Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Posts Tagged ‘Bookish moments’

The Little Prince, artwork at the Fullerton Hotel

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 31, 2015

Artheline is the signature of artists Arnaud and Adeline Nazare-Aga, whose stunning sculptures – inspired by the original illustrations in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery – are on display in the Fullerton Hotel.

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Posted in Singapore 2015 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Carnavalet Museum, Paris

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2012

We had a lovely lunch at the Royal Turenne Bistro (where the food was scrumptious and the waiters were friendly and helpful (and kind to me about my awful French) and then made our way to a most enjoyable afternoon at the Carnavalet Museum, Paris.

This museum traces the history of the city from its beginnings to the present day and it is full of fascinating exhibits.  If you watch the slideshow you can see

  • fragments of a massive statue of Louis XIV which was pulled down during the revolution, locks of hair from the murdered royal family, the dauphin’s toys and a model of the guillotine
  • Voltaire’s chair, and a bust of him too
  • Proust’s bedroom where he did much of his writing,
  • gorgeous miniatures and lovely porcelain used to advertise wares in the days when people were illiterate (and a modern one of Lanvin’s boutique)
  • Fouquet’s glorious art nouveau cafe, and
  • memorabilia from the French Revolution.

All of this is in two lovely buildings with more than 100 rooms decorated in style from the 17th to the 20th century.  There are also two formal gardens and a kitchen garden, a pleasant place to sit and rest weary feet.

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Posted in Dining out, LitLovers pilgrimage, Museums, Paris 2012 | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Victor Hugo’s House, Paris

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 7, 2012

On our way home now, and with just one full day day in Paris, we decided to dawdle around in the Marais, a district we have not explored before.

We marked an historic moment at the site of the Bastille, and then went to Victor Hugo’s house.   Like Dostoyevsky Hugo had many addresses, but I was content to enjoy this one which (though the street address is authentic) is more of a reconstruction of a ‘typical house of that era’ than the way it really was in his day.   The Chinese Room is very startling – not a restful room by any means, but there was interesting memorabilia including a photo commemorating the visit of Aung Sun Suu Chi.  (By coincidence, I ‘watched’ the recent film of her life, ‘The Lady’, on the plane).

You can read my thoughts about Les Misérables on my ANZ LitLovers blog.

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Posted in Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Paris 2012 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Dostoyevsky Museum, St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 2, 2012

We spent our last day in St Petersburg at the Dostoyevsky Museum.

Like some of the other tours we’ve attended, the tour consists of transport provided by the tour company and the services of an interpreter who translates for the local guide.  It was like this at the Tolstoy and Chekhov estates and although I suppose it’s possible to go independently, (which may be cheaper) it has been a real pleasure to hear from local guides who are experts on their topics and have a passion for their work.

So it was today where the local guide enthused about Dostoyevsky, so much so that the interpreter apologised afterwards for not quite keeping up with her, but we didn’t mind at all.  It was a great experience to go through his house – one of many that he lived in, but this is the one that he wrote The Brothers Karamazov in, and the one that he died in, aged only 59.

The house had been subdivided during ‘Soviet Times’ (as locals call the era) but it has now been restored to the way that it would have been during Dostoyevsky’s lifetime.  They peeled off 20 layers of wallpaper and then made reproductions of the original, and they have decorated it with authentic furniture, including the author’s own desk, the one where he was working when he died.

In the children’s bedroom you can see a poignant little note from his son, and also a rocking horse – Dostoyevsky was devastated by the deaths of two of his children: his daughter Sofia died when an infant, and his son Aleksei died of epilepsy when only three.

In the study of his second wife Anna you can see her account books and her abacus where she kept meticulous records of their money.  Despite his fame, the family was often in debt, partly because he was a gambler but also because he had spent time in prison due to the political nature of his works. (Apparently Anna’s family was none too keen on the marriage because he was disreputable, but she was crazy about him so they married anyway).

There are family photographs on the walls, and in the reception room there are photos of the notables who came to visit Dostoyevsky once he became famous.  I thought it was rather sad that in the last home of an author who died of lung disease, they have kept his last packet of tobacco on display under a glass case.

There is also an exhibition of photos and facsimiles of his manuscripts, and of course, a monument outside!

