Everyone seemed to have gotten a good night’s sleep after our long day of travel and we were all up and had eaten by 9 for our morning devotional. The breakfast provided by the hotel was very nice with sausage, eggs, waffles, cereal, pastries, potatoes, and good coffee. Today’s devotional was over Colossians 3:12-17 talking about clothing ourselves in God’s love and spreading His word. The pastors and Max, our translator, from Samara United Methodist Church met us at 10 and we left for our first day in the city.
We first walked around the city center of Samara, with Max explaining different architectural styles along the way. We learned that the earliest buildings were wooden, but many have been burned or knocked down, so most of the structures present today have been built since the 19th century. They take much pride in the wood and stone carvings on the outside of their buildings, which can also indicate what type of function the building is used for. However, buildings from the Soviet time period were very functional and not meant to show beauty. We ended our walking tour at a scenic overlook of the Volga River:
Next we headed to Stalin’s bunker, which would have been used during the Second World War, or as Russians call it, the Great Patriotic War. We got to hike 12 stories underground and learn about how and why the bunker was built. We ended in a room that would have been Stalin’s office, which was designed exactly like the office at the Kremlin, so if Stalin came to this bunker he would’ve felt at home. However, there is no documentation that Stalin ever came to this bunker.
After the tour we headed to Kuybyshev Square which is just a massive area of pavement in front of a theater where the ballet performs. From here we went to lunch at a restaurant themed like a Soviet apartment. After we ordered we were able to walk around from room to room and see what types of decorations they would have had. After our meal our hosts insisted we tried blini, a Russian dessert similar to crepes. We topped them with cream and jam and they were delicious.
We then went to Samara United Methodist Church where we got a tour and learned the history of its foundation and met some more of the members. We are always greeted with big smiles and open arms. We ended our tour in the youth cafe with tea time, talking and getting to know more about each other. Then we were invited to join members in the sanctuary for a prayer meeting, which was filled with songs we (kind of) knew in English, while we had Russian hymnals in front of us. It was a great experience seeing how we could worship together even though we may not speak the same language. Below are pictures of the church and its sanctuary:
We then enjoyed a delicious pizza and salad dinner with young adults from the church. If it weren’t for Max we wouldn’t be able to have as great of conversations as we have, so we’re very thankful he’s been so generous with his time in escorting and translating for us. Everyone has been so welcoming and we’re looking forward to another great day tomorrow. Do svidaniya (goodbye) and we’ll be back tomorrow to once again update you on our travels.