In driving snow, gasping with the air pollution, we walked a short distance from our bus to the monastery entrance. There were beggars, professional or otherwise, and half a dozen Russians trying to sell the usual souvenirs as we entered the monastery gates. Inside, private enterprise was an old lady selling water from a shrine in dirty bottles.
The saddest aspect was in a cathedral where, during the service, many of the congregation were being given food and were obviously there for warmth and a little comfort. They were mainly old ladies wrapped in layers of clothing little better than rags. In all this there was the most exquisite a cappella singing.
Perhaps Zagorsk is different in summer, but garish is the last adjective I would use. My daughter and I felt we were intruders in a very private grief. No doubt the Zagorsk experience is repeated all over Russia. One day these people must be given proper help, not a few pieces of stale bread and cheese.
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