Update: November 2013

I’m still scrapbooking this trip, and I’ve realised that I skipped a whole day of the tour.

It was the day we went to the Yuspov Palace, and had lunch at the Renaissance Hotel afterwards.

The Yusopov Palace is, apparently, one of 57 palaces owned by the Yusopovs but it was Felix Yusopov’s favourite.  It features a theatre, because it wasn’t respectable for princesses to attend the theatre, so they built one in-house.   The palace is famous for being the site of Rasputin’s murder, a bizarre tale, which you can read about at Wikipedia.

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Russian Museum, The Benois WingAfter that we took a walk and ended up at the Benois Wing of the ‘Russian Museum’, which is mostly 20th century Russian Art.  Here’s a link to a virtual tour of it.  

And we had dinner at the Vodka Museum, which has over 200 different kinds of vodka to try, which may be why I didn’t get round to writing about the day …

Posted in Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Museums, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Gogol’s Restaurant, St Petersburg

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 30, 2012

Last night we took the advice of our genial tour guide, Igor, and went to dinner at Gogol’s Restaurant.  We were told that Gogol himself lived here, (and perhaps it is true) and there are Bookish touches throughout the restaurant, most notably the menu which has been crafted like a novel.  The restaurant is composed of several small rooms, so it is like eating in a 19th century home, and the waitresses are dressed in simple 19th century costumes.

There is always a risk with places like this that are designed to reel in the tourists, that the food will be a disappointment, but no.  We dined with five of our new friends from the tour group – two fellow-Aussies from Heathmont in Melbourne, an American couple from New York, and a Professor of Fine Arts from the UK, and all of us enjoyed our choices.

I forgot to photograph our second courses (possibly because our Languedoc wine was so nice), but you can see our entrees in the slideshow below.  Ron’s little pastries that look like ravioli are white fish pelmeni; that little glass on the plate of fish is vodka with horseradish (which Tim said was delicious); the Prof had an excellent borscht, and Betsy had black ‘milk’ Siberian mushrooms.  Mine was a prawn salad with a delicious cherry sauce, and Tony’s was an excellent eggplant salad.   You can also see the scrumptious homemade breads as well.  The service was excellent, and the ambience a delight.  Good company, good Russian cuisine – what more could we want, eh?

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Posted in Dining out, Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

St Petersburg: St Isaac’s Cathedral

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 29, 2012

St Isaac’s Cathedral is just around the corner from our hotel, the Renaissance Baltic, and like all the other churches we’ve seen today it’s splendid.  Unlike the others, however, it’s a museum, not a religious building, though apparently church leaders are campaigning to have it returned to them.

Among the many impressive aspects are the massive doors.  There are three of them, carved  by Ivan Vitali, with reliefs of Christ and the saints, and the main ones weigh 20 tons.  Understandably they’re not opened very often, most recently on the 300th anniversary of the city, and before that in 1917 during the Revolution.   Unusual in a Russian church, there is also a stained glass window which is the centrepiece of the iconostasis (the royal doors, which correspond to where an altar would be in a Christian church).  Again there are all kinds of precious stones but the most amazing of all are two priceless columns of lapiz lazuli, some of which had to be imported from Afghanistan.  When you think how expensive a small piece of lapis lazuli jewellery is, these columns must be worth a king’s ransom.

All these splendours, however, were created at enormous human cost.  The gold leaf on the turrets was applied by to a mercury base which was heated to secure the gold leaf – and the serfs who worked on it all died from mercury poisoning.  Building went on all year round, right throughout Russia’s frigid winter, and hundreds of serfs perished in the cold and damp.  And, while not the same kind of tragedy, the architect who came from Italy as a young man and spent his entire life building it, was denied his last request to be buried there because it was against Russian church tradition.  His widow took his body back to Italy where he lies in an unknown grave.   You can see a bust of this remarkable man, Auguste de Montferrard, in the slideshow.

St Isaac’s was our last stop for the day.  After a short rest we went out for dinner to Gogol’s – a gorgeous restaurant where Gogol the author wrote Dead Souls. My other bookish moment for the day was a glimpse of the monument to Peter the Great, which I read about it Andrei Bely’s Petersburg.  Hopefully I’ll get back there to take a proper picture in due course.

