This past Sunday I had the pleasure of taking part in an excursion to Sergiev Posad, which is a small, historical city a few hours by train outside of Moscow. This was an unplanned and pleasantly wonderful daytrip, where I was introduced to students on partner American Councils programs and where I was able to visit the historic Lavra St. Sergius monastery. This was my first experience of visiting a smaller city outside of the massive, concrete center of Moscow. It was an amazing opportunity to see a how a smaller city functions, further out of the cosmopolitan capital of Russia. It’s hard to determine what my favorite part of the trip was, so I’ll start off by giving a short overview of the highlights I experienced.
The morning that the group was heading to Sergiev Posad, I was racing through the metro trying to get to the train tracks before everyone left. I had not accounted enough time to get from my dorm to the train station, and I was surprised when I found the group all still in line to buy train tickets. I hurried up and joined them, excited to see what the famous Russian railway system was like. I have spent time since I was a child riding trains in Germany and Europe, so I assumed the trains would be comparable to Deutsche Bahn. I found out quite the opposite – the trains were chaotic, packed, loud, but yet still fascinating. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw salespeople step into the train compartments at each stop and try to market their products. There were women selling everything from stockings and scarves to men selling maps and knives. It was like a moving bazaar that seemed to never end during the entire two-hour journey. I had never seen anything like this before on an in-motion vehicle, so you can imagine that my eyes were transfixed like a moth to a light bulb, while the Russians seemed to completely ignore these salespeople. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the Russian railways and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone whose visiting Russia for the first time.
When we arrived in Sergiev Posad in the early hours of the morning, we immediately walked as a group to the monastery, where we split into two tours – one for Russian speakers and one for English speakers. This gave me an opportunity to get acquainted with some of the students who were on the Politics & Public Diplomacy in Contemporary Russia program and talk to them about their experiences on the program. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour as well, since our guide was very informative and able to give us a great insight into the history of the monastery, such as when it was forbidden to enter the grounds for several years after the Russian revolution. I also was interested to learn that this monastery is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s considered one of the holiest places on earth for the entire Russian Orthodox Church. I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to walk through such peaceful trails within the walls of the monastery and admire the mosaics and preserved icons inside the churches.
There is a Russian Orthodox monastery in my hometown and I’ve always been interested but intimidated to visit it, until now. I felt that since I can’t speak Russian or since I’m unfamiliar with Orthodox churches, I shouldn’t visit this place. However, I’m looking forward to changing that perspective and spending a day at the monastery when I return home. I’ve heard that they even have a traditional Russian bakery and botanical gardens on the grounds of the church. I can’t wait to check it out and positively reminisce on my memories of Russia.
By: Käthe Erichsen
Program: Overseas Professional & Intercultural Training Program, Moscow, Russia
Term: Summer 2019