The Russians are a religious bunch. Well, you’d be pretty open-minded to stories about mystical beings and reincarnated zombies if you spent 25 hours a day pissed off your head. For this reason, the Federation is home to some of the most exquisite churches this side of Samoa, and none of them are prettier than the Troitse-Sergiev Monastery, which is apparently the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This collection of ornately-decorated, onion-shaped temples is situated in Sergiev Posad, a city of around 100,000 people just 75km north of Moscow. There are regular trains up there, but like everything else in Russia, buying a ticket and getting on the right rattler is far harder than it should be. After an hour spent wanderin around Yaroslavsky Station with a confused look on my face, I was lucky I didn’t end up on the fucking Trans-Siberian Express, sleeping on a pile of potatoes.
Once I actually made it onto the train, it was a pleasant ride through the countryside, and the experience was highly reminiscent of rolling through Sri Lanka. Sure, the scenery was different, and it was a little bit colder, but the third world is the third world. From the ancient carriage, to the disabled beggars, to the idiots singing crap songs in the hope of making some money, to the hawkers selling fruit and packets of chips and purses and romance novels, jumping on an inter-city train in Russia is definitely a step back in time.
But enough about trains – I know you’re eagerly awaiting my views on that sexy monastery! Well, it’s really nice. It’s very easy to reach from the station, being a leisirely 10 minute walk, and the buildings are incredibly impressive and in superb condition. The huge fortified walls and iron gates are a throwback to a more violent time when orcs and goblins roamed the frozen tundra of Russia, eating any Catholics they could find. I’m not making that up, I read it on Wikipedia.
The jewel of Russia’s so-called Golden Ring of ancient towns, Sergiev Posad and the temple it’s built around were founded in the 1340s. Over the next few hundred years, the site was extended and snazzed up, with much of the expansion commissioned by Ivan the Terrible. He can’t be too bad a bloke if he built something like this. If you’re interested in the fascinating history of this incredible place, I’m sure you can find it elsewhere. Now, back to the dick jokes.
Russians of the religious persuasion travel thousands of kilometres to visit this holy place, and I saw plenty of them praying and crossing themselves and carrying on. They take the place seriously, and not even the hundreds of Chinese tourists could break the enchanting mood. There were also heaps of funny little dudes with odd beards, odder hats, and flowing black dresses. They swanned around like they owned the place, chanting and waving their hands around.
I was thirsty and in need of a beer, so I walked down some stairs towards what I assumed was a bar, but when I got down there I heard some very unusual praying coming from a dark corner. I crept in closer, hoping to see a religious miracle in progress, but was instead treated to what can only be described as the immaculate erection. One of the monks was wanking his dick off in the corner, and even when he saw me he just gave me a wave and kept going. I guess that’s why they call it a seminary!