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Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Historic buildings, Russia 2012, St Petersburg 2012 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Grand Tour of Moscow 25.8.12

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2012

This was the first day of our tour with Cox and Kings and so we met up with Irina our guide and set off on the coach with our driver Sergei for the Grand Tour of Moscow.  I think we saw everything of significance that there was to see – the Seven Sisters which are mega buildings commissioned by Stalin, Moscow University, the ring roads, assorted bridges, lots of gorgeous churches and many fine buildings dating from the 18th century and so on.  We went to the Arbat which is a pedestrianised street in central Moscow where tourists like us buy silly Russian hats and drink complementary shots of Vodka (and yes, we did both, and bought some nice presents for our friends), but we resisted buying any Babushkas.  It’s very late now and I’ve had a cocktail or two so it’s all a bit of a blur, but what stands out is the extraordinary way that the Russians have rebuilt churches that the Soviets demolished, the magnificence of Red Square and the artwork in the Metro stations.

The first church we visited was the restored Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.  The Soviets blew up the original in 1931 – there are photos of it on Wikipedia and also this excellent video at YouTube – like those amazing restorations in Barcelona, it’s very hard for the general tourist to tell the difference.   We went to St Basil’s too, (that’s the one with the brightly coloured domes that everyone associates with Moscow) and saw some gorgeous icons in situ.  We were also treated to a glorious a cappella male choir performance while we were there, just five voices but it was spine-tingling, especially the bass.

Red Square, to people of my generation, is associated with those ominous displays of Soviet military power during the Cold War.  But to people here, it’s associated with celebrations of victories over assorted interlopers, most notably Napoleon who left with his tail between his legs in 1812.  There will be mighty celebrations on the 200th anniversary of this event this year because in a city as old as Moscow, this is recent history and it’s well worth having a party!  There are also surprising examples of Soviet humour: Stalin and Lenin lookalikes posing for photos, and people joking about how they queue up to see Lenin’s mausoleum to make sure he’s really dead.

We saw the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts  – to which we hope to return later in our stay if we have time.  It turns out that I was completely wrong about the availability of Western artworks here, it’s just that they’re not at the Tretyakov.  At the Pushkin, there’s Goya, Matisse, Manet, and all the rest, and we discovered this when we went in to use the loo and saw the museum plan but there wasn’t time to go in and see them all.  We whizzed past the Moscow Library and a statue of Dostoyevsky, and also a huge bookshop which apparently stocks books in English too.   We spent a bit of time in the local temple of commerce, ‘Gum’ which is a massive shopping complex full of international designer brands and a lot of window-shoppers and then we did the trains.

It’s probably really hard for anyone in Melbourne to imagine that we spent two hours riding around on the subway looking at stations, but that is exactly what we did.  It turns out that the station we used the other day was one of the shabbier ones, the main stations are magnificent, each one done in a different style focussing in some on Soviet heroes or history and in others on the culture of the Soviet republics.

More tomorrow!

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Posted in Cathedrals & churches, Historic buildings, Moscow 2012, Russia 2012 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Marriott Hotel, Moscow 25.8.12

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 25, 2012

Moscow 25.8.12 011

Moscow 25.8.12 012Today we said farewell to the lovely staff at the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy and moved to the Grand Marriott where tomorrow we will meet up with the rest of the tour.

Once we were settled in we had a bite of lunch in the one of the hotel restaurants, and I had a manicure in the beauty parlour. Travel is very hard on the nails, and the hard water here has made my hair strangely curly too, so I could easily have spent the whole afternoon being pampered but we took a walk instead.

The Marriott is right in the centre of Moscow, a stone’s throw from the Kremlin and surrounded by dozens of shops and restaurants – including MacDonalds.  Compared to the Swissotel, the pace here is positively frenetic, and what’s really interesting is that there’s a whole lot of street life going on underground as well, as we discovered when we took a subway to cross the road. Imagine the Victoria Market underground, and you have some idea.  You could spend the whole day shopping there – buying anything from souvenir kitsch to underwear or books and never come up for air!

