For many years Russia was perceived as a dark, impenetrable and seemingly inconvincible force, a threat to all other civilizations. In my own mind, the Russians must have been a cruel nation. They invented the system of communism that deprived ordinary people of their dignity and love of life, and had an ambition to enforce their way of life all over the world, through sheer military might. I also mistrusted the whole idea of even tasting their national drink Vodka, but then I visited Russia.
Experiencing Russia was like daring at last to taste a sip of Vodka, not sure at all what to expect or where this new taste may take me. The experience turned out to be so much more than I ever could imagine or expect. Russia is so different, such a pleasant surprise and so full of contradictions. My inspirations grew from a unique set of phenomena and impressions.
I suddenly had all my previous misconceptions dramatically challenged by standing in complete awe of their magnificent architecture and art, complemented by carefully selected collections from all over the world, followed by my fantasizing about all that had happened there and then ultimately, crowned by the stories on the faces of people who for centuries had known both hardship and survival in every sphere of life.
The name of the magnificent Hermitage palace and now art museum means “a place of solitude” in French. It entices, fascinates and charms. What a delight to discover unknown paintings of well-known artists in this far away country, in so many ways and for so many years isolated from the rest of the world.
The Red Square is a place of rare beauty, stirring one’s imagination and emotions into all directions. The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed is so exquisite and the Kremlin, a place of so many stories, such cruelty, so much history, takes your breath away with its golden Domes, ornate Cathedrals, and Palaces, scenes of coronations and burials and beautiful gardens. Vodka should not only be sampled. It should be experienced.
This vast country with a long and complicated history of wars, revolutions, fires, Tsars, Empresses, heroes, peasants and isolation, can never leave you cold. It is a desperate search to delve into and trying to understand only some of its secrets.
You are confronted by conflicting impressions of suffering and beauty, radiance, festivity, legends and lavish splendour. In this country where religion was suppressed for so many years, the paintings, mosaics, sculptures and fresco’s of Biblical scenes, icons and churches loudly testifies to the opposite.
In Russia elements of perfection abound: masterpieces in art and architecture, ballet, poetry and more. There is mystery and reality. It is like a passionate love story, full of ecstasy, pain, passion, heartbreak and fantasy. Although one could only sample a sip of their Vodka, I would never forget the taste.
When you’re in love, believe in it
When you threaten do not clown,
When you curse in the heat of the moment, do not back away,
When you are fighting, strike from the shoulder.
And when you argue, do it with a brave heart,
When you punish, carry it out,
When you forgive, forgive with all your soul,
And when you feast, devour it all.
An unnamed poem by Tolstoy.