Over consumption is part of the deal. Fortunately, our room is reached on foot and less than a hundred feet from the Bacchanalia. We actually did learn some of the traditions although I am not sure what I learned. Viking Cruises believes that you must experience cultures. The learning comes at a price. This is especially true after 8 shots. For a Russian this would have been nothing as they typically drink a water glass full with a meal. I do remember using two glasses held in one hand to down a shot without spilling and doing the “Patton” locked arm toast. Peggy and I managed to pull it off. Drinking with no hands was bit more obstreperous.