Today’s Bookish Moment was easy because we Moscow 25.8.12 015Moscow 25.8.12 014discovered Pushkin brooding over a nearby park.  We also soon noticed Moscow’s version of London’s blue plaques, large carved images of Moscow’s best and brightest, but alas we didn’t recognise any of the names or faces so they were a bit wasted on us.  However I did like the decorations on some of the apartment blocks, which in general are rather gorgeous here.  They seem to range in age from the 18th century onwards, and apart from some of the dowdy 1960s ones, they are as attractive as those you might see anywhere else in Europe, but with architectural elements which seem to be distinctively Russian.

We dined out at the Kitezh-Grad on Petrovka St which serves traditional Russian cuisine from all over the country.  We wimped out on the bear, because last night’s chef at the Graf Restaurant warned us off it, but we decided to lash out and have some Russian caviar pancakes which we shared over a glass of champagne, and Siberian dumplings with game (minced deer and wild boar).   The main courses were so huge that neither of us could finish them but they were delicious: I had venison served in a Hunter’s style with ‘cowberries’ and Tim had wild boar with what we think was burghul and fried apple with a raspberry sauce.

I know the layout for these photos isn’t as tidy as usual, but internet access is free here in the lobby and expensive in the room, and so I’m rushing to finish this so that we can put our feet up!

Posted in Dining out, Moscow 2012, Russia 2012 | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Tretyakov Galleries Old and New, Moscow 23.8.12

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 24, 2012

Most tourists with only a day or two in Moscow see only the permanent collection at the Tretyakov Gallery, because it’s centrally located near the major hotels and everybody recommends it.  It houses Russian Art from the 11th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century, so it has all the gorgeous icons and the kind of 18th & 19th century paintings that most people really like.  Of course it’s a must-see, but if you can venture a little further afield, it is well worth going to see the other Tretyakov Gallery as well…

Nobody here has even mentioned the New Tretyakov Gallery which houses the collection of Soviet art, and we would have missed it too if we hadn’t had a copy of Frommer’s Moscow Day-by-Day which showed us that it was nearby.  Our hotel (the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy) is in the business district and so for us the  New Tretyakov Gallery was just a short taxi ride away.  We left the cab by the river at the monument to Peter the Great (which is a most impressive sight, vaguely reminiscent of the Christopher Columbus monument in Lisbon, but (as you’d expect in Russia), much bigger, and then we took a short walk along the waterfront to the gallery.

It’s a big boxy lump of a building, and it’s more than unprepossessing inside, but the ticket seller and the information desk were friendly and helpful although they didn’t have a word of English between them.  However there was an information pamphlet in English with a map, and if you do as we did and head straight for the 4th floor, it’s brilliant.

We’ve seen a bit of fascist art in the Museum of Modern Art in Rome, but like most westerners, I suppose, we’ve interpreted it as propaganda.  Well, so it is, but if you take the time to look through this marvellous collection, you can also see something else.  This kind of art is also an expression of pride in the Soviet accomplishment, a celebration of the remarkably rapid transformation from a backward agrarian economy into an industrialised superpower.  There is a painting of the first Soviet airship; and another of two lovely college girls getting an education that was formerly denied them.  There is a terrific one of a car race with elegant automobiles, and there are city landscapes showing the building boom and Stalin’s skyscrapers.  Yes, because we know our history we know that these examples of economic progress were achieved at enormous personal cost to thousands of people, that some were built using slave labour and that Stalin’s collectivisation meant mass famine, not to mention the loss of personal freedoms, but nonetheless these paintings are not mere propaganda.  They show the people’s pride in what has been achieved in a very short time.  And while some of the art is not very sophisticated in its execution, some of it is rather beautiful.  I think this is one of the most interesting galleries I’ve ever been in because it challenged my preconceived ideas, and I like that.

Tretyakov Gallery (source: Wikipedia)

We had a restorative coffee in the cafe (not recommended, try the one outside instead perhaps?) and then set off for the permanent collection.  Although there were no monstrous queues like the Louvre or the Prado, the ‘old’ Tretyakov was bustling with visitors and the occasional tour group, and the atmosphere was quite different.   There was a cloakroom, a luggage room (for travellers, what a good idea!), an audioguide desk, three souvenir stalls and two cafés.  We sampled one of these for a buffet lunch, and although I left my satay uneaten because I wasn’t prepared to risk my front teeth on it, the steamed rice was quite nice and so was the Greek salad.  (Russians do seem to like their meat very well done indeed.  And I am looking a bit grim in this photo because the cakes seem to be rather well done too, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the bridal chairs which provide the cafe with sparkle that it otherwise might lack).

