Moskau, RUS

Moskau, RUS

Sunday, 13. July 2014


After we had spontaneously joined a very nice Russian man who spoke English and a little German, on a six hour walk around Lake Baikal, we arrived at a town which few tourists reach. Our new friend had been heading for the building where the yearly Physics Summer School takes place. We slept here too, after a relaxing sauna. Sascha, that was his name, had been waiting for the same minibus to Listjanka on Lake Baikal and when he realised that we didn’t really have a plan, he suggested we could join him in his. As we agreed to his idea we didn’t realise that we would walk up and down the hills, along the biggest freshwater lake, and through the woods of the National Park for six hours!

It didn’t matter, or at least, it didn’t matter yet, as the scenery and the fresh air were amazing. It was only the next day that we felt the exertion in our bodies and so we went for a gentle stroll through the village and surrounding area. In the evening we took the ferry back to Irkutsk where we spent one day exploring before we boarded the four-day train to Pensa. The journey was long, hot and entertaining as our fellow passenger in the compartment really enjoyed sharing her food with us.

We were heading for Nikolsk, about 120 km from Pensa, where in 1764 Aleksei Bahmeter set up the first glass factory. A little like Zwiesel, Nikolsk is surrounded by woodland and about half of the population are involved in the glass making industry. In its heyday the glass factory was called ‘the Red Giant’ (1917-2008) and was run by the state. Between 1960-1990 they exported a lot, so much so that 10,000 people were employed. Today five glass workshops and one lead crystal studio remain, all of them in private hands again and produce a variety of different articles.

We arrived in Pensa at midnight where we were met by Dimitri Timmon who gave us a lift to Nikolsk. The next morning we visited the Nikolsk Glass & Crystal Museum which houses an enormous collection of glass pieces that were given as gifts to high ranking official of the Soviet Union. A very nice lady gave us a short tour in simplified German-English-Russian and afterwards Dimitri showed us around the workshops.

Unfortunately these were all closed for the holidays and the furnaces stopped for their yearly service and so we only visited empty work spaces. We ended our tour at the studio and restaurant of Dimitri and Alexander Fokin which is currently being built. Alexander, who was also there, is one of the most well-known glass engravers in Russia. He runs his own workshop out of his home and also teaches at the Academy in Moscow. The main focus of his work is engraved portraits of all sorts of famous people. He has also initiated, and is now the main organiser of, the Nikolsk Glass Symposium. It took place last May for the fifth time and will be held again from 5th-15th May 2015 in the local workshops. We said our goodbyes after two days and planned to return for one of the future Symposiums.

Since Friday we have been walking through Russia’s capital and have so far been to a few museums and other sights.