Greetings from the Danilovskaya Hotel!
Matty here. After our arriving at various hours of the day and night, we all met up for a delicious breakfast of blintzes, ryazhenka, and cappuccino for our first day together at the monastery. It was great to reunite with everybody and to hear about summer adventures in such far-flung places at France, Georgia, China, Denmark, and Mt. Auburn Street. We met in the lobby of the hotel with Father Roman, who took us directly to the house of the Father Superior, who is more or less the “Drew Faust” of the Danilovsky Monastery. He is close in ranking to the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, and thus commands great respect within Russia. Yet we were all touched by his warmth, humility, and love for the United States and. Over tea, he recalled with happiness the initial meetings between Harvard and the monastery nearly a decade ago, and despite slight linguistic boundaries (overcome with the help of Father Roman), I felt deeply honored to have an audience with him and represent Lowell. Afterwards, we received a further tour of his residence, including a signature book signed by such American greats as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Diana Eck and Dorothy Austin!
Following this, Father Roman gave us a walking tour of the monastery, with the primary sight of course being the monastery’s distinctive pink bell tower. There, we scaled inside the cupola and saw the original bells that once hung in Lowell. The irreverent signatures of past students stood scribbled alongside the marks of the original bell master, and atop many of them was splattered the characteristic blue and white paint of our own house at Harvard! Truly a fascinating sight and, for me, a renewed sense of completeness to the story of the bells.
After a brief lunch at the monastery’s cafe (delicious vegetables with homemade rye bread…Russian monks don’t eat meat!) we retired to our rooms for a brief nap before setting forth for central Moscow. There, we took a boat tour on the Moscow River for a broad view of the city. It is truly a magnificent place with ornate and grand architecture everywhere to be found and, at the height of summer, its citizens strolled everywhere along the riverbanks enjoying the warm weather and long days. It is a much more relaxed city than what I was expecting. We disembarked not too far from the Kremlin and received an impromptu historical tour from Father Roman before settling for dinner at a Georgian restaurant, where enjoyed delicious Tsinandali wine and khachapuri. Full and more than a bit tired, we then took the lovely and efficient Moscow metro back to the monastery and said our goodnights. A great first day, indeed!