I wander around the Black Church asking where the rock and roll bar is. You know, Mystery Train on Sun? But I come up empty. I’ve got a sneaking feeling I’ve been tricked into going to Romania by the twin with the unpronounceable name.
I stand outside the doors of Kronstadt’s famous Black Church and frown. A 6 lei entrance fee? Any kind of fee. No, thanks. The synagogue is, I think, five. There is an elderly, bored guy waiting impatiently to grab newly purchased tickets.
Does God charge for his services now? Or has He been forced to compete with the t-shirts, dolls, magnetic pictures and faux traditional dresses on sale in Kronstadt’s baroque streets? Or has He been forced to seek help with the maintenance – like a city bus stop? In sum: reduced to either a tourist attraction or poor municipal cousin. I wonder what Luther would have made of it all? Actually, perhaps he would have found the whole commercial mummery quite familiar – he was, after all, sufficiently moved to nail those theses of his to the door.
So I head for St Peter and Pavel’s, the Roman-Catholic Church just down the road. The doors there are always open it seems and without the demand for wedge. I go in. Quietly sit down. Trying to be discreet because there’s is a baptism in progress. All the family are there; formally dressed: a little lad in a white suit, including a matching waistcoat. Many of the family are holding large candles, forming a circle. I can’t see the baby but occasional crying disturbs the hushed sepulchre-baroque splendour. Pink marble pillars. My grandmother used to love ritual like this. Careful not to make any noise and feeling a little self-conscious – one of the family has noticed the stranger sitting at the back of the pews – I take my leave. I walk out into the hot glare of the late morning.
I pop in to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral on the main square. Oddly enough, it reminds me of the Happy Heart Temple in Nong Khai on the Thai/Lao border. Although the church doesn’t have any grandfather clocks or tiger-skin thrones it does have a different, possibly even gaudier, dazzling richness. Also, like a Thai temple, there aren’t any pews. You have to kneel on the cold, hard marble floor. Discomfort as focus.
I head back to my apartment next to Sex Shop.