Russia….. the land of the Ivan’s #2
Friday, July 18, 2008
We did find one or two ruined churches, some that had been restored partly and of course there are always many attractive looking wooden houses to photograph on the way, most without running water.
At one of the police checkpoints that we pass every hour or so a young good-looking guy flagged us over, and then got a terribly big shock when the other two motorhomes pulled over with us. He approached me, and we have a policy that Luda does not speak Russian unless necessary, and he asked me where was I going, in Russian, not understanding a word, I said I from New Zealand, he said I do not speak English, and, go on your way.
I feel perhaps he saw the German number plates, and possibly could speak German, and felt like having a chat!
We spent a lot of time in a church that had been in the process of restoration for 12 months, the five domes were painted an attractive dark green and it seems that they first fix the roof and the windows, make the domes look attractive, and then start fixing up the inside. This particular church appeared to have no valuable icons from yesteryear but there were doing the best they could with what they could afford. It was also interesting to note that as in a lot of cases, the church was very close to the statue of Lenin, or perhaps it was the other way round!
We did see an icon of the last Czar and his family, yes, that is the one that made things so bad for his people that they had a revolution, possibly found out he was not so bad after all, because now they are all on an icon as Saints! I guess at this stage that is about all they can do.
We are going through a rather un-populated parts of the country on the Road to Vologda and we kept on looking for somewhere to spend the night, and most of the roads that lead off, lead off into a muddy track, so we started exploring villages that were close to the Road, and of course there was always many children flocking to see the strange vehicle that had arrived in the village. As we're leaving the village the boys were racing after us like a pack of dogs except they were not snapping at the wheels.
And we finally turned down the Road, that we were told lead to a village with two people living in it and we parked on the side of the road for hopefully a quiet night.
Saturday 19th July
We did look for the standpipes to get some more water than every village we went through had Wells, but fortunately we were not that desperate for water.
One village that was on the Road to our destination had a large very beautiful church in quite good reasonable repair, had obviously had not been abandoned, but we could not understand how a village that had no running water could have managed to build such a beautiful church.
We passed several houses in the process of being built, one log had a time and there were rather large so we made the assumption it was perhaps a hunting lodge as we could see no other reason of being in such an area that only had its remoteness, poor villages, and lack of people.
We took the back road into the city, looking for water, and I believe there is a Biblical saying which says a “ seek and you shall find” because as we got close to the city there was lightning everywhere, and then it started pouring with rain. Perhaps the lightning can be accounted for in so much the city was associated in its history with Ivan Grozny, or Ivan the Terrible as he is known in the West, but the water that was supplied to us in the form of rain, we could not use.
We drove around the city a little, in reality we are looking for the Kremlin has a spot to Park, but we did the scenic route, saw lots of beautiful old wooden houses, some rather marvellous churches and eventually found the Kremlin where we parked, and with umbrellas fully up, with a walk picking our way through all the puddles like a local.
We found a restaurant which served Russian food in the form of a buffet so we were able to choose our food by looks and by Luda's interpretations. I, who likes plain food chose some chicken that in my words had been interfered with, all sorts of stuffing added which I did not appreciate. However I must admit the rest of the team were not as picky as I, and enjoy their meals.
After that it was another walk around the Kremlin, a quick look in some of the buildings, went to an exhibition of lace, a product of this city is famous for, and then we're on our way back South, still looking for water and for gas is one of my gas cylinders was empty.
Filling up with diesel before we left, Luda asked a taxi driver where we could get LPG and she described the directions with very much arm waving which looked so complex that when she suggested to could lead us there for 100 roubles I quickly produce the money.
We arrived at the LPG station which evidently was is just one of 16 in the city of 300, 000, and there are received a very pleasant surprise, on my last Russian trip I learned to my dismay that Russia had an LPG fitting for filling the tank's which was possibly exclusive to Russia, but this one that our taxi driver selected for us had a European fitting so I was able to purchase 23 L of LPG straight into my English Gaslow system. The Aussies also managed to get their Australian purchased propane bottles filled with the use of many adapters some of which they had had made in China.
So was back on the Road again South, we were stopped by the police at one police inspection point, and it's interesting to see the look on their face when they realise what they have done as they now think “what will I do” they usually say a couple of words in Russian and then waved us on which of course we always oblige.
