I confess I was a bit curious to see life in a city on a Sunday where capitalism was not driving markets driving activity within a culture that had a Sabbath, versus a technically atheist culture that did not have the 24-7 ethos that pervades America. Even without a Sabbath, many European capitals would be slow to open on Sunday mornings.
Fortunately, as a resident of an international hotel, I was able to get my breakfast of boiled eggs, boiled ham, slaw, beets, mashed potato and sausages – along with espresso and a citrus drink – at 7 am. Since it was still dark then anyway, I didn’t go right out, but fiddled with my email and notes (one of the benefits of the Planeta over the Yubileny was WiFi in the rooms).
When I did go out, around 10 am, I walked over toward what I had determined to be the “folk arts” market so I could find some gifts other than vodka and chocolate for my many deprived friends back home in America.
This took me by the main cathedral, and I found out that while the government might be technically atheist (and I am just assuming this, given its Soviet stance) that the church was packed. I ventured just inside, but did not want to take any pictures for fear of offense.
After a few minutes, I continued to the folk art market, which was just getting up and running passing the city hall. I looked at a few things and determined to return later in the afternoon, then bushwhacked the “old town” which this was the edge of, and took pictures of neighborhoods and buildings and the weird kinds of abstract details that fascinate me.
By this time, I was not only getting a little more comfortable with the alphabet (extending beyond just the letters shared with English) but I was also trying out my chameleon skills. I was dressed in an olive colored LL Bean windbreaker, and jeans, and a knit cap, so I did not really stand out in this 2013 city (I might have, for the western clothes, ten years earlier) so blending in was more a matter of attitude and comportment. I had been watching Denis closely over the past week and noticed that he always stood very straight, with his arms straight at his side, even when he walked. And his facial expression was neutral to somber. When alone (especially in a new place) this is not a stretch for me, with my genetic tendency toward melancholy. So I did my best to mimic this stance, and lo and behold, not only did people not gawk (as they did in our formal situations during the lecture appearances where it was obvious that I was an exotic outsider) but when I bought things people would address me in Russian. I even had one person come up to me on the street and ask for directions in Russian.