Friday, August 23, 2013

Decembrists and ISU Botantical Garden

This morning we visited the houses of two Decembrists (revolutionaries
who were exiled to Siberia in the second quarter of the 1800s after
attempting to overthrow the Russian monarchy). The houses were
restored in the late 20th century and are now museums stuffed full of
old letters, music boxes, furniture, books, photos, five foot long
pipes, and more. Interestingly, the letters were all written in
French; aristocratic Russians of that time read and wrote French
better than they did Russian. The histories of the two exiles, Sergei
Volkonsky and Sergei Trubetskoy, were very sad—the men were
essentially two rich, brilliant aristocrats forced into labor camps
thousands of miles from their homes, and neither was allowed to return
to European Russia for 25 years after their failed revolution. Both
their wives accompanied them willingly into exile, although Maria
Volkonskaya had to leave her 9 month old son behind.
After visiting the houses and the grave of Ekaterina Trubetskaya, we
ate lunch at Prego, a schmancy Italian restaurant in the center of
Irkutsk. Unfortunately we did not have pizza, although the innate
hilarity of eating Italian food in Russia kept us from starting our
own revolution.
Lunch was followed by a visit to the State University of Irkutsk
botanical gardens, where we learned about various plants from Siberia
and around the world, and snacked on raspberries, plums, and sea
buckthorn berries. Best of all was the attached petting zoo, where we
frolicked with baby goats, cuddled rabbits, and fed fat ponies.
Also: last night, after the blog was posted, a bunch of us went with
our translators to a Russian mall for some casual in-line skating.
Most of us hadn't skated in ages, but it was a ton of fun to wobble
around beneath the disco lighting and drink slosh (Russian slushies!).
Vika, Katya and Granya

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