Archive | August, 2011

24th August – Kazan to meet Marat

25 Aug

In the morning there was one more quick visit to our host’s garden as they had offered us more vegetables for lunch! While we were there we saw the banya and an outside sink that Marjool liked. I think my jobs list when I get home will involve building both!!



And the inside of the traditional banya. You can see the birch leaves from the last session.



The village is fed with gas for heating and cooking. The pipes are above ground and so become quite a feature of the villages!




We left the village and headed off onto the M7 towards Kazan to meet Marat. This is the place where east meets west, it is the Istanbul of the Volga and the capital of the republic of Tatarstan. On the way we stopped for lunch outside a school and met a few of the teachers. They were very friendly and interested in the trip.



There was also a rotavator tractor unit with a big load!




We stopped roughly where we thought Marat wanted us and waited a while for him to get his spare wheel fixed. When he arrived with his wife Valya and son Albert he arranged for our car to be put into secure lorry parking behind the services, where we would be sleeping. We then went into the centre of Kazan to eat and take a look at the Kremlin which was very large and beautiful.

We did not  expect to sleep well in the services with the lorries and the compressor tools in the tyre workshop being used most of the night, however we must have been tired as we slept really well. It’s starting to get chilly at night with the clear skies. Have we got enough blankets for Mongolia!!??



23rd August – Chechenino village

23 Aug

We were given an escort out of Ivanavo this morning by Ksysha’s parents. They were very kind and took us many km outside the city to the next town so that we did not get lost. Thank you! We look forward to your visit to England one day so that we can repay the favour.



We continued driving towards Nizhny Novgorod and made a quick coffee stop in the middle of a small village. There was a ruined church which must have been beautiful when in good repair. We have seen hundreds like this outside the bigger cities.



After getting stuck in traffic on the M7 for an hour, travelling only 5km it was a great relief to get off the road and look for a nice village to park in overnight. Again we struck lucky and found Chechenino, a lovely little village right on the Volga. A young teacher called Michael was working by his car, and when I asked if we could park and sleep there (in mime!) he answered a simple ‘yes OK’! It was a great spot.



Five minutes later he reappeared having picked a big plate of tomatoes and cucumbers!



His grandmother also came to visit. She is really lovely, and even brought a handful of chocolates to Marjool!



Her grandsons then invited us to visit the garden, which must have been over 100m long and full vegetables, soft fruit, underground vegetable storage for winter and a banya. The underground store was used in the old days as a deep freeze for the summer by cutting ice from the lake in blocks and fitting around the walls of the store. It was used for meat and fish.





They also showed me where to top up with water.



Finally we went down through the woods to the Volga with the boys. They were really keen to show us their village. Russian people are very kind and generous. We don’t think that we have met kinder people anywhere!



It was a great end to a day that we expected to be nothing but a long drive. How wrong can you be!

23rd August – Driving day – Updated pictures

23 Aug

Today will be a driving Day to Nizhny Novgorod and hopefully out the other side! We are heading towards Kazan to meet Liuba’s Russian captain friend Marat and his family over the next few days.

Mark and Liuba sent some phot0s that we would like to add from the weekend at the dacha. Firstly Marjool on the Ural with a nice young Russian man!



What a nice young man!




Much better picture of the Russian welcome with vodka! Its hard to take a good photo with your hands full ….



An unusual picture of Marjool driving the spaceship ……… she needs to be patient …. a spaceship made of bricks and concrete may need a fairly long runway ??



Finally a better picture of the Yaroslavl TV experience. It is available on the web, but we will try to get it on YouTube as it not easy to play at the moment. The link will be posted when we have it!



Again not sure when internet will be available ….

22nd August – Jaroslavl

22 Aug

We followed Vladimir and Liudmila into Yaroslavl to meet Ksysha who was going to give us a tour of the city. There are lots of beautiful buildings, as Yaroslavl is part of the so called ‘golden ring’.  Some of them look as though they are out of a fairytale!




We also visited the museum in the monastery but our tour was cut short for two reasons. Firstly we had to take delivery of 20 liters of ethanol (meths without the methanol) which was the minimum quantity. It is not dyed and so is very clean burning. That should give us enough for ages if it is not confiscated on the Mongolian border!! Secondly we had a TV crew from Yaroslavl TV who wanted to do a bit about our trip on the local news! We spent about two hours for them to make a 2 min feature which appeared on the news at 8.30 pm   …… We didn’t expect that!




The camper was a mess as we had not expected this, but they still wanted to see how it all worked.



Once the fun was over we went to a nice restaurant on the waterfront and had a meal with some of our new Russian friends, Luiba and Mark. Farewells over we drove off to Ivanova with Ksysha, arriving around 5.30 pm.


Wow what a busy few days!




21st August – Dacha Philatovo

22 Aug


We spent a relaxing morning at the dacha while the keen hunters went off to shoot on the river. Marjool went off to visit another family for tea who owned a very original wooden dacha. Again they were incredibly welcoming.



The water was heated in the traditional way using a Samovar, as we have seen on the tea stalls along the M10. I have not seen them in England.




Russians love to dance and Marjool was treated to an impromptu performance …..



Later on in the afternoon we packed up to go, but not before we had a bit of a photo shoot with Troopy. I did say point at Russia ….. but it had been a long weekend and the pointing was fairly random!