On the way into the city, we saw a sign for a monastery and we decided to call in there on the way out, which we did, we turned off the main Road and then drove through a village, no water, but a lot of the men had been consuming something because they were staggering across the Road, making rude signs to us, but the small children were extremely pleased to see us and almost waved their arms off. We arrived at the monastery to find that was just some old buildings with lots of dirt roads that of course were extremely muddy so after a couple of photographs to record the destination we're on our way again back through the village and the waving children, the vodka men fortunately were not noticeable, but the tar sealed Road was much appreciated after the very much “ country” Road.
Eventually we found on the side of Road a large sand dump that the roadies use for their roadworks, and as tomorrow is Sunday we figured we could Park in there overnight with ease. We were past the possible camping site by the time we had seen it so we went down the Road to the bus stop to turn round and at the turning point we saw a water standpipe so we stopped and filled up with water.
This one water standpipe appeared to be the only water in the village and while we were there several people arrived with buckets or 5 L bottles to collect some water for their immediate use, also some truck drivers stopped to fill up their coke bottles from this source of water.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Shortly after we started we saw a truck lying on the side, on our side of the road, we saw a man sitting on the door that was now facing the sky and we assume he was the driver and had suffered no physical damage.
We came across a village or town called Bor and they had to churches built in the 1800s, one a Winter church and one a summer church. After the revolution the Communists decided that the winter church would be converted into a grain silo, but the people the village would not allow the other church to be harmed. So it was in use right throughout the Soviet time and today is one of the churches that has survived in one piece if not slightly shabby. We found this information out a my a young guy that was living the house beside these to churches and when Luda asked him if he knew anything about the churches this comment was “ I know everything”.
It would appear that the churches that have survived have done so because of the people in the village and the ones that are in ruins in that condition through the courtesy of the person in charge of that area and with the fact that the people did not stand up for their church. At this may be an oversimplification of what happened 70 to 80 years ago but is my interpretation. We stopped and asked a young guy of about 28 that had an expensive American van why the Church at the start of town was in ruins and he did not know but he said he would go and ask his mother and came back with the comment that the church had been used as a store room by the Communists.
Our destination was the city of Buy which we reached at lunchtime in bright sunshine, and after photographing the two churches in the centre of the town we sat in the square near a restaurant that closed 18 years ago.
After lunch we headed off towards Kostroma on what turned out to be the worst Road we have experienced in Russia, or perhaps in all my travels. The Road originated as a concrete Road that is laid in slabs, and evidently it was showing signs of wear so they placed ordinary tar seal over the top of to a depth of about 10cm and that by its self presented no problems, however it started getting holes in this top layer going through to the concrete, at every join, and many places in between, so if you could see a bit of straight Road you could see the cars doing a tango or perhaps a Russian two step backwards and forwards across the Road.
We saw an old church in a village on the left-hand side and so we decided to drive and there to get some photographs, that was a one Lane concrete Road in to the turn off to the church and from there on it was a dirt road with large ridges and I thought in for a penny in for a pound, so drove on in to find that there was nowhere to turn round, or even to Park, so I let Luda out to take the photos, and backed up the way I came with no problems. Luda tells me there was a Lake beside the church and she got some good photographs.
We arrived in Kostroma and as I had the GPS settings for longitude and latitude of a car park that the Aussies had found I led the way in, even though the GPS was showing none of the roads, but was giving the direction to go on telling me how far it was to the closest Road, and when I got there which way to turn. There were probably about six roads for the city programmed into the GPS so it is not as if will be using the GPS for a city tour.
We are camped right beside the Volga river and it is already getting wider than where we crossed a by a Bridge at Buy.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
This was not to be as obviously they had better things to do on what was going to be a fine day so we accompanied one of the Aussies to a auto electrician to obtain a new battery for his motorhome and while were there we bought two stoplight bulbs for the princely sum of six roubles. The Road across the city, was quite an experience as we had to content with manhole covers that were not in place leaving gaping holes, potholes almost as large and of course the Russian drivers that had rules of the Road of their own.
So after that we found a water standpipe and filled up with water, drove over the bridge to the Kremlin, wandered round that for a short time, walked over to look at a wooden church and then it was back over the bridge and on our way to Suzdal via Ivanovo, the latter city in Soviet times was known as “The City of Brides” because being a city that manufactured material of all types it had a large population of girls to work the machinery.
While we were passing through the city we came upon a beautiful church which we looked through, evidently the original church was built in the 18th century and the Soviets in 1976 blew up the church to clear the space for a sports complex for the Olympic Games in 1980 but evidently “someone” was protecting that site as a sports complex was never successfully completed on the site was left open for the church to be rebuilt in 1997 and of certainly done a wonderful job and the history itself makes the church rather unique.