Once upstairs in the gallery proper, the curatorial guards (who were all sturdy looking women) were mostly awake, though more than one of them seemed to be more interested in their Sudoku than keeping an eye on any would-be thieves.  The casual attitude of European gallery guards never ceases to amaze me because I am used to the ones in the our gallery at home, who pounce immediately on any infraction of the rules, even breathing too close to the pictures earns a rebuke and woe betide anyone who flourishes a camera there!

Lunch over, off we went to look at the pictures.  Presumably the Soviets got rid of most of the portraits of aristocratic worthies, but there’s still plenty left to fill half a dozen rooms (see some here) and there’s a couple of royals as well, including a rather nice one of Catherine the Great walking the dog.  (It’s a borzoi, not a corgi).  But these wear a bit thin after a while, and then there are the usual landscapes, allegories and so forth.  Before long it dawns on the (western) visitor that there are no recognisable names – no Titians or Vermeers or Rembrandts, all the artists are Russians that we’ve never heard of.  It might be different at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, but here in Moscow that long Cold War seems to have meant that they never got to see any of our art, and we never got to see any of theirs.  No cultural interchange.  Imagine being just being an ordinary person like me who enjoys art, and never being able to see any of the great European masters! How much more dreadful that would have been for an artist!

What makes the ‘old’ Tretyakov really special is the collection of icons.  I find these enchanting.  Before we left home I bought a book about them and if you scroll down to the bottom of my review of it on the ANZ LitLovers blog, there’s a link where you can see some of the ones featured in the book.  But to see dozens and dozens of the real thing is just fantastic.  Some of them date back to the 11th century and even so the colours are still fresh and alive and you can sense the sincere faith of the people who made them.   There were also some very old mosaics and a lovely tapestry as well.  It was worth getting footsore for this part of the gallery alone.

Eventually it was time to make our way back to the hotel, so we decided to brave the Metro.  Everybody raves about how splendid the Moscow Metro is, and certainly it is true that the architecture is magnificent BUT all the station names are in Russian, and it took all my ingenuity to find out (a) which station we were in and (b) which of the two entrances we should take to get to the green line and (c) which of the innumerable platforms was ours and (d) which stop we should alight from because lo! the number of stops did not correspond with the map.

Anyone who tells you that you can get by in Russia without knowing any Russian is pulling your leg, it simply isn’t true (unless you stay in your hotel all the time).   If I had not known how to ask где есть? (g’dyeer – yest/where is?)  we would still be wandering around underground even now!  The taxi drivers don’t speak English either, especially not numbers for telling you how much to pay, and not all of them have meters, so you need to have a list of numbers to point at if like me, you’re not very good at remembering the larger numbers.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to the lovely people here at the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy and join our tour group at the Marriott on the other side of the CBD.  Red Square and the Kremlin, here we come!

You will be pleased to hear that I managed to have another Bookish Moment in the restaurant we went to for dinner.  I had some more very well cooked meat (allegedly veal) with a Pasternak sauce.  It was rather pale, so it did remind me of all that snow in Doctor Zhivago….

Update (now that I’m back home)

I was wrong about there being no big name artists in the Moscow galleries.  They’re at the Pushkin.

Posted in Art Galleries, Moscow 2012, Russia 2012, Significant statues | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Moscow 23.8.12, Tolstoy and Chekhov Tour

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 23, 2012

It is beginning to dawn on us that here in Moscow, Australians are exotic. It is standard operating procedure for us to announce our origins, lest anyone think we are Americans, and each time our announcement is met with surprise, a broad smile and an effusive welcome.  Nobody really knows where Melbourne is, and they all think we must be missing the hot weather, but they are delighted we are here, and are even more delighted to show off their fascinating country.  It’s very nice.

