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Cracks in a frozen lake…Irkusk and Lake Baikal

All women must cover their heads as they enter a Russian Orthodox church, so I throw my scarf over mine as we went inside Znamensky Monastery in Irkusk. The air was thick with incense and candle light, which reflected off the golden images of Christ which hung on every wall. We then noticed a crowd off people to our left, around a priest and a small number of nuns dressed in black. As their a-capella, harmonising song floated through the air, I realised they were praying over a dead body lying in state. I was torn between an urge to get closer to see the body up close and a childish fear at the prospect. As the service reached its climax the singing got louder, until all the congregation blessed themselves and departed. Considering this was our first full day in Russia and none of us had ever seen a dead body before, the country was getting off to a memorable start.

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