Greetings to all of you from Moscow, Russia
Several years ago, we would never have dreamed that we could begin this message the way we have. Yet, here we are in Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation. It has now been two days since I wrote our last report from Kiev on Monday night after our joint Patriotic Concert with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. So now I have to bring you up on the past two days which have been full.
It didn't look like it was going to be as busy as it has turned out, but plans written on paper somehow seem to turn out differently than planned. This past Tuesday was to have been a day for relaxation after a very hectic schedule with Music Mission Kiev. Nothing had been scheduled except to have dinner together that evening at the hotel at 6:00pm. We did mention to the group, however, that they could choose to take an optional guided tour of the great Kiev Lavra that day if they wanted. If not, they could do what ever they pleased. When we passed around a signup sheet for that tour, 47 people had said they wanted to do that. We therefore set the time for the tour to begin at 9:00am..
When we set that time, we had not counted on how everyone would be feeling after the joint concert. It didn't get over until around 10:00pm and then there was the reception following. People did not get back to the hotel until after 11:00pm. I believe you can see where this is going. People began to ask if the tour could start later so that they could sleep in. So, we set the time fort the tour to begin at 10:00am. Tuesday morning we were again asked if it could be set for the afternoon. We finally determined that the tour would begin at 12:00 noon - - getting everyone back to the hotel by 4:00pm. Just before we were to load the bus for the Lavra, the skies again opened up in a hard steady rain. There was no way we could even get on the bus without getting drenched. At 12:15, it let up enough we were able to board our bus and set out on the tour.
The Kiev Lavra was started back in the 11th century by some monks, or as other call them, hermits, finding caves along the banks of the Dnieper River. They stayed in their caves the rest of their lives - - living lives of complete solitude. Food would be placed out for them each day. If the food was still there the next day, it was assumed that the monk had died. When they died, they were placed in little nitches in the caves or as they were expanded, the catacombs. Orthodox churches then began to be built over these catacombs and then a monastery was established. Today, the Lavra is divided into two main sections - - the upper Lavra with various churches, museums, monastic buildings, etc., and then the lower Lavra where the caves and catacombs are located. You can enter these underground narrow passage ways.holding a tall, thin candle in your left hand and walk down and see where several of the momified remains can be seen. All of this would have been difficult to see and tour if the hard rain had continued. But that did not happen. The rain got lighter and lighter until it stopped completely. Even though there was a lot of walking, I believe everyone enjoyed the tour.
After dinner, we loaded up our two buses with our luggage and all of the equipment and headed for the Kiev Train Station. Peter Barbarics had worked out a great plan where we would place all of the Carnet items (handbell and audio equipment) in one compartment with Jenny Post assigned there. Peter and I were placed on one side of her and TJ and Kim Freeland on the other. That's protection. The train compartments were nice, and with just two people assigned to each compartment, not too crowded - - even with all of each person's luggage. We pulled out of the Kiev station at 9:30pm with everyone getting settled in. Then around 12:00 midnight, we made our first stop - - the last one in Ukraine. The Ukrainian officials came on board, check all of our passports, and collected the exit paper we had all filled out when we entered the country. That went very smoothly. What we were concerned about was how they would treat our Carnet items. There was a lot of discussion by the Ukrainian officials with Jenny, Peter, and Oksanna - our Ukrainian guide. They at last decided to stamp our Carnet, and we were once again headed for Russia. About 3 hours later, the train again came to a stop - - this time to let on the Russian officials. Now, they took our passports the the entry/departure paper we had all filled out for our time in Russia, and left the train - - with our passports. While the Boarder officials had our passports, the customs officials debated what to do about our Carnet and the Carnet equipment. This time, they finally dicided not to stamp the Carnet - saying that because it was written in English and they could not read it. They told us that since the Ukrainian officials had stamped us out of Ukraine, there would be no problem with the Russian officials stamping us out of Russia at the airport when we fly out on Saturday. We hope that they are correct.
Now we could go back to sleep and not worry about any more interruptions by boarder or customs officials. We arrived wright on time in Moscow at 10:50am, off loaded all of our luggage and other equipment, and put it on our two buses that would be with us for the three days we are here in Moscow. I am sure that I must have mentioned it two years ago that Moscow traffic is about the worse of any city we have visited. Well, it certainly has not gotten any better. We drove to a place just outside of Red Square where the buses could drop us off. We did not have time to actually enter the Square, but did learn a lot about that area. Lunch was being provided at a restaurant very close by called the Boris Gudinov. It had originally been a monastery, but today serves nutritious food instead of spiritual food. We were treated to some traditional Russian food: shredded cabbage salad, Borsh, and them dumplings.
I find that I need to get this over verry soon as they are supposed to be closing the business center here at the hotel. Let me just say that we had our handbell workshop at the Moscow Central Baptist Church, then rushed to have a tour of the Kremlin. It was most interesting and something I will probably tell you more about tomorrow if I can. Everyone is really tired- - from lack of sleep last night on the train, and the busy day of sightseeing and workshop.
I will get something else out tomorrow whenever I can find the time. Best to all of you!