Updated: Oct 25, 2019
Goritsky is a town in the middle of nowhere and my first chance to catch a glimpse of rural, Russian life. The houses are all different, mainly wooden, some dilapidated, some painted with lace like patterns around the windows, others painted bright colours, blues, reds and purples. There is a high rate of unemployment in the area, but the gardens are well cultivated with fruit and vegetables. The Russians are very resiliant and resourceful.
The tour group caught a bus to the monastery of St Cyril’s (more correctly called St Cyril on the White Lake Monastery), where we were shown around by Alexy, a burly 60-year-old Russian who was full of bonhomie. He explained the monastery had been founded on two waterways by Cyril at the age of sixty and he lived there for thirty years. Primarily it was a fortress to battle against the Swedes, but it was finished long after the wars were over.
Compared to the buildings in Kizhi and St Petersburg, the fortress of St Cyril’s is in a state of poor repair, but with cruise ships landing on a regular basis, I doubt if it will be long before enough money is raised for a renovation. (Of course, there is enough money available to erect a statue of Lenin in the town square.)
Within the monastery are numerous icons and holy pictures on linden wood, but these are really no different to any other iconography I saw on my travels. As Alexy said: it’s theology in pictures, but I did learn a couple of things.
In a display of the saints and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the latter were holding mirrors. Being Archangels they can only look at God/Christ through these mirrors. Lucifer, the fallen Archangel has no shadow and no reflection – which is possibly where Bram Stoker got the idea for Dracula. I’ve never heard that Archangels cannot look directly at Christ/God. I will have to check that out, but no luck on Google so far.
We spent a pleasant hour looking around, Alexy being a fan of WWII songs, his father having been given LPs by American pilots after the Second World War. The more English members of our group sang along to Alexy’s baritone, whilst the rest of us clapped during and after each tuneful rendition. Other tourists looked at us as if we were mad, but it was enjoyable and Alexy certainly endeared himself to one and all.
I took a stroll around the village where we landed, which is home to a nunnery, a rather sorry looking building and I went to the local shop where I practiced my Russian. “Dob-rey-den”, good afternoon and bought an icecream. The sun had come out and therefore it was ice cream time. The weather was cooler today, but hardly cold.
New houses were being built and several buildings had satellite dishes. A young lady in the shop (which was well stocked with all sorts) had a smart phone and easy access to the Internet.
What was quite poignant in the village was monument to those who died in the World Wars (and more recent conflicts). I guess many men from the villages lost their lives defending Moscow and St Petersburg on the Eastern Front. A kneeling soldier, gun in one hand, helmet in the other, his head bowed, looked down an a beautiful flowerbed. Nothing was written on the plinth on which he knelt, but it was a beautiful tribute and pretty much sums up the village: quiet, peaceful and unassuming.