Friday, May 3, 2013

Sviatohirsk Cave Monastery

All semester long we stared at (and had to take on and off the wall several times for the projector) an oversized picture of the Sviatohirsk Cave Monastery. Today we finally got the chance to see it in real life! We woke up rather early this morning and said goodbye to our groupmate Sasha.  It was pretty sad leaving him home to pack-up and head to the train station alone, but we weren't scheduled to return home until about two hours after his train from Kharkov.  With promises of "see you soon", we headed to our own train, or elektrichka to be exact. Wikipedia tells us that an electrichka "is a Soviet and Eastern bloc commuter (regional) mostly suburban electrical multiple unit passenger train", but I would argue that it is indeed something much more magical ;) Besides the fact that I was certain we had crashed into something every time it started itself moving, it was a pretty comfortable ride.  The seats were comfortable and wide with a lot of leg room, so we spent most of our elektrichka time napping.  Two and a half hours later we arrived in the town of Sviatorhirsk.  After getting off the train we used the best train station bathrooms ever (read, "ohmygoodness I hope I never must experience something so gut-wrenching again in all my life!!"). Since we had just missed the bus headed to the monastery from the train station, we squeezed the five of us plus the taxi driver into a tiny little car and were there in no time.  The sun didn't come out until a bit later, but when it did the blues and golds of the monastery looked quite nice under the sunshine.  We did a lot of adventuring around the grounds of the monastery, including a life-threatening descent down the most perilous of paths I ever did see - oh no, I'm not exaggerating one little bit! ;) I was the favorite treat of the mosquitoes that day and had about a dozen bites by the end of the day. Hopefully that's not any indication of what is awaiting me this summer.  Looks like I'm bringing lotssss of bug spray to camp with me! We also went down into a cave complex where a monk lived in solitude for the last 17 years of his life.  I'm not sure I would have lasted one night alone in that big, cold, dark place, but it was interesting to explore the inside of it none the less.  We had a little picnic lunch with the food we had brought while a small child stared at these English and Russian-speaking foreigners with big round eyes.  Before we left Megan and I had time to go into the main church on the territory to have a look around.  After a short bus ride and a few minutes of waiting at the train station we were on our elektrichka back to Kharkov.  We got back to our apartment around 21:00 and were actually able to get in! We've been having a little "babushka issue" because she just can't get it through her head that the second door really and truly is impossible to unlock from the outside when she turns the lock twice instead of just once. We wrote a note kindly asking her to lock it only once and promising to lock it twice when we got home from our trip.  Thankfully she obliged, but she took the note off the door, which means it was probably talk of the babushkas all day yesterday.  my goodness!
Hungry from a long day of adventuring I made myself some yummy dinner and then had a lovely and much-needed Skype chat with the Mario :)
Life is good!

It wasn't quite as pretty in the morning greyness


But once the sun came out we had quite a nice view!



One of the monastery buildings which the monks built by hand.








Looking out over the main part of the monastery complex




Inside the main part of the monastery
The main church

Sleepy kitty!

Sviatohirsk train station

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