A Trip to a Lenin Museum

Posted: November 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

I went on an awesome adventure throughout the city of Ulyanovsk today. I met up with two English students from the private language school. The day before, Saturday, I went to their class and then had dinner with them, their teacher, and another teacher from the school. Sushi makes me happy. Also, it was a meal that I didn’t cook for myself and that didn’t come from the university cafeteria, aka it was awesome.

We met up this afternoon and strolled through parts of the center of the city. The first thing we saw was the monument to the Russian writer Goncharov, who wrote the novel “Oblomov.” In a park in the center of the city is a statue to Goncharov. In the novel, Oblomov spends most of his time on his couch and with his slippers. Thus, the monument to the novel is a couch with a set of slippers that you can put your feet in.

I love sitting on couches.

We headed off to Lenin Street with the intention of going to one of Lenin’s houses. Lenin’s house on Lenin Street, who would have thought that would belong there? Our first stop was a free art museum on Lenin Street, which had an exhibition on mannerism. Basically, they were poorly printed posters of Italian and Spanish artists such as El Greco and Parmigianino (good thing I took that art history course at Lafayette). While walking through the exhibit with George and Julia, we were speaking in English. There was a man there with his young son and he got a little confused by us speaking English. He asked if we were Russian and George explained that they were Russian, but that they were speaking English with me because I’m from America. The man got a little excited and asked me why I was in Russia and shook my hand. His roughly eight-year-old son said hello to me in English. Unfortunately, the father reeked of cigarettes and alcohol. At least his father was spending time with him and taking him to a museum, though. The father also said that I should go and teach English and the son’s school, which the governor of the region apparently attended.

From the art museum, we headed to Lenin’s house. The museum had various prices for admittance. For students with IDs, the entrance fee is 30 rubles, or roughly $1. Julia and George didn’t have their IDs with them, but I had mine with me. I’ve been through these situations in St. Petersburg before, so I knew not to say a word. Instead, I just showed my ID and handed over the money. This is because the entrance fee for foreigners is something like 500 rubles. If you just keep your mouth shut, the don’t know you’re a foreigner and don’t charge you extra. Another miraculous thing happened when we were buying the tickets. As I said, George and Julia didn’t have their student IDs with them, but the woman said that they believed that they were students and charged them the student rate.

The Lenin house museum was pretty cool, as those sorts of museums go. After taking off our coats, we proceeded to the first part of the exhibit. It was apparently an exhibit on people visiting the museum. For the most part, this was pretty lame, but Julia showed me a really interesting photo from the Soviet times. As this was a house that Lenin lived in, lines to get into the museum used to be massive. People would wait for hours just to see some chairs and tables that Lenin may or may not have touched.

The line for the Lenin house museum in the 1970s.

The best part of the exhibit was a cute cat that was sitting on a sofa by the radiator. The rest of the house was pretty standard for these types of museums. There was period furniture that may or may not have actually belonged to the family. Taking photos of the rest of the exhibit was forbidden unless you paid extra money, which I didn’t feel like doing. Throughout the rooms, a scary woman who worked in the museum sometimes followed us. She keep appearing around corners and hovering to make sure that we didn’t disfigure any of their precious beds, chairs, or books.

Lenin's cat?

The Lenin museum also had a really cool backyard and series of other buildings to look at from the outside, including a gazebo of sorts. We were wandering around the grounds, unsure of where we were and were not supposed to go. At one point, we went through a door and wound up in an alley of sorts, which was fine until we had to run away from a dog and shut the door behind us. After that, we decided to move on from the Lenin museum. We headed off to an area behind the photography museum, which had another gazebo and some fun wooden stuff to play on like a swing, a bridge, and a few benches.

Julia and George having fun.

We then headed off on a walk through more of the city. George is a medical student. He goes to the other university in the city, Ulyanovsk State University. The medical school is in its own building, a former nunnery, which is somewhat gothic and creepy looking. It got creepier when he told us that they practice anatomy lessons in the basement on cadavers and that there are giant barrels in the anatomy rooms filled with body parts.

George and the medical school.

We headed off to the main campus of the Ulyanovsk State University and walked around. There’s a free ice rink at the university, not that we needed a rink since everything was covered with ice today and it was an effort not to slip and die everywhere we went. The state university looks out on the other river in the city, the Sviyaga. The river had already frozen over and there were various people out fishing on the ice. After wandering around in the cold for a while, we decided to head into a nice student café to get some food and warm drinks. After our dinner, we waited for a while in the cold for the correct marshrutka to take us all back to our various destinations.

In other news, I found out on Saturday, at the language school, that I’m not the only American in Ulyanovsk. There are apparently two Mormon missionaries in the city. While I was with George, Julia, and their teacher, the Mormons came and spoke to Lana’s class. I’m somewhat unsure if I want to meet the Mormons. On one hand, it would be nice to see what other Americans have to say about Ulyanovsk. On the other hand, I don’t know if I would really get along very well with the Mormons. I don’t know how they feel about Catholics. I’m also pretty sure they’re not too fond of drinking, swearing, or materialism.

Finally, the neighbors in the dorm are getting somewhat annoying. The 18 year old boys I share my bathroom with have started to decorate it with cutouts from Playboy. What do I notice about the pictures? There’s some naked chick ruining perfectly good photos of a BMW M3. I guess she spent all of her money on the autobahn beast and has no money left for even a potato sack with which to clothe herself. Furthermore, I have been treated to all sorts of wonderful house/techno remixes of songs I normally like thanks to their speakers and subwoofer. The funny song from today is that somebody has made a remix of when Putin sang the American country song “On Blueberry Hill.” For those of you who missed it, here’s a video of Putin’s rendition.

And for those of you who are into techno, here’s the remix.

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