On our last day in Golitsyno, Natasha invited us to join her on a day trip to Borodino, the site where the Russian army halted Napoleon's forces in 1812. Russians take their monuments seriously, and like most things in the country, these are larger than life. Natasha told us they were destroyed twice before but being rebuilt again in the nineties. Though shiny and new, they're no less hallowed or historical than if they'd been around since the mid-19th century.
They're also a favorite for new brides and grooms, who will generally travel with their photographer and wedding party -- Russian weddings don't have the American equivalent of bridesmaids and groomsmen, just a best man and maid of honor, the latter of which wears a short, bright dress and a pageant-like banner around her torso -- and have photos taken in front of each memorial. We watched as one couple stood with arms outstretched, mimicking flight, as they posed before of an obelisk with a wingspread eagle on top. We hoped they might crawl down to the underground bunker or walk the top of the earthen barricade that gave the Russian soldiers a place to retreat between shootings. They refrained, but that didn't keep us from our own explorations. We regretted that we'd miss battle-reenactment season, which reportedly happens each fall.
Our final stop was the Saviour Borodino Monastery, where Orthodox nuns walked in hunched silence in black habits. It was the quietest place we encountered in Russia, a nice refuge from Borodino's entry point, where we bought matreoshka dolls and enjoyed a Russian ice cream novelty.
I'm not generally a fan of bombast, particularly of the military variety. But this one certainly came about honestly. So give me your vaunting monuments, Russia. You can count on my awe in return.