I was glad I had the GPS to find our way through the city as we seemed to zigzag from side to side of the GPS got us through and on the Road to our destination. We did call in to see two churches we observed from the Road, one was almost brand new built by what we presume is a new Russian, as he was there showing a friend through the church, and when we arrived would not let the ladies into the church because they did not have their headscarves on. We found is rather interesting as this the first time this has happened on our tour of the churches and we had been to some vastly more important churches and monasteries. Those that wished this rule to be observed had headscarves for their visitors, and one had leggings for one of the Aussies in shorts.
The other church was in quite an old village which evidently gets quite a few tour buses as there was a interesting character drawing water who commented on the nationalities that he had met.
We arrived in the city of Suzdal, with 12,000 people and 30 churches and start trying to take all of the churches into our memory banks, and digital images, they are certainly an amazing sight with many in the process of being restored that thing when all that has finished there will be one of the major sights of the world. It already has the UNESCO rating of a Museum city.
Evidently most of these churches were built hundreds of years ago by wealthy businessmen, I guess cynically, securing their place in the next life.
We are camped on a grass verge beside one of the monastery's with a beautiful view over the valley and to have a wonderful churches in the background.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The monastery was in extremely large complex with a very large wall round the outside and of course the beautiful churches inside, it had been used as a prison during Soviet times and prior to that they had been a prison built on the grounds, for what I understand, where priests from all over Russia were incarcerated if they did wrong doings. One of the large buildings was undergoing major reconstruction and again I would like to see this city in five years time.
We then headed to our next destination which was Bogolyubovo which is near Vladimir. On the way we saw a beautiful church near the side of the road, so we stopped off there to look and photograph and it turns out that there were three churches there and they were all in a ruined state at the time of perestroika, but since then some wealthy business men have paid for their restoration, that rebuild the school that was close to the churches, build a new church so there is now in this little village a complete church and school like there was perhaps, before the revolution.
Was then on to our destination and we came across this large convent as we entered the town and were able to pull up and parked on the side of the road right outside the entrance.
To go in the ladies had to wear headscarves and wrap a cloth around their waist as they were not allowed to go in, in slacks or jeans, and one of the Aussies who was wearing shorts had to go and change. No photography at all was allowed in the church and there was a nun making sure this rule was obeyed. The nuns that greeted us at the gate and sort out our clothing was wearing part of a cabbage leaf on her forehead, I can only think it must been a cooling agent to counteract the very hot day and their black uniform.
It was most interesting to see amongst the paintings in the church portrait of the last Czar who was shown as a saint.
From there it was on to a church down by the river that was extremely old having been built in the 12th century, build again by a rich person who was, as the story goes, carrying an icon from Keiv when the icon fell to the ground and the horse stopped and some sort of miracle happened, so that was the location for the church, out in the middle of the field with no houses nearby. Inside the church is different from most of the Orthodox churches and so much that has no paintings on the inside just white walls and no icons.
One of the Aussies found a piece of grass beside a river with an extremely doubtful track leading to it, the track was worse than any Road we had been on, but we made it, it was a swimming locations for a lot of the locals and as the evening went on they disappeared so hopefully it will be a quiet night. (56.20430°N 40.54787°E)
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I had a GPS setting that I was driving towards which due to the lack of roads on these minor Russian cities get you in to the area and then you have to fudge it from there. Within a few left turns and right turns and ended up down the hill from the 12th century Church which was really a very good location. The church was rather interesting in so much that on the inside it was just plain with all the fancy work being done on the outside with many beautiful sculptures around the church.
Beside the church was the Vladimir Cathedral, and it was one of the richest cathedrals we have seen on our travels with beautiful icons and very much gold everywhere, which we should not have seen as we went through an open door and took photographs were no photographs were allowed, of course were only told this after-the-fact. Then it was on to the monastery whose claim to fame was that Alexander Nesky was buried there, he was poisoned by the Tartars when he is trying to make an agreement to end the wars with the Tartars, he was a rich noblemen, a extremely successful general in the wars against Sweden, was very much loved by all the Russians who made him a saint.
Driving out of the city on the Moscow Road we passed the golden gate, a copy of the famous golden gate in Keiv, we were not able to drive through it as it was in the process of restoration that was extremely interesting to see and then we carried on the Road towards Yur'yev-Pol'skiy passing many more churches on the way both restored and in ruins, we found parking in the centre of the city easily and then walked towards the Kremlin and inspected the wooden church and the old church which was due for restoration and then outside the walls naturally some more churches and again the restoration programme was in full swing.
