Sorry, folks, cleaning out the draft folder again. You know how it goes. WRITTEN IN … PROBABLY THE MOSCOW AIRPORT.

Cherepovets in a few sentences: Got sick, didn’t do much, talked with friends, somehow got roped into teaching 3 classes at Nathan’s school, finally got a decent bowl of lagman, the soup I’d been dreaming of since forever.

On the train out of Cher, I was finally able to get a platzkartnyy ticket, so there was no risk of repeating the Cauldron of Horrors from my last train trip. The night passed without incident, and in the morning I finally got to have hot water (was too lazy to get tea) out of the lovely train cup, along with a potato pie (which turns out to be less depressing than I’d thought).

We arrived in Moscow around 9:30 AM, which is to say, just after sunrise, and I made a beeline for my hostel–the same one that I’d put Nathan in when I was in Moscow for my Fulbright training week. Once I’d gotten my stuff stowed, these were my goals for the day:

  1. Coffee.
  2. Find a guidebook of Tbilisi
  3. Visit the Tretyakov Gallery
  4. Visit Dostoevsky Metro Station
  5. Talk to a Russian one last time 😦
  6. Use the groceries I bought in Cher (who’s a smart thrifty cookie? This guy!) to make food for today and tomorrow.
  7. Change Rubles for Georgian Lari.

 

  1. Coming out of the hostel, I turned in the general direction of Red Square. After a block, I saw a giant, tarp-covered scaffolding with an underpass on the sidewalk. It looked familiar. Was it possible that this was the same construction site that was here when Nathan and I arrived in September 2012? Shouldn’t they have made… any progress at all?

Nope. It was the same. And I knew what that meant: Giant bookstore just on the other side. Having been failed by the bookstores of Kazan, Ekaterinburg and Cherepovets, my last shot at getting a Tbilisi guidebook in a language I could understand lay just beyond that facade. As I was entering the underpass, I saw this:

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That’s the logo of my beloved cafe in Kazan! A place of affordable coffee (if you drink it fast–in Kazan, Tsiferblat (do I spell it differently every time?) costs 2 rubles a minute, or about 2 dollars an hour; in Moscow, it’s 3 r/min– and friendly Russians, plus some interesting stuff to look at! And here I had been about to resign myself to one of those depressing knock-off Starbucks chains (Coffee Mak, Mak Coffee, Coffee Max, Coffee House, to name a few).

First things first. Went to the bookstore and picked up the only guidebook for Georgia  I could find. It’s called “Tbilisi in a week” and is probably fine for what it is, but what it is is not what I wanted. It has 7 walking tour routes, plus a very brief history of Georgia and an equally cursory introduction to the food. The routes are well-explained and have good information about all of the sites they pass, but it’s just not what I need when I travel. Anyway, it’s what I have, so there you go.

I discovered the disappointing truth of my new purchase while sitting in Tsiferblat with a coffee made for me by the bubbly “helper,” Masha (they don’t call them waiters at Tsiferblat–and you also can’t “order”– only “request”). Checking out of there, I loaded up my GPS and set off for the Tretyakov Gallery, which, once I finally found it, was surprisingly worthwhile (quoth the philistine).

I was pleased to see a whole room of the work of Vereshchagin, a native of Cherepovets who, based on his work, had the same dream that most natives of Cherepovets have: to leave. All of his work portrays images far from Russia or at the outskirts of the (then-)Russian Empire.

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Then I discovered Perov, with whom I had not been familiar, but who was apparently the original social justice warrior-painter. I love that he gives his paintings such bland, innocuous titles, but implies (not so subtlely) critique in the paintings themselves.

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“The Unequal Marriage”

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“A troika of apprentices fetching water” (or something like that)

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“Stopping to drink tea near Moscow”

And, of course, there were works by more famous Russians like Repin.

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The English title of this one is allegedly “Unexpected Visitors,” but a more exact translation is “They weren’t waiting.”

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I was reading not too long ago online that we shouldn’t call “Ivan the Terrible” by that name–that a better translation is “Formidable.” But “terrible” seems like a pretty OK name for someone who killed two of his sons and had his sister locked up in a monastery…

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…which she, obviously, was thrilled about.

In conclusion, the Tretyakov Gallery was $3 very well spent.

Then it was off to Dostoevskaya, because I had apparently decided that I needed some art with my art. This is a fairly new metro station that made big news a few years ago when the murals inside were revealed. Predictably, they depict scenes from Dostoevsky’s work, and some people were scandalized by the unsoftened portrayal of violent scenes, including suicide, which, you may remember, are kind of what Dostoevsky is known for.

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I mean, really. Did we expect a book called “Crime and Punishment” to be all fun and games?

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I love that the murals wrap around the columns so you don’t have to be (in fact, can’t be) standing directly in front of them to get the whole picture. It’s a stroke of genius for metro station art.

Well, y’all, this is where the conclusion normally goes, but really, it was one afternoon 5 months ago, so I have no idea what else happened that day. Someday I’ll be through the backlog (although Nathan still hasn’t sent me the scans of my travel journal from Georgia, which I left in KY, so I guess we still have that to deal with).

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