Everything that we saw and did today was related to the theme of borders and dreams: borders between continents and between people; dreams of beauty; dreams of happiness; dreams of peace or dreams of riches.
This morning, Anzhelika the Amazing introduced us to a new friend, Lena the lovely. Lena had agreed to drive us to the town of Nevyansk to see the famous Leaning Tower. On our way there, we stopped at this tiny little village about 70 kilometers outside of Yekaterinburg. We were so thrilled to see all the little cottages and how the families paint the shutters and other decorative elements in such bright colors. There were houses with blue shutters and roofs, pink shutters, multi-colored trim, and intricate carving. But nothing prepared us for the house that we stopped at.
After taking tons of pictures, we went on to Nevyansk. Nevyansk is a town that was founded by a man named Devedov. Devedov was sent by Peter the great in the early 1700s to build factories for iron and copper. He built this tower in the middle of no-where and founded the town. The tower started to lean, however the builders started to compensate for the lean. Unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa, this leaning tower is not actually falling over, it has never changed how much it has leaned in the hundreds of years since it was built.
We heard all sorts of stories from our guide, Dimitry, about Demedov, including the fact that Demedov invented the lightning rod, several years before Benjamin Franklin. We got to go up into the tower. The stairs were incredibly steep and the views were incredible. Unfortunately, we were not able to go out onto the balconies as it is too cold and slippery. They will be opening up the balconies next week, but we will have left already.
After visiting the leaning tower, Lena brought us to this tiny grocery store where we caused a sensation! They had an enormous display of Russian candies as well as all sorts of breads and other baked goods. The store was set up so that all the products were behind the counters. Buyers had to point at (or ask for) what they wanted and the lovely ladies would get it for them. We were asking all sorts of questions about the candies that the lady who was helping us did something that Anzhelika the Amazing said has NEVER ever happened before that she knows of.
We ended our day by driving to the border between Europe and Asia. This entire trip, we all had thought that Yekaterinburg was located in Europe. Even Anzhelika had thought that! It turns out that Yekaterinburg is actually in Asia! We drove into the Ural mountains and to a monument that is located on the geographical divide between the continents. It was located by Demedov (remember him?) and has been certified by several geographers. We all had fun taking pictures at the border.
I bet you that I crossed that border at least 10 times in about 20 minutes. I kind of wished that there was a way I could have gotten my passport stamped to show all the times I crossed!
In the village of Kunara, a blacksmith built and decorated this house over the course of his lifetime. The house is covered with children, curlicues, animals, birds, flowers, Soviet imagery, and a message of peace.
The blacksmith worked for years on this house and his widow still lives in it. The local government is giving money and time to restore all the decorative works because it is such a distinctive home.
This house obviously represented the owner's dreams of peace and love. The care that he put into each and every decoration is evident.
Anzhelika the Amazing told us what the signs the children are holding say, but we had such a long day full of information that I no longer remember. I believe the last line is "I wish for peace."
The lady behind the counter got out a knife, grabbed about 6 different pieces of candy, and cut each piece into three so we could taste it! We got samples and they were delicious. Both Cindy and I ended up buying about 2 kilos worth of Russian candies each.
Anzhelika said that these particular candies (the brand, not the exact candies) had been around since Soviet times and the taste hadn't really changed much. I don't know what each of them are called, but they have such adorable wrappers. There are some with roosters, squirrels, Little Red Riding-hood, flowers, and other pictures.
Even though there were several other older ladies who came in during the time we were there, and I saw several annoyed looks and rolling of eyes, we had a blast. There were so many candies to choose from. I was tempted even to buy some of the cookies or bread rolls, but chose not to. What would I have done with them? Put them in my luggage?