We have been touring from 8:30 each morning until dinner time, which makes for a long day. Then, by the time our meal is finished, it can be as late as 9:30pm before I can download my photos for the day, write my post, and publish it. One evening, due to problems with the Internet connection, I was up until 2 am! But, it's a good discipline for me, and, knowing it is read and appreciated, I am motivated to write it.
(Little palace, above, where royal children would go to play "Czar")
After our long tour in Moscow yesterday, we decided to take the later bus back to the boat, to give us a few more hours in the city. But what to do? Well, we were hungry, so someone suggested we go to the Café Pushkin for lunch.
Many folks who have read the poet's work, and other Russian writers and novelists, had mentioned this place, so, why not? I love historic hotels and restaurants! We walked the twenty minutes, and were not disappointed for the effort.
Besides having the atmosphere of a 19th century restaurant, it had something on the menu I've been dying to try since reading, "Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking." This memoir is a masterful portrayal of the USSR, with tidbits thrown in about food, politics, economics and day to day life, gleaning from experiences going all the way back to the author's great grandmother. Anya mentioned often this meat pie called "Kulebyaka" which was a culinary delight, filled with beef, pork, lamb fish, mushrooms, and barley, topped with a scrumptious crust (similar to pretzel bread), and with meat broth drizzled into the holes in the crust.
It was the crown and focus of their meals, when they could find and afford its ingredients.
So, I ordered it! And it was as good, if not better, than the description in the book. A combination of shepherd's pie, pastie and pasta filling all in one. The blend of meats and seasonings was seamless. Nothing stood out alone. . . A perfect culinary marriage! Although I shared some with Dan and Olivia, I ate most of it.
Now I understand how the author would dream of eating this pie during food shortages.
Dan and Mario had the well known dumplings (filled with meat and salmon), and Olivia, small meat pies.
And look at these desserts:
And Olivia's "Naopleon". . . see his hat?
So, today was the day of leisure, which began with a fire drill, and later on, our first Russian lesson.
We experienced a thunderstorm, which conveniently dissipated just before our evening tour to Uglich.
This town of 35,000 had a thriving watch factory during the Soviet era that employed 70% of the townspeople. During perestroika, it closed, leaving many people unemployed. The woman mayor decided to make the town a tourist attraction, by giving tours and selling many beautiful crafts.
Here you see a woman dressed in traditional garb, offering a piece of bread dipped in salt to the passengers as they disembark. Bread stands for the substance of life, and salt for wealth. Only the rich could afford salt. And we take it for granted!
We visited a church dedicated to Dimitri, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, who was exiled by Boris Goudinov to Uglich with his mother after Ivan died. Boris took this opportunity to take the throne, so he had the 2 year old boy watched. Dimitri was later mysteriously killed, although it was said that he died of epilepsy. The locals were so moved by this that they dedicated the church to him.
The tile floors, from the late 17th century, were made of metal, and had a stove with an intricate pipe system underground to keep the building warm.
We saw a home built before the Revolution which housed a woman and her cats and dogs, to whom she willed her property. When she died, the mayor would not allow it, so it was transformed into a library.
After a looked at the beautiful crafts, we headed back to the boat. The locals were pleased when we spoke the bit of Russian we knew. You should have seen their faces light up when I told them their crafts were beautiful!
It's been a nice change of pace. Tomorrow should be another of the same.