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Winter Moods of Rostov

No, that cant be it. I thought you, Rostov, were different. In my dreams you were a huge well-developed center attracting wanderers and pilgrims from all over Russia and abroad. You disappointed me greatly. If I had not shared a nice company I would have been totally shocked. Only good friends managed to smooth the impression you, Rostov, made!

I am not sure the impressions I got, Rostov, are free of bias. Perhaps, it was that posh Muscovite in me who cannot tolerate anything but Moscow, who cannot notice any beauty except for the Moscow beauty and looks down at everything which is NOT Moscow! Nevertheless, I must admit I have never thought that you, Rostov, once a center of the mighty Principality turned into such a poky hole of a place. A rural town in a worst meaning of this word. Poverty, misery, hunger, cold and grayness are everywhere. Faded old wooden houses gloomily look at each other. Ugly buildings made of stone compete with them in terms of ugliness and desolation. Dilapidated half-decayed stand once brilliant mansions of local merchants and the noble. Their corners crumble making piles of broken bricks. These few old buildings - new ones are a rarity - gape at you with all their blind eyes. Their brick bodies are covered with scabs of lichen. Nodding concrete fences remind you of the Soviet past. Wire coils, dried snags, munched naked trees, frozen muddy ruts and ice-covered puddles which crack once you step on them only add up to this sad landscape. Factories are closed. A coffee weed processing plant is the only one operating in the town. Smoke comes out of its chimneys to fade against the gray sky. Dead silence.

Cathedrals!!! Monasteries!!! Their state of decay is in no way different from other buildings. Cracked domes, rust-stained crosses, yellow-gray walls. Broken towers of the Rostov Kremlin and enormous splits in its walls cannot but impress. Heavy steel doors screech to frighten you! Bearded monks and priests robed in black make you even more scared.

How come that those ancient walls of the Rostov Kremlin who saw Grand Russian Dukes, tsars, emperors and empresses are completely abandoned?

I understand that it is very hard to maintain the centuries-old constructions and take care of them. But they are of historical importance. One cant just say I dont give a damn about my past. A country which does not care about its past has no future.

Streets are deserted. Not a single person can be seen. Only in places of tourist attraction (which are two - the Kremlin and the museum of enamel art) can you spot gangs of preteens begging for food or money. What for? Most probably to get some drugs or vodka. Their oversized clothes are ragged and stained. The kids rival with local beggars who have to fight to get their pennies or a loaf of bread. Poor them! They cannot compete with swift and bold preteens who are the first to reach a tourist bus.

This ugliness, neglect and desolation are even more explicit in cold winter, when it gets dark early. It looks as if almost everybody has died out. People are rare in the streets; if you come across somebody you would hardly take him for a human being. Rather for raised from the dead.

It is best to visit such rural towns in summer when green leaves hide the truth. Birds sing, grasshoppers jump, flies buzz as if giving the town a kiss of life.

May 3, 2006 17:01

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