On the way to Pereslavl'-Zalesskiy we passed a rather beautiful set of domes that really sparkled when we observe them from a distance and when we got close up it was obvious that they starting off at the domes and working down towards the ground. Most of the windows in the church either had broken glass or no glass but there was quite a team of workmen there working on restoring the church to its original glory.
On arrival in the city the first thing we saw was a Road jam caused by a collision between two Lada's and we managed to wind our way between the two stalled vehicles reaching the traffic lights, and once through them past about 2 to 3 kms of a Road jam which wasn't bad for a city of 45, 000, fortunately though all heading the opposite way.
We made our way out to a beautiful Lake and again travelling over I almost impassable dirt track we reached some green grass which was ideal stopping spot for the night. There was a beautiful sunset over the Lake which unfortunately we could not find our way to get close enough to photograph.
Friday 25th July
Whilst there I did find a priest that could speak a little English so I asked him why the Orthodox cross had to extra crossed members, a small one above the major cross, and one at a angle down near the bottom, the priest answer was the bottom crossmember was where Jesus feet rested and the top crossmember was where his hands where. Of course all this makes sense once you have been told. Occasionally one sees and Orthodox cross with an extra Crescent down near the bottom and that I have been told is the Orthodox cross for the people at sea.
Then we drove towards Abramtsevo which according to the guidebook had some interesting old wooden houses in the village, which in reality turned out to be a larger area of land that was set up as a museum with one of two houses scattered about the area. A lot of people went there for the quietness and the beautiful forest area, but we concern ourselves to be on a mission to photograph buildings, and we have these quiet beautiful forests at home.
At about 5 p.m. we realised we were going to be driving into Moscow the following morning very early, and we had yet to get water and fill up our diesel tanks, so we had our meals and then drove around the village looking for water. We found one standpipe which delivered water, and when we looked at it in a 5 L bottle realised that perhaps we should not have looked at the water as it was a good base to put colouring into coffee, but water it was so we all filled up and then made the decision to drive into Moscow when hopefully the traffic on a Friday night would be kinder to us.
So we set off in a convoy and with the GPS guiding us we set off for the 86 km into the parking place beside a hotel that we stayed at two years ago. We bought some diesel on the way and it turned out to be the cheapest diesel we saw on the Road and so it was on into Moscow with basically a traffic jam all the way on the other side of the road heading out of Moscow and we had an easy fast drive.
We did have a two interesting moments when we were directed a cross the oncoming traffic by the GPS at the intersection but we all made it, and the other we were pulled over by the police with flashing lights, I'm not sure if he saw the German plates and he was I German speaker and wished try out as German but he was sadly mistaken because I spoke English to him when he arrived at the drivers window. He looked at the ownership papers and my out of date international drivers licence and was happy to let me proceed.
Fortunately the GPS delivered us to with in a 1 km of the hotel and then it was just a matter of following the GPS to the gate, which by that time I remembered, then it was interesting turning into the car park, seeing all the motorhomes that were already parked there, it was a little bit of a tense moment, but I just drove in as if we were meant to be there, and the guard indicated where I should be parking, so I just drove into that spot as if we owned it, with the Aussies following. The hotel “Moscow Patriarchate” 5 Bolshoi Starodanilovsky per, Moscow 115191 Russia email@example.com
They did however celebrate our arrival with a firework show which went on for the several minutes and was rather grand, there was some talk about it being for something else but I dismissed that as being negative thinking.
The other motorhomes were part of a Perestroika tour, and it was right on our side as they had just had three of their motorhomes put out of commission with a nose to tail smash earlier that day so there were three spaces, add to the fact we arrived about the same time as they arrived so the gard was expecting people to arrive, and had we arrived the following morning as planned we would have probably been looking for somewhere else.
As a nice peaceful quiet spot so we got a good night's sleep, and in the morning the German -- Lithuanian woman who was in charge of the tour started complaining that she was going to be charged for our motorhome’s parking, but I reassured her that we were going to sort out that morning as we could not do it last night when we arrived. She did make some comment about we were lucky to get the spot, and I think she was probably right.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
However the Russian roads soon persuaded us that the motorway was much better for travelling with a vast difference in the number of potholes between the two roads.
Runabout the village of Orlik in the Tula province we found a road going off to the right which had a track running into the trees and we settled on the grassy area for today's camping spot.
