Our fifth day in Moscow was par for the course: we saw a mind-blowing assortment of bells and Russian history.

We started off the day with a road trip to the St. Lavva Monastery. This was one of my personal favorites from the bells trip in which I participated two years ago. The monastery has a beautiful, rustic campus, and an unusual bell feature of which I’m particularly fond: there’s a rope that runs all the way from the church’s bell tower down to ground level, allowing monks to ring a bell that’s tens of meters above their head!

Sadly, the monastery’s head bell ringer wasn’t available, so we weren’t able to climb the tower or ring the bells here. All the same, enjoying a slow morning on the campus was a wonderful way to begin our day’s adventure.

After St. Lavva’s, we hit the road again and drove to Ershovo holy trinity church. The church’s bell ringer was generous enough to drive to the church just to let us into the tower for a ringing—we’ve been so blessed to receive this kind of hospitality wherever we go.

I like to sort Russian bell towers in terms of the kinds of stairways that lead to the bells. This church was definitely memorable on that score: the stairway consisted of stairs made up of metal rungs, like a ladder. You could look straight through the rungs and see all the way down to the ground level below you—getting up to the bells was quite the harrowing task!

Once we were there, we had a great time ringing some peals—some parishioners actually showed up upon hearing the bells, and asked if a service was being held!

Finally, we traveled to the Arkhangelskoye estate, a gorgeous plot of land featuring sprawling gardens, a mausoleum, a palace, and more. This was an amazing piece of Russian history that we weren’t able to visit on our last Russia trip: the estate belonged to the Golitsyns in the 18th century, and then was purchased by Prince Nikolai Yusupov in 1810, remaining in the Yusupov family until the Bolsheviks nationalized it in 1917. It now serves as national museum—and what a museum it is!

When we arrived late in the afternoon, the Yusupov palace had already closed to the public; but, yet again, we were blessed by the kindness of our hosts. Not only did the caretakers open the doors of the museum to us, but they also provided us with a top-notch tour guide to walk us through the museum. We saw all sorts of treasures from the Yusupov collection: paintings from French, Russian, and Italian masters; a wide array of sculpture; and antique, ornate furniture. This was a palace in every sense of the word: the whole estate inspired awe.

We rounded out our time on the estate by walking around the vast gardens surrounding the palace, getting great views of the surrounding countryside and the Moscow River. Once we’d taken it all in, we packed ourselves back into the car and headed back to home base: the Danilov Monastery!

The day was a veritable, cultural romp, and left us even more excited for the days still to come.

(Pictures forthcoming!)

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