Now that we have finished our armchair travels in Japan it is so simple to hop over to any other country. I figured as long as we were still on this side of the world that we could take a look at Russia. I know there are people who might not think of visiting Russia but since these are armchair travels you can take a look at some of the cities and wonderful places that Russia has to offer and decide if you want to put this huge country on your travel list. After all Russia is the world’s largest nation, bordering European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic Oceans so this country has lots to offer. So get comfortable and sit back and off we go.
Our first stop is Arkhangelsk which in English is also known as Archangel. It is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, in the north of European Russia. The city lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea. There is a cosmopolitan charm to this city and has lovely parks and a waterfront promenade. It offers a lively jazz scene. Arkhangelsk is close to another area attraction the Solovetsky Islands.
EK Plotnikova House-Museum is a historical building that houses an impressive collection of Russian art from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Among the highlights here are wintry landscapes.
Regional Studies Museum here you can learn the history of the development of the harsh north including the settlement by dispossessed and exiled peasantry in the 1930s and the Gulag camps. The extensive nature section displays the taxidermied wildlife of the land that was shaped by retreating ice.
The Northern Naval Museum offers wonderful nautical exhibits which are centered around the highlight – the prow of a ship – in the light-filled main hall. You can see whaling and fishing tools, maps of northern seas and models of icebreakers. Upstairs you can learn about the amazing rescue of the passengers of the naval ship Cheliuskinets, who lived for three weeks on ice when their ship was crushed.
Gostiny Dvor is a merchant’s yard that was the heart and soul of Arkhangelsk in the 17th and 18th centuries. An impressive, turreted brick trading center built between 1668 and 1684 stands like a huge fortress and has been restored. Today it has exhibition rooms displaying contemporary photography and landscape paintings by regional artists to literary displays which honor Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins.
The Fine Arts Museum is Arkhangelsk’s most compelling art gallery which has regularly changing exhibitions, ranging from modern reflections on Soviet propaganda to nude studies. There are also displays of impressive icons, bone carvings and decorative art displays.
The War Victory Monument 1941 – 1945 honors the fallen of the Great Patriotic War. It has statues of servicemen and is lit by an eternal flame.
Peter I Statue faces the Arkhangelsk port and is depicted on the front of a 500-ruble banknote, dated 1977. Peter the Great is shown in full length, leaning on a cane with his right hand and holding a spyglass in his left hand. The 5 meter high four-sided pedestal of the monument is made of grey granite block by masters of the Solovetsky Monastery. On the side of the base you can find an inscription “To Peter the Great” and four dates – 1911 – the year the competition was held for best base of the monument and 1693, 1694, 1702 – the years when Peter the Great visited Arkhangelsk.
Prospekt Chumbarova – Luchinskogo is the city’s charming pedestrian street, lined with some surviving traditional timber houses which are being restored. You can see some interesting statues that people passing by rub for good luck.
When the weather starts to turn toward summer residents emerge to stroll along the broad promenade known as Naberezhnaya Severnoy Dviny. During the season you can find beer and shashlyk tents here. Shashlyk is a dish of skewered and grilled meat cubes popular in Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic region in Northern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Arkhangelsk Man Sculpture was named after Stepan Pisakhov’s fairytale hero Senya Malina who is supposed to come from among Arkhangelsk men. The artist is Sergey Sukhin who designed this artwork. You can see a man with a wide-open coat, a hat with earflaps, felt boots and is riding a fish known as an eelpout.
There is also a sculpture devoted to Russian Wives – Patronesses of Family Hearth. You can see three figures – a woman, a child and a cat. The center of the arrangement is a “mistress-woman”. Such women were responsible for the household while men worked in the fields. The Russian woman doesn’t complain but instead maintains her dignity and always waits for her man. She holds a Gospel on her knees, spinning and praying for God’s help for her man to overcome all difficulties and come home safe and sound. A distaff and a spindle in her hands symbolize continuity of family traditions and the cat symbolizes skillful housekeeping.