Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Palace of the Republic

Just down the street from our hotel is a huge gray box of a building on a vast open square. It's called the Palace of the Republic, and it's so severe Alla just knew it had to be great. It turns out that we were in the right place at the right time, because there would be a ballet there last night. Sorry: I already forgot the name of the ballet.

As the afternoon closed we realized that we were free to attend the ballet and we went to the box office and got a pair of excellent seats for $20. I went home and did my best to dress up and reported back for entry. Wow, what a spectacular interior! The place sparkles with light, air and exuberance. The lobby has sweeping staircases with imposing views of the spacious interior and the city. There are cozy seating areas sprinkled throughout the lobby and stairway areas, and also a temporary display of heavy equipment. I enjoyed the heavy equipment models, particularly the giant earth-moving trucks designed for open-pit mining. I have no idea how they can get a ten-meter-wide truck TO the mine, but understand that it can move a heck of a lot of dirt once it's on site.

We were just as impressed by the inside of the palace as we were by the lobby. The seats are large and comfortable with plenty of knee room. The floor slopes steeply enough that I think everybody had a pretty good view regardless of what tall people sat in front of them.

The ballet dancers didn't live up to the costumes and the music, but in any event the performance was plenty beautiful. We could hardly believe the gorgeous costumes and the fantastic set, testaments once again to the Belarusian tradition of craftsmanship. I thought the pit orchestra surpassed almost any pit orchestra I've heard in Boston, generally by a wide margin.

Among the announcements at intermission they invited us to check out the restaurant in the basement of this palace. Since it was our last night in town, we figured we'd splurge and go for it. The prices on the menu shocked us a bit, but the shock was pleasant. Our dinner cost less than the lunch we had down the street, though it included far more food, more courses, much better flavor and an extremely serene environment. Alla was particularly excited to drink a glass of Georgian wine for $4. The wine she chose was Stalin's favorite, and she hadn't tasted it in about 24 years because Russia has an embargo on Georgian products.

The waitress warned us that we'd find different music if we came on a Friday or Saturday evening, but we'd certainly come back on a weeknight.

We're hading home in another hour. I look forward to greeting my bicycle and numerous people, but I'm definitely looking forward to coming back here too.

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