This morning we started slowly and enjoyed another good breakfast. Heavy snow had accumulated overnight and the footpaths were deeply covered, and it was still snowing. We did the on line flight check-in, and wrapped up thoroughly headed first for Tolstoy’s House. We felt like pioneers in a blizzard.
but eventually navigated our way to the single wooded house standing alone among apartment blocks.
The reception area was manned by what I have imagined traditional Russian women to be like; dominant, determined and directive and they quickly had us both in oversized slippers on top of our boots and moved into the lower rooms which were ‘guarded’ by a team of zealous female minders. I tried to be invisible and silent, reading all the info on the posters but aiming for the upstairs fairly quickly. Heavy supervision brings out the naughty girl inside me so where photos were forbidden I managed to take a couple! Here is Tolstoy’s writing room:
Tolstoy was a complex man, married to a Countess, and he fathered 9 children before deciding abstinence was better. He set himself and the household quite rigorous limits, and although they had 10 servants, including a valet for him, he hated any behaviour which might make the servants feel demeaned. He kept fit with dumbells and at the age of 67 began riding a bicycle – all this besides entertaining a wide circle of artistic and talented friends- Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Repin (artist), Trotsky, and more. His daughter, Tatyana, was a talented artist and portrait painter and his wife , Sophia, a writer in her own right, although it seems she gave a lot of time to producing good copies of Tolstoy’s writings. And lots of knitting and weaving which was also on display.
The house had painted wooden floors, simple but elegant furniture and many rooms were dual purpose because of the large household. The salon had a large table and photos of guests gathered around it and a very large old grand piano which meant music performance was included in the socialising.
The heating system was fired by a furnace and each room had ceramic tiled panels with grills and vents which could be adjusted.
We were glad to see inside a traditional Russian home. It seems that most Muscovites now live in apartments. Many young people came into our friendly cafe to eat alone and the Metro was very busy at whatever time we travelled. It is cheap- around 80p per journey whatever the length – and it is easy to understand once the alphabet is comprehensible.
Our second stop today was the Museum of Contemporary History, written up as covering both the 20C Revolution and the Post Soviet changes. But no, we found only an exhibition on Russia from 1985 onwards, all interactive and propaganda-styled information. And significantly it was more or less empty. Mel was particularly disappointed but it was perhaps an indication that Russians want to forget the Revolution and focus on the wave of new achievements. Food for thought.
Finally we visited the Pushkin Museum which has a large collection of European art. Our feet were tired but spirits cheered by what we saw. Russian artist Repin,who visited Tolstoy and painted his daughter, has become a new favourite, here is his Itinerant Pilgrims where you can almost feel the effort in each step.
As well there were lots of Rembrants, a whole room full of Michelangelo replicas, and a final blast of Impressionists including a Van Gogh I have never seen before – prisoners in a confined circle, with three wardens, the wall coloured to camouflage- thought provoking….
Back into the snow we trudged again, coming for a final time across the winter illuminations which light up so many intersections.
So we dined for the last time in our cafe, and now we are ready for the early rising tomorrow. We would love to return here and explore Russia further. Meantime to sleep, and for sure we will be dreaming dreams.
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