So what do you do when you’ve just landed in Chelyabinsk on Christmas Eve?
Answer, after supper with the parents (and the shape of dinners to come) walk around to the hospital chapel for midnight mass. Mass had actually finished so G and Kira (G’s sister) lit some candles and we headed home to bed.
In the morning it was clear blue skies and -14 C so after breakfast we headed out to see the sights. Kira came with us as far as Revolutionary square but got cold feet (literally) and turned back. Turns out revolutionary square was where the winter fair was this year so we amused ourselves on the ice slide under the watchful eyes of Lenin.
After that we walked to the St Alexander Nevsky cathedral and got tickets for the organ recital that evening. And yes that is an oddity, a church in Russia with an organ. The story goes back to revolutionary days when the church was de-sanctified and used for various purpose before ending up as the concert hall for chamber and organ music. Now it’s a church again and the local clergy is rather unhappy about having this organ in their Russian orthodox cathedral. There’s a bit of a tussle going on between the music lovers and the church as a result.
Then we walked along the main road to the University to see some of the places where G lived, went to school and worked when she was growing up. Weather was just extraordinary, snow falling as tiny diamond bright crystals out of a blue and cloudless sky, with no wind. We ended up walking along Lenin prospect all the way to Igor Kurchatov’s monument at the edge of the recreation park, which is an amazing sculpture of two slab monoliths with an inscribed split atom, apparently there used to be an electric arc that ran between the two halves but the power bill was a bit excessive so they turned it off.
For those of you not familiar Igor Kurchatov was the director of the early Russian nuclear program, he’s a local lad, born in Sim a small town about 340 km to the west of Chelyabinsk. He swore not to shave his beard until they’d successfully tested the A-bomb but subsequently decided he liked his beard so he kept it, cutting it into ever more extravagant designs as he got older, no surprise, his nickname ended up as ‘the beard’. Much of the soviet nuclear program was (and still is) located in the Chelyabinsk region, which is also why the area is heavily contaminated by radiological waste.
After paying our respects at Kurchatov’s memorial we walked through the snow covered forest behind then headed back stopping at Stollie’s pies for lunch then headed home to freshen up before the concert. As it turned out it was a great concert, the organ is one of Russia’s best made by the German Hermann Eule company and finished up with an Beatles encore. Also included was a large lady in a dress appearing between works to declaim I’m not quite sure what. But according to G, this is part of the fun of going to a concert in Russia. 🙂