Anyway, today we made our pilgrimage to Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s estate outside Moscow, and in the afternoon, to Chekhov’s.  The tour was excellent, and even though it was rather expensive, it is probably going to be the highlight of our trip. It was a private small group tour in an 8 seater people-mover, but Tim and I were the only tourists so we had it all to ourselves.  Perhaps the GFC is still affecting tourism, or perhaps it’s because it is coming to the end of the season, but there were none of the crowds I was expecting and it turned out to be a lovely day.  (And great weather too, warm and sunny, about 20 degrees C.)

Our tour guide was Oleg, a genial and sophisticated man whose English was excellent. (He speaks four languages). Yasnaya Polyana is about 200k from Moscow along the dead straight M2 and apart from the occasional clusters of dachas, the landscape is flat and monotonous.  But Oleg kept us interested with chat about all kinds of things, from the social and economic changes in Russia since the transition from the Soviet system, to the battlefields of World War II.  He often takes people on battlefield tours as well, and, fresh from my reading of Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate (both of which Oleg had read), it was more than a little chastening to look out across the fields and forests and hear him talk about the Germans encircling a city like Tolya (a.k.a. Tula) as we drove through it, or to imagine them only 30km from Moscow before their advance was stopped.

According to Wikipedia, the Germans did occupy Yasnaya Polyana, and turned it into a hospital, but fortunately the house contents had been evacuated to Moscow, and subsequently to Tomsk, and even more fortunately the Germans didn’t destroy it, as they destroyed so many other places, when they left.  It was interesting that there was no mention of any of this by the local guide, Anna (ably interpreted by Oleg): it was as if they were not prepared to taint this most special of places with any mention of the interlopers.

Tolstoy 001The gardens and orchards are kept much as they were in Tolstoy’s day, as is the house.  You can see the building that Tolstoy turned into a schoolroom for peasant children, and you can see the fields where he is said to have toiled with a scythe alongside the peasants.  Inside the house there is the leather couch where generations of Tolstoys were born, the dining room where Sonya welcomed the guests,  and not only the desk where Anna Karenina and War and Peace were written, but also Sonya’s study where she transcribed, (and some say, edited), the manuscripts from Tolstoy’s near-illegible handwriting.  BTW the photo of the dining-room is from Wikipedia because you’re not allowed to take photos inside.

Tolstoy's parlor

Yasnaya Polyana is showing its age, and I must admit that I wondered a bit about preservation issues.  There are priceless original manuscripts, items of clothing, paintings and photographs that while sometimes stored in glass cabinets don’t appear to be in a temperature-controlled environment.  On the other hand it is very special to wander through the rooms and see in situ the desk at which the great man wrote and the books he read.  It reminded me a little of our visit to Ho Chi Minh’s house in Hanoi where there is a similar focus on the choice of a simple lifestyle and rejection of luxury on moral grounds.  It might spoil the message that these men tried to share if their homes were altered in the name of preserving them.  It is certainly very moving to meander down the pathway to the gravesite and find a simple raised mound without even a headstone.  People bring flowers in tribute and place them along the border of the gravesite instead.

Tolstoy 010Russia (Tim's) 029At the adjacent cafe we had a traditional Russian lunch – salad, borscht, grilled pork and potatoes – and then, running a bit late, we set off for Chekhov’s estate.  Even though the road was sealed it was in very poor condition so we were bumped around a bit as we barrelled along, but it was no worse than many a country road in Australia, I suppose.

Chekhov wasn’t wealthy like Tolstoy was – he went into debt to buy the estate but wasn’t able to make a go of it.  Even though the place is very beautiful I think the purchase was a bit of a mistake – he seemed to have had endless visitors and not much of the peace and quiet that a writer needs.  Still he was able to produce The Seagull there, and in the building which he took over for himself, you can see a little plaque that says (in Russian) ‘My Home, where I wrote [Uncle] Vanya.

Our guide here was a lovely lady called Tatiana, who still gets emotional when she talks about Chekhov so I think he is much loved even today. She told us all kinds of interesting things about the Chekhov family, their visitors and even their household staff, and there’s more I could tell but I’m nearly out of battery so I must stop now!

Posted in Historic buildings, LitLovers pilgrimage, Moscow 2012, Russia 2012, Yasnaya Polyana 2012 | Tagged: | 9 Comments »