smaller towns of Russia
04.05.2012 14 °C
Our last day in St. Petersburg was spent at the Russian Art Museum as there is no Russian Art at the Hermitage. There were a number of pieces that we really liked and quite different from yesterday. We saw a lot of pictures that told of the freedom from serfdom and communism in Russia.
Our taxi driver met us at the agreed upon time to take us back to our hotel to pick up our luggage and then head to the train station.
I had purchased tickets for pretty much everything on the internet and the tickets from Helsinki to St Petersburg were just the paper copies that I printed off, so I assumed that these would be the same.
There are three train stations in St. Petersburg and we were in the Moscovia one, for trains heading East. We figure out we need to be on platform 5 and make our way down the long line to find car number 9, our car. I am showing everyone my pieces of paper and they all say , yes go over there.
Half an hour before the train is about to leave the porters come and stand in front of our car and take our tickets.
And she hands them back to me.
‘What?” is this the right train? We figure out that it is the right train but I need to exchange these papers for actual tickets. How?
They have this big discussion about this problem that we have and call out to this young man, who I think worked there, and explained the situation to him. He gestured to follow him and Doug stayed behind with the luggage.
We power walked to the end of the platform and came to a room with 7 wickets and long lines in front of each of them. He goes to the front of one and shows them the papers and they dismiss him like an annoying fly and sort of point to the right.
We head outside and walk until he spies another building in the back which we go to. Again there are many wickets with line ups. He goes to the front of one and the agent angrily dismissed him and gestures ‘over there’.
He goes in that direction to find some machines that all say ‘out of order.’
He went back to ask again, ( she is really annoyed now), and yells something at him and he goes the other direction to find a machine that worked.
We had to punch in all of the information, written in Russian, on the papers that I had and then two tickets thankfully popped out.
I would have not been able to have done that in a million years on my own. He was Russian and had a hard time figuring it out. On the way back I handed him 500 rubles ($20) and he refused. When we got back to the platform he said goodbye and I shook his hand and passed the 500 to him in the handshake which I think he appreciated it. I was so appreciative of his help.
I made it back to the train literally 3 minutes before the train left! We found our private compartment in second class with two bench seats facing each other and two beds that folded down from the top. Our companions were a woman Irena and her 10 year old son. She was very excited to know that she would be able to practice her English with us.
She was a very lovely and kind woman and we had great conversations land learned a great deal about Russia. Her best friend had met a man on Skype and they have been chatting for three months now. She will be travelling to meet him this summer in Courtenay of all places. Small world.
One of the fellows that we spoke to on the platform passed by our compartment and came in to chat. We think he had been drinking a lot of vodka during the trip as he was a little drunk. He was fascinated with why we would want to come to Russia and talked about travelling etc. He would pop in and out during the trip and then he came by with a young shy man around 22 years old who had never had the chance to talk to anyone in English before. He sat and chatted for an hour with us. Our 11 hour train ride was very enjoyable and our compartment was really comfortable. The landscape was a lot of birch trees, (Russia’s national tree), small evergreens and rolling farmland.
The homes are mostly wood, very old and a lot were decrepit. The conversation in the train was much more interesting than the scenery outside.
Ilena and her son were at the parade on Nevesky Prospect yesterday and showed us some pictures. There were many different people marching that were from from Communist groups, groups who didn’t like Putin, Greenpeace, and different labor unions.
At midnight we turned out the lights to get a little bit of sleep before our 2am stop at Vladimir. This smaller town is 2 hours East of Moscow. Our porter came to wake us 10 minutes prior to our stop and we groggily make our way out of the station to a waiting taxi and then our hotel where we collapsed into bed.
The alarm went off at 9AM and I really wanted to hit the snooze button but our guide was going to be here at 10AM. Our room at the Vladimir hotel is a little bigger than the one in St. Petersburg, the furnishings are very basic but functional and look fairly new. It is clean and we have hot water so what more do you need?
We enjoyed our breakfast, (buckwheat porridge for me) and Elena our guide arrives at exactly 10AM. I had arranged her by email a few months ago to take us to the small town of Suzdal, 30 minutes from here. Most people hire a car and driver as well but we found it too costly and said we could take the local bus. She informed us that no one had ever opted for the bus before, but none the less we walked to the bus station and make the half our ride to Suzdal (this decision saved us $130.)
Suzdal was the capital of Russia in 1152 and then 3 years later the capital was moved to Vladimir. This is one of the more popular towns in the ‘Golden Ring’ with over 200 historic monuments located here. The town itself only has 12,000 residents and in the summer is bustling with many tourists. Today there were very few which suited us just fine.
Elana walked us all over the town exploring the many churches and monasteries and the local Kremlin. The buildings and location were so beautiful and it was wonderful to see a different side to Russia other than the wealth and grandeur of St. Petersburg.
The weather here is warmer and the trees and flowers are coming into bloom as we are much further south. I think they are at the same stage as home right now as far as blooming flowers etc goes. It was great to shed my big wool coat today and just wear my Mereno wool sweater which was perfect.
The open air, or museum of wooden architecture was especially interesting. We were able to go inside churches and homes dating back to the 1700s. There was a wooden home of a middle class peasant as well as a prosperous textile family to compare how each of them lived during this time. The towns would have two churches, a summer church and a winter church. The congregation can not sit, they must stand throughout the entire sermon.
At the other end of the town was a monastery where we sat in the courtyard and listened to a man who plays a wonderful song with the many bells in top of the bell tower in the chapel every hour. It lasts around five minutes and very lovely.
Inside the church at the monastery the walls were painted with the story of the bible. Every inch of the inside was painted and completed in three months by two artists in the 17th century.
Five young men wearing long black robes came inside the church and started to singing. It was so beautiful it sent chills up your spine. We bought one of their CDS. This monastery is not a working one anymore, just a museum.
We had been walking for 4 hours non stop so it was time for a coffee break and we found this great little café in the monastery where we each had a great cup of coffee, an apple dumpling of some kind and a bliny, (honey pancake)
Elena walked us back to the centre of town and then we said our goodbyes. Doug and I went for a walk to see an outdoor market and I bought some felt slippers. They are pretty much the same thing that you can buy on Hornby or Denman island, but these are from Russia and I like them.
We had another small dinner and then walked back to the main bus depot, about a half hour walk. As we approached we saw our bus, Vladimir written in Russian which looks nothing like the English spelling but we memorized the name. We ran to the bus and were just in the nick of time, otherwise we would have waited for another hour.
Another great day in Russia and we are exhausted at the end of the day.