Blaise Nicklas
Blaise Nicklas

Weekend in the Country

Written by Blaise Nicklas, an Edinboro University Junior attending Penn State this semester

Two weekends ago, instead of staying in Moscow, we accompanied our friends Stas, Pasha, Dima, and Katya to Stas’s hometown of Taldom, about 68 miles north of the capital. Taldom was founded in 1677 and has a population of 13,334. We met Saturday morning and took the train from a station not far from our hostel. The train was similar to the one we took when we returned from Kolomna. After a two-hour ride, we arrived in Taldom. From the dusty platform, we took Dima’s car the rest of the way to Stas’s home.

When we made it to Stas’s house, his mother, Luba, had prepared sweet bliny (traditional Russian pancakes) and tea for us. As we all love bliny, this was a welcome introduction. We introduced ourselves to Stas’s parents and also met the family’s cat and dog, both named “Beliy,” Russian for “white.” For us

American students, this was the first average Russian house we had visited. Katya’s family in Ozyory lived in an apartment, which is also a very common arrangement in Moscow. We saw no apartment blocks in Taldom, only individual homes. The inside of Stas’s home was beautiful, with a dark wooden interior and welcoming atmosphere.

Lamb Shashlik prepared for dinner
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Preparation of the lamb shashlik for the pit

Stas had promised us shashlik (a Russian/Uzbek take on shish kebab) for dinner that evening, but we didn’t expect it to be freshly slaughtered. To our surprise, a lamb had been butchered just for our arrival. The new pelt by the side of the house evidenced this. We were very appreciative of this generous touch, as we love shashlik as well. That evening, Stas, Dima, and Pasha cut up wood for the fire and slid the lamb meat onto skewers. These skewers were then laid over the fire and grilled; we compared the situation to a typical barbecue in the U.S. After a short wait and a few turns, the shashlik was

William and Aidan enjoy lamb shashlik
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William and Aidan enjoy a skewer of lamb shashllk

ready. We also had black bread to accompany it. It was by far the best shashlik we’ve had during the whole trip.

We retired late into the night, but not before poring over a map of the U.S. with Stas’s mother, each pointing out our respective states. The next day, we had meat-filled bliny for breakfast and then made our way to the train station for the return to Moscow. With our overall trip winding down, we value these experiences more than ever and I know that they are ones that I will remember most vividly after my return home.

Also in this Issue...

  • On American Ground Again by Aidan Lowe
    "We heard from both economic and political advisors. They told us how they became involved with the foreign service and what they did on a day-to-day basis. Some of the presenters had journeyed all over the world and were employed in a variety of service settings, from human rights work to counseling services."
  • Novodevichy Convent by Chris Olvey
    "While in the convent, we took some great pictures and managed to see some of the church service held that day. The church’s interior was incredibly beautiful, with murals on the ceiling and icons on the walls where people pray.."
  • Presentations in Russian?! by Malisa Manning
    "The presentations went smoothly, for the most part, with only a few technical difficulties and mispronunciation errors, which many of the Russians in the room were quite helpful in correcting.  As each of us finished, we breathed a sigh of relief.."

  • Issue Photographer: Malisa Manning

  • Issue Reviewer: Blaise Nicklas

Novodevichy Convent

Written by Chris Olvey, a Clemson University Junior

Chris Olvey
Chris Olvey

A couple weeks ago, we decided to make a morning trip to the Novodevichy Convent. To be honest, I had never heard of it, but Dr. Layfield gave me an article to read in the metro, providing some historical background. The Novodevichy Convent was founded in 1524 in commemoration of the conquest of Smolensk, a city southwest of Moscow, near Belarus. The convent housed nuns, noblewomen, the sick, and at one point, more than 250 abandoned children. During the Napoleonic Wars, the French tried to destroy the convent, but the nuns managed to save it from destruction. In 1922, the Bolsheviks closed the convent and turned it into housing and it came under the direction of the State Historical Museum. During Stalin’s reign, the convent reopened and became the Moscow Theological Institute and in 1994, nuns finally returned.

While in the convent, we took some great pictures and managed to see some of the church service held that day. The church’s interior was incredibly beautiful, with murals on the ceiling and icons on the walls where people pray.

The service was very powerful, concluding with the priest walking down the center aisle, laying hands on the congregants.

After we visited the convent, we walked to the adjacent cemetery. The Novodevichy Cemetery is the final resting place of some of the most famous Russians to ever live. There were so many graves I wanted to see, but the sheer size of the cemetery prevented me from reaching them all. Famous Russian authors Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol, composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostokovich, politicians Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin, and Konstantin Stanislavski – one of the greatest theatre directors who ever lived, are all interred there. I have to say that the grave that stood out the most was Boris Yeltsin’s, whose plot was more like a monument than a grave, featuring an enormous sculpture of a waving

The American students and classmate, Katya, visiting the convent

Russian flag made of white, blue, and red stone. It was definitely worth the trip, to see the graves of some of the most famous people who have affected the culture of Russia and the world.





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