To view any photo at full size, click on the photo. All
photos are copyright Wayne and Patricia Primeau. All
at the Embassy organized a
group outing on Boxing Day (December 26). The driver arrived just after
sun-up, not that early in Moscow in mid-winter, and we all piled into a
van and drove up to Sergiev Posad, about an hour north of Moscow, for a
day of Russian winter fun.
First, Yuri our
host, gave us all a ride in a sleigh drawn by a troika, a traditional
Russian three horse hitch. Snuggled under thick blankets, flying
through the snow behind three galloping horses was an exhilerating
Then we were loaded onto several
sleighs, this time drawn by only one horse, and taken out into the
forest. In the woods, we enjoyed vodka and champagne, and Yuri's
wonderful home made pickles.
We had snow fights. Everyone got dumped into a snow drift at least
once. Yuri seemed to have a knack of catching people when they least
expected it, but Wayne caught him unawares and dumped him in the snow
It was bitter cold, but with
the vodka and champagne and running around, no one really felt the
chill. When we started to get tired, Yuri took us all back to his home.
back inside, it was time to experience the banya, the traditional
Russian bath house. Everyone got into bathing suits (because we are all
wimpy Canadians with very strong body taboos) and first we jumped in
the hot tub, with more vodka of course. Then we went to the sauna, very
hot, with plenty of steam. When we were nicely done, Yuri ordered us
outside to roll in the snow. What a shock to the system. Then it was
back into the hot tub, to the sauna, and back outside to jump in a tub
of icy water, then warm up in the hot tub again. By the end of the
afternoon we were exhausted, but we felt great.
dressed and trooped upstairs for dinner. Of course we started with
borscht, and more vodka and more champagne. We each had to make a
toast. Wayne and I attempted ours in Russian. Even with grammar errors
the effort seemed to be appreciated. When we had eaten so much we
couldn't move, the music and folk songs and dances started. It was a
wonderful day, one that we will always remember. One surprising thing,
we both had colds on Christmas Day. We thought we'd end up with
pneumonia from the snow fights and rolling in it after saunas, but when
we woke up on the 27th neither of us had so much as a sniffle. Now we
know a cure for the common cold!
New Year's Eve we met at the
apartment of one of the other Canadian families for a bite to eat. Then
we piled into a couple of cars and headed off for Red Square. What an
amazing place to see in the new year! We arrived at 11:00 in order to
get a good place to stand. By 11:45 the entire square is wall-to-wall
people, so it is important to arrive early.
We found a
space on the steps of the place of execution, just in front of St.
Basil's. It is, in our opinion, the best place to be. From the steps we
had a view of the entire square over the sea of fur clad heads. As the
square filled, the noise of talking and hand-held fireworks grew so
loud that we could not hear the bells of the Spasky Tower chime
midnight. Suddenly the sky was illuminated by a wonderful display. With
the Kremlin and St Basil's as a backdrop, it was the most beautiful
fireworks show I had ever seen. Alas, none of the photos came out well,
the film was not fast enough. Better luck next year.
Boxing Day excursion and Red Square on New Year's Eve, a Moscow winter
is not always pleasant. Because Moscow buildings are heated by hot
water piped under the streets from huge heating plants scattered around
the town, the streets are usually melted and the sidewalks are always
slushy and slippery and muddy. The underground heat also creates a
mico-climate for both Moscow and St. Petersburg. Skies are usually
dismal and grey. Clear days are rare.
The days are short, street lights don't go off until 9 AM and are back
on by 4PM. Winter in Moscow is usually not as cold as Ottawa, but it is
far more depressing. Even though it isn't terribly cold, walking is
unpleasant because of the mud and the grime and they overcast sky. It
is not a joy to walk a dog through a Moscow winter. Poor little Hannah
was always dirty, no matter how often we bathed her. In January, in
Moscow, Spring seems a long way off.
Kolorit Banya and Souvenir Shop
You can contact Yuri and Sveta Kurilkin in Sergiev Posad
(formerly Zagorsk) to arrange for a visit to their banya. They will
also be delighted to arrange tours of the Lavra (Monastery) and other
points of interest in the area, lunch, shopping and reservations should
one wish to stay in Sergiev Posad. For a fee, they offer pick-up and
drop-off in Moscow.