I am travelling with mom to Smolensk, an old medieval town south of Moscow, where she grew up. As a child I used to spend every summer there visiting my grandparents. The last time I was in Smolensk was in mid 90s.
As we were walking about the town, I noticed a familiar statue, The Stag. I remember it being enormous and magical. When I was little, my dad would lift me up to let me sit on this statue. I would sit and imagine it being a cherry tree stag from ‘The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen’.
What a lovely reminder of an 18th century collection of short stories , which I used to read all the time as a child. Here is an excerpt about the cherry tree stag from the book available online:
You have heard, I dare say, of the hunter and sportsman’s saint and protector, St. Hubert, and of the noble stag, which appeared to him in the forest, with the holy cross between his antlers. I have paid my homage to that saint every year in good fellowship, and seen this stag a thousand times, either painted in churches, or embroidered in the stars of his knights; so that, upon the honour and conscience of a good sportsman, I hardly know whether there may not have been formerly, or whether there are not such crossed stags even at this present day. But let me rather tell what I have seen myself. Having one day spent all my shot, I found myself unexpectedly in presence of a stately stag, looking at me as unconcernedly as if he had known of my empty pouches. I charged immediately with powder, and upon it a good handful of cherry-stones, for I had sucked the fruit as far as the hurry would permit. Thus I let fly at him, and hit him just on the middle of the forehead, between his antlers; it stunned him–he staggered–yet he made off. A year or two after, being with a party in the same forest, I beheld a noble stag with a fine full grown cherry- tree above ten feet high between his antlers. I immediately recollected my former adventure, looked upon him as my property, and brought him to the ground by one shot, which at once gave me the haunch and cherry-sauce; for the tree was covered with the richest fruit, the like I had never tasted before. Who knows but some passionate holy sportsman, or sporting abbot or bishop, may have shot, planted, and fixed the cross between the antlers of St. Hubert’s stag, in a manner similar to this? They always have been, and still are, famous for plantations of crosses and antlers; and in a case of distress or dilemma, which too often happens to keen sportsmen, one is apt to grasp at anything for safety, and to try any expedient rather than miss the favourable opportunity. I have many times found myself in that trying situation.