Mmmmm ….. Try again and this time point at your favourite place.




It had been a great weekend and there was still more of Luiba’s friends to visit for the evening / night!  More sightseeing on the way, then we arrived at Dacha Philatovo to meet Vladimir and Liudmila. Liudmila spoilt us again ….. we’d like to take her home!





It was a beautiful spot and the pair of them had obviously worked so hard to build it from scratch and get all the land from green field to a fantastic home.



As Marjool walked around the village she spotted a row of  vegetable storage buildings. It needs to resist freezing and so is around 2m below the ground.





Again we were treated to another wood fired banya. This time there were extra skin treatments, it involved covering the body with honey and sea salt scrub and ground coffee. This felt really gritty when applied but the smell was lovely. There was also the now familiar birch bundles. In between each treatment was five to ten minutes in the sauna at 108 deg F. The final stage was to wash down with cold water. It was amazingly refreshing! Again no pictures, but we were even served tea in the process.



More food followed the banya and tomorrow we were booked for porridge at 8.00 am. As we said we were spoilt!!













20th August – Issady near Yaroslavl

22 Aug

The camping spot just outside the hotel worked out well, and we decided that for city night stops it would be a good option to ask for parking either in or just outside an hotel car park area. It felt very secure knowing that the security guard was watching over us … thanks!



Our plan was to cut across country to Jaroslavl via small villages. This time it worked out perfectly and the roads were actually very good and although it looked as though it would be a challenge to navigate, the signposts to the city were fairly regular. We then passed the city and found the M8 which we needed to stay on for a while to get to Issady. Thank goodness for our Russian lessons!!



As it was all going so well we decided to use very small roads again to cut across to the dacha. The only problem with this was the fact that the roads shown on the map are not always there. This time we found the road getting smaller and smaller and finally ending on a grassy area outside  some small dachas but not the ones we wanted! Oh well another chance to practice our Russian …. left, right, straight on, thank you being the most common words …. plus shaking of head and sign language meaning no road!!



A typical wooden dacha.



Another about turn and a couple more stops for directions led us to the right road. About an hour later we arrived at the right village and met with our Russian teacher Liuba and her husband Mark! Last time we had seen them was in Teignmouth Devon (UK). It seemed so strange (but lovely) to be here in Russia meeting again. We are so grateful to Liuba as she provided the contact with Olga in Pskov, the people here in the dacha and Marat the Russian captain and his family who we will be travelling with us onwards from Kazan.

Our hosts were Svetlana and Vladimir and they were so kind and welcoming. People came and went over the weekend, but they were all so friendly, open and hospitable. They are rightly proud of the country and wanted us to have a good time ….. which we did! The traditional welcome is with shots of vodka and although we were able to go along with it for a while, we had to drop out through lack of practice!





Almost as soon as we sat down it was time for a fishing expedition for me and for Marjool to visit an area only accessible by boat, where she met Victor and Galay.





On the way way back both Marjool and I were treated to a ride on a classic Russian motorcycle. We do not have pictures of Marjool but I am sure that Mark can e-mail some (?!) but I got the chance to meet another friendly local!



Marjool had a chance to visit a slightly eccentric but friendly man who has built a replica of a spaceship that landed on earth many years ago …??! It doubles up as a summer home and has a great location. The planning laws are slightly more relaxed than the UK.



Needless to say Graham caught no fish : (   Oh well maybe tomorrow!


The host then challenged Graham to a game of Russian billiards. The pictures were a bit hazy as it followed more Russian hospitality. Vladimir won after a close match ….. Russia 1 – England 0 !!


The evening finished with a banya …… basically a sauna but with whipping. A tight bundle of oak leaves were used to whip each other (reasonably gently!) which felt surprisingly nice …… could certainly get to like it ….. and it is good for the skin … really! Sorry no pictures!!






19th August

19 Aug

We had a great night’s sleep, it was a really quiet village well away from the road. We had an early breakfast so that we could carry on to Jaroslavl. The lady that we are staying with is called Olga as well! Apparently it is Helen in english, though I can’t work out why. Again she checked that we did not need breakfast … so sweet!




We said our goodbyes and had a few pictures taken!




Another nice person to visit again one day!





We headed off on great roads for most of the way, then made a few errors and ended up on at a dead end where the road no longer existed, even though they were shown on the map. The last 15km was so bumpy that you could not drive more than 20km/hr. Shame as we had to do it twice! The detour cost us about 120km and so we were not going to make it to Jaroslavl in time. We changed our goal to Uglich. On the way we noticed that the houses were starting to get more ornate. Painted different colours and with more flowers in the gardens.




Found a place looking over the Volga River by a big 4 star hotel and had a chat (Russian plus sign language!) with the security man who said that it was fine sleep there and he would keep his eye on us. Not only that he called the reception and asked if we could use the wifi in the hotel! Again we can’t believe how nice people are. Spent a pleasant evening in the bar with the laptop …..

Internet is not easy … although we have a way via the 3G on the phone, it only seems to tether to the laptop near cities. There may be a few days gap between posts. This weekend we are off to a weekend party in a datcha by a lake and so not sure when the next post will be …????? Maybe you need a rest!