The picture above shows one of my fellow travellers with a stray cat outside the Nikitsky monastery near Pereyaslavl Zalessky, a town north of Moscow.
Another monastery, this one called Gethsemany, near Sergiev Posad. With sturdy brick walls, it was a prison during Soviet times but is back in operation now as a seminary and monastery. Most of the attractions in the towns around Moscow known as the Golden Ring are church buildings of some kind. The Russian Orthodox Church was suppressed in the Soviet period, particularly in the early years when many priests and nuns were killed. However, it survived and is now quite popular--you see a lot of people wearing the Orthodox cross (with an extra crossbar) and some homes again have icons on the wall.
On this trip I happened to meet some young Russians who had recently visited the Kola Peninsula on the White Sea, and asked whether they had seen the film "Leviathan," which is set in that bleak and beautiful region and shows the Orthodox Church in quite an unfavourable light. They said they had not, and they did not think it had been shown anywhere in Russia. For more information on the Kola Peninsula, check the site www.kandalaksha.su
, maintained by the same man who used to run a useful travel site called www.cheap-moscow.com
. He is now living in the North.