Friday 31st July
The museum took up three rooms consisting of photographs and other bits and pieces from the battle and there was nothing new if you have seen before museums of the Second World War.
Today we've moved towards the border that is nearer a village called Sudzha, we found a flat spot near a river and were well ensconced there when three Russians approached us, two in civilian clothes and one in what appeared to be an army uniform, and asked if any of us could speak Russian. We denied all knowledge of the language so they went on their way and then another gentleman in a official uniform and a extremely pregnant woman, (who turned out to be an English interpreter) arrived to carry on the conversation of the earlier three.
Evidently we were in a border area even though we were on the Russian side of the village and the border area notice did not start to we had passed through the village, they asked us many questions, like why did we come to Russia, where we entered, what did we do at home, looked at our passports and all of this time Luda was in the motorhome preparing the evening meal and I told her to stay there. Evidently you need to have proper documents or a passport to be in this area and as we had the latter we were okay to stay where we were. Bureaucracy and state rules are still alive and well in Russia.
What are my thoughts about travelling through Russia by a motorhome?
First of all the roads were a trial in some places but not sufficient for us not to return to do this trip again.
We used no motor camp's camping wild every night, of by a stream or a car park or whatever we could find. At no point that I feel unsafe during any part of my travel, in fact I have felt more unsafe in England on several occasions.
The GPS we had was adequate for all of our travel even though in the more remote areas there were only main roads but this can only improve.
We found cash machines everywhere, like you do now on every country.
The supermarkets have as much food, clothing and everything else as we would expect in the West in fact some were better than what we have in New Zealand.
Friday, August 01, 2008
The buildings on the Russian side all rather rough and worn out but on the Ukrainian side almost new however evidently the wages on the Russian side is about €1000 a month and on the Ukrainian side about a 1000 Grevener a month a difference of a factor of about five, and the food is about the same on both sides of the border where as fuel for a car is about 30% more expensive.
Tonight we are camped on the side of a Lake, or perhaps it is a river! We found it by turning off the main Road to see a museum of some sort and instead found an incredibly old church that had grass and trees growing out of part of the roof and turrets, but that is now a temporary measure as we see that they have started restoring the building and already it was extremely beautiful and a few years when they have finished will be incredible.
We are in Pustovoytivka a village on the road to Keiv near a city called Romny and we are camping at a GPS location of 50.78734° N by 33.55860° E.
Saturday 2nd August
We spoke to a new Russian, or I should say new Ukrainian, a guy from Keiv that owned a juice factory and had apartments and about five different countries. Yes I guess he would be reasonably rich, he had a country house in the village near the Lake, it appears he has quite a lot of land and has built a new house, I asked what population that was in the village he said about 4000 people.
On our way from the Lake towards Keiv, we passed the church again, and we saw the priest getting ready to go home, so I stopped to give a small donation towards the restoration of the church and we got talking to him, through Luda, and upon receiving a donation he asked us if we would like to see inside the church. We of course all did, and evidently was built in 1905, and apart from the German occupation had been used as a church all through the Soviet times, that had a service that morning, evidently it was a religious day of some sort, they had seven at the service. The priest who told me his name was Ivan, said he had 850 people in his flock and as the church was based in Russia evidently they have to raise all the money for the restoration themselves.
The men were invited in behind the altar to have a look at what was there, women were not allowed, and he had a beautiful array of priestly garments there, of all colours, and I was about to walk on one piece of the carpet, and the indicated that only the priest was allowed to walk there. A Most interesting visit there was only possible because of Luda's ability to speak Russian.
It was again then back on the road, towards Keiv the campground that I had stayed at two years ago, I was a couple of blocks out on my GPS setting so we went round in circles for a few minutes until we got on the right motorway and turned into the camp ground was no problems, in fact we'll waved on in and waved on through the gate into the campground and it turns out that was another Perestroika Tour that are just arrived at our destination and again they assumed we were part of that, and of course my German number plates probably reinforced that concept. The GPS setting for this camp ground is Kiev N 50.45184° E30.33540°.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Our Hymer motorhome done over 70,000 km in the 2 1/2 years that we have had it so we will be looking at possible replacements for next year's travels. With this in mind we have plans to go to the Dusseldorf motorhome show, first visiting the dealer that we bought this current motorhome off.
We therefore will probably stay in the Ukraine until Tuesday the 12th of August and then wind our way back through Poland to Germany.
I will give a closing newsletter sometime after the sixth of September so apart from that is almost another years travels sewn up.
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