Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Russia: Day 8

Today was very Russian. Not that the other days were not very Russian, but today we went to the Russian National Library (RNL) and Russian Museum. So I suppose it would be better to say it was Russian Culture day.

We were only allowed to take photos in one room of RNL, so I don't have too much to show. It was a beautiful library; floor to ceiling books and tons of shelves everywhere. We even got to see Voltaire's personal library, which was purchased by Catherine the Great. She seemed to take being a fan to a new level. While Voltaire was alive, she corresponded with him on a regular basis, though they never met. When he died, she bought his entire library and also ordered a replica of his house be built. Wow.

National Library of Russia
There were a few parts of the library I thought were particularly interesting. They are:
  • They shelve their books according to size
  • They have a card catalog. Only the Russian language books are in an online catalog. That's a lot of cards.
  • At the moment there are no plans to make the entire catalog online
  • They have the first Hebrew Bible written on paper (or was it parchment?)
  • Voltaire's library= awesome. How did he have time to read over 2,000 books?
  • The shelves have steps and handles built in to reach the top shelf
The librarian was not optimistic about bringing the library into the digital age. She said there is not enough money or any plans at all about making their catalog digital. Same was said for other parts of the library, such as manuscripts and other documents.

After that sad, yet beautiful, tour, we stopped for lunch at a little cafe. It was yummy to the max. 

Lunch: Syrniki is the pie looking thing in the back, and in
front is cabbage piroshky.
I had a cabbage piroshky and split a syrniki tart with Rachel. Piroshky is a pastry that is usually stuffed with meat or cabbage, but you can also get fruit or other fillings. Syrniki is fried cottage cheese. Where we went it was served baked into piroshky dough. I also had it in the BAN cafeteria. I liked BAN's more, but this one was still quite delicious. 

Once we were fueled and ready to go, the group split up. Part went to check out some used book stores, but I went with a group to the Russian Museum. It was amazing! So many artists I have never seen before.  

Russian Museum
I walked around and looked at paintings, sculptures, and Russian folk art. It was fun seeing so many portraits of royalty. I could tell which artists painted people in a better light than others. Not everyone made important people look good.
I can't say I liked one artist or style more than any other. I found myself particularly attracted to sculptures today, though. Here are pictures of a few pieces I really liked.


The last few are from the folk art exhibit. I wasn't really into it until the end. There were some beautiful bone carvings and painted boxes. What I really liked were the toys, though. The two I liked most were these bears and the whale. The bears in the very back are called Fatty and Skinny. I don't remember the title of the whale village, but I think my name is fitting. They were fun!

On our way back from the museum some of us stopped in a grocery store. I bought plenty of chocolate! I think I might have to get more, though. I'm getting a little hungry....

And speaking of hungry, for dinner 5 of us went to a little place called Soviet Cafe. It was super delicious. Once again, I was too busy eating to take pictures. I had a mushroom soup that was fantastic, and also a pelmeni-esk dish. It was a wonton-like wrapper stuffed with vegetables and then fried. I quite enjoyed it. Everyone tried each other's food, and each dish was great. And to top it all of, there was a soviet movie playing in the corner. 
The sound was off, and even if it were on we would not be able to understand it, so we made up our own plot. It was hilarious, but you probably had to be there.

It's kind of small, but there is a red sign that says
"Soviet Cafe."
After dinner we got donuts, and then headed back to the hotel. A sweet way to end the day.

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