The afternoon in Yaroslavl was dampened by rain, but spirits were not. It seems to be an affluent town thanks to the petro-chemical industry. It boasts a beautiful park, three universities, pristine roads (filled with modern cars) and pavements lined with bars and shops, which were relatively busy.
Yaroslavl is famous for having the oldest theatre in Russia founded by Volkov, a statue of whom is in the central square, as is a statue of Lenin, but that’s not an unusual sight in many of the towns I visited.
St Nicholas Chapel is not an active church, since the communists closed the churches, but houses the most beautiful frescoes in Virgin Mary blue as well as the usual religious irons.
The church is actually named Church and the Assumpition, but when it was being
renovated the workmen discovered an icon of St Nicholas floating in the nearby river whilst having lunch. They saw this as a sign and asked the local priest to change the name. The Patriach (the head of the Russian Othodox church) decided a church’s name cannot be changed, but diplomatically decided part of the chapel can be dedicated to St Nicholas, so in true Russian fashion, this place of worship has two names.
The rooms of the town’s art gallery are decorated in a style favoured by Catherine II or Catherine the Great, and there is a bust of the empress in the corner of one room. There are a number of portraits including one of Pushkin, but some are quite amateurish. The young lady who showed me around was dressed in 19thcentury garb, very Anna Karenina, and to conclude the tour, a string quartet played whilst ladies and gentlemen in my tour were encouraged to dance.
In the town centre is the Church of St Elijah and more austere government buildings, but I went into the main street where I took photos like a typical tourist of the statue of a bear with an axe. This is the symbol of the town. Seemingly the story dates to when a prince founded the town and he battled against a bear, worshipped by the resident pagans. It’s a cute enough emblem and can be found in a number of areas including the local park overlooking the Volga. On a clear day it must be stunning, but unfortunately it was very overcast.
In a sourvenir shop I found books of Russian fairy tales. I bought one of general tales and another by Pushkin, I hope they are more upbeat than Anna Karenina.
Deciding to have a beer, I went into a large bar and sat under an awning to watch the world go by. Having learned to smile and make an effort with “Dob-ray-den” I resorted to English and asked for a small beer.
“Filtered or unfiltered?’ queried the barman.
Not sure what the barman meant I confirmed I wanted lager or light beer, repeating small. This meant a pint and it was something similar to Amstel. Although it was raining it wasn’t really cold, so I took my coat off, but the barman was shivering and offered me a blanket! He would truly freeze in Ireland.
As usual there is a war memorial in the town and an eternal flame burns in Yaroslavl’s, overlooked by two fierce looking, stone soldiers. The war memorials are not only dedicated to soldiers lost in the World Wars, but to those lost in Afghanistan and Chechnya too.