Being invited to partake in a local celebration is always a wonderful privilege, but as Intrepid’s Boris Golodets and his group discovered, getting to eavesdrop on a Russian wedding is almost as much fun…
“Not far from the Sadko Hotel, a hotel where Intrepid stays in Velikiy Novgorod, there is a cafe called Berg’s House. It is a quite new place but already has a good reputation and there are not many cafes to choose from in Velikiy Novgorod, so I was happy to take one of my groups there recently.
At the cafe I was told that in the evening there would be a wedding, which meant that the only seating available was in the second hall. Because of being near by the noise could be still heard, but the other hall turned out to be much cozier. Our group saw the wedding limo and merry guests from afar. “Oh, a wedding! That’s so wonderful!” they cried. “We’ll join them in a minute,” I replied, but my group only smiled, maybe thinking that I was joking.
Soon my companions realized that it was no joke. “I’ll show you the traditional Russian wedding. Make yourself comfortable, ladies & gentlemen, we have the front row seats.”
Using the pauses in the wedding I translated the toasts that could be heared from the other hall. The wedding guests were saying appropriate toasts for the newlyweds and for their good company. While we were not far away: sharing our impressions about we’ve seen on our trip & thanking each other for our good company.
As time went on they started dancing to popular modern Russian music. Many songs were very similar to American classics, but however some songs had traces of folklore. Several hours later the first guests, who had overindulged, were taken home. The wedding party thinned and decreased in volume. At this time we were finishing our desserts and drinking flavored tea. Suddenly the cafe was filled with harmonious a cappella singing. Beautiful old Russian melody rose up to the ornamental vaulting’s built in tzar’s time and the sounds filled the entire space. Old men and women sang: grandfathers and grandmothers of the newlyweds, their ants and uncles. Wise folk words about hopeless love, sorrow and empathizing with nature.
“What is the song about?” I was asked. “About motherland. My motherland.”
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* photo by Jessica Toop – Intrepid Photography Competition