|Welcome to my humble abode|
The past has an irresistible pull, drawing you deeper into the yellowing pages of a half-open book, or the folds in a fine gown that hasn’t seen a ballroom in centuries, until you find yourself growing nostalgic for a time you never lived in and people you never had a chance to meet. There is something strange and wonderful about old mansions, with their majestic balconies and sweeping staircases, a half-open door like a beckoning glove-clad hand. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to explore an early 18th century estate on the outskirts of Moscow, perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the area. Although it was built from wood alone, there are hardly any signs of wear to the structure. Three hundred years later, the estate lives on as a museum and occasional movie set.
|Through the looking-glass|
One rainy morning I found myself standing inside, surrounded by plush armchairs and portraits of the many previous owners. I dressed simply for the occasion: my Baby, the Stars Shine Bright sailor dress (which is over ten years old itself, I believe), a pair of white over-the-knee socks with lace tops, and white low-heeled shoes with floral details that I found at a local thrift shop. The ladies who worked at the museum complimented my ensemble, but what struck me as odd was that they only charged me for a child’s ticket! Granted, I was with my family, but although I like to believe myself ageless, I haven’t been a child in a very long time. It didn’t feel right to correct their error, but I made sure to buy a few souvenirs when they left to cover the extra cost I had saved because of it.
|Relaxing in the nursery|
We were shown around the estate, and I was particularly impressed by the care and attention the museum workers had shown in restoring the building to its former glory. The banisters were gleaming, there was not a single crack in the paint, and old photographs were being used to return all of the furniture to its former place. One of my favorite rooms was a former nursery: dark wooden wardrobes, wicker basket prams, and a collection of vintage toys adorned it. Most of the photographs on the walls were from the early 20th century, somehow my favorite time when it comes to children’s clothing – gone are the elaborate, contrived accouterments of the Victorian age, replaced my glowing white dresses and bows, sausage curls and wooden horses. They remind me of the Romanov family and the tragic fate that overtook them, bitterly accentuated by the people’s undying belief in Princess Anastasia’s survival. A time of change, grief, revolution, hope – many things, all undeniably human and essential to my country’s history.
When no one was looking, I left my party and did some snooping around the house on my own. I never seem to get my fill of a place unless I am allowed some time to myself to explore. My curiosity was only satisfied when I had examined every nook and cranny, pausing to gently stroke the fabric on an antique chair or pick up the receiver of a beautiful old phone, the kind without numbers or letters (one had to pick up the phone and ask the operator to connect them!). I was in fact so engrossed in my surroundings that I didn’t notice one of the museum workers approaching me. She told me I looked like someone from a bygone era and I was very flattered. My mischief went by unnoticed and when we finally left the museum, everybody waved at us and invited us to return as soon as possible.
Do you, kind reader, have a favorite museum or art gallery that takes you back in time? Is there an era in time that calls your name?