Plan was that we’d meet Anna at 10am to have a lie in & pack bags. Lovely Olga also came along to say her goodbyes with all promising to set up face book accounts to keep in touch ( people can be quite dismissive of social networking sites, but without Facebook & twitter I wouldn't have got to Russia, nor now keep in touch with my new friends )
So we headed to a bus stop to head to town outskirts to visit the fire station, and hit a super market en route for journey supplies and vodka to take home ( Russian Vodka is nothing like the vile toilet cleaner we get at home ). Meena wasn’t keen on fire station trip but as it had been dicussed at great length and voted on off we headed, our group dynamic getting frayed on the last day as leaving anxiety rose. At the bus stop Anna got a call from her Boss Gulnara, that the bell ringing ceremony was about to start at Spassky catherdral, the director general would be there and it would be a good opportunity to catch this very busy lady. Gulzada Rudenko obviously works hard for the international awards that their state preservation area has obtained, the whole town is on the up and its thanks to forward thinking people of integrity like this that the future for Yelabuga looks bright ( especially when we compare to the gloomy pessimism of the UK’s predicted economy over the next 3 years ).
So we crossed thr road and grabbed a minibus back into town 11rubs ( that’s around 19p ), the buses are just 13 seater minibuses, folks sit, stand, sit on knees, sit in the front, and pay the driver on leaving, there was generally banter on all the buses we went on, our being foreigners, having been on the news & in press, or maybe folks are just friendly despite the initial impression of being reserved. A gentleman in a suit told us about how he's fought in WW2 & how wasteful war was, a deaf lady gestured to get her photo taken.
Bell ringing ceremony Spassky cathedral. People sitting on benches, cosack style guys in uniform, hussars? Babushkas in headscarf’s. Bells, musicians, a speaker, flowers, children playing , police in their big hats, ( and heels for the ladies ) and the gorgeous cathedral.
Anna explained that standing near the bells during the ceremony is good for your health, the vibrations of the bells create harmony within the body, you could indeed feel the lower larger bells, it was a beautiful morning. Apparently Yelabuga used to have a famous bell factory & even produced one that was 15 tonnes. Strangely enough I hadn't known about this when I painted a bell tower under water in one my my pictures. I was thinking about the tales of sunken cities.
The director general came to greet us, with hugs, kisses, handshakes and much warmth, we gave our small gift- which it turns out is something she collects, that’s the Yelabuga effect for you. I can't imagine myself enjoying a UK church ceremony of any denomination- but out here, where Islamic, Christian Orthodox, & pagan folk beliefs all sit together in harmony it was impossible not to feel the effects, it no longer seemed to matter which god, gods or philosophy one believed in or what it was named ( or not ), the sun shone on us all & the music did its work.
We had been joined for the day by Alex and Luda’s son George who was great company and understands a lot more English than we realised! There was always much laughter when Shinod was about, infectious! Dr Prudenko had heard ( everyone hears everything about our antics in this town! ) that we had met the firefighters at the Fair on Saturday and that we had an invitation to the fire station , so she had phoned and officially organised a visit for us .Meena was keen to do more shopping at the fair so we left her to it & caught another mini-bus to the outskirts of town, where the large imposing fire station is> more on this in next blog