The Golden Ring

Moscow is based on a pattern of concentric roads and is further surrounded by a set of ancient cities and towns in an expanded concentric ring which make up the Golden Ring.

Ivanovo:

The City of Brides….

They still say that the ratio of women to men is 70-30…Well I never saw them…..simply an enduring historical myth.

Ivanovo was a centre of weaving and later textile manufacture so there has always been a surplus of employment for women here. Throughout Russian history from the Tsarist times to Stalin, women remained at work whilst the men were drafted or conscripted to any number of wars…hence the city traditionally was overpopulated by women as the men were killed or displaced by war.

As I move further from Moscow the Soviet heritage becomes more pronounced with hammer and sickle insignia still highly visible in places where it should be easy to remove or replace such incongruous sights, and the ‘soviet’ manner of doing things still exists….

Such as at the Hotel Sovietsky

…I suppose the name should have been a hint but anyway.

You check in at an anonymous desk.

The severe and school-marmish 40 year old receptionist takes your documents and passport.

Thoroughly checks that they are not counterfeit.

Photocopies all of them in triplicate.

Has you sign all 3 copies.

Spends 20 minutes entering everything into the computer.

Telephones the manager to say a foreigner has arrived.

The manager looks out from his office to assess you and nods.

She then walks to the carpark and tells you where you must park.

She takes you to your 4th floor room for your inspection, showing you how the window works, the shower and toilet works, and how the lock works.

She then hands the key to the very stern and matronly 4th floor female ‘conceirge’.

She takes you back to the reception and you pay the room charge.

From then on when you leave, you leave the key with the matron, when you arrive you pick up the key from the matron.

…..with this kind of routine it’s lucky they are never busy.

Oh and when you check out…they inspect the room in case you stole anything before they return your documents and let you depart

A single bed….1 threadbare towel….no mini-bar…..no toiletries.

I left the coat hanger and broken TV so they let me go.

The new global economy has yet to arrive here.

Yaroslav:

The city celebrates its 1000th year next year (1010-2010) and is renowned for its picturesque churches and spires on the banks of the river Volga.

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Pity it had to have the usual muddy dirty Russian city spring up in its midst…though I am assured it is much prettier in summer!

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Whilst at the banks of the frozen Volga I saw people congregating around this small pavilion…. I had a look and stumbled upon a beautiful tradition……

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When a couple gets married they come here and place a padlock on the pavilion gratings to ensure long life, love, and happiness…..

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…..Evil Empire my ass…
Hopeless romantic softies.

Vicuga:

The high point of my little jaunt outside Moscow was meeting Sergey and Galina and spending 3 nights in the village of Vicuga. I gave them a tow when a car they had borrowed broke down and in turn they insisted I come and stay at their house….

He’s 47, she’s 45.

They have 2 adult children.

They came to Vicuga 15 years ago.

Vicuga is about 300km (180 miles) from the capital.

He was a miner in the Ukraine in Soviet times.

She works in a local shop.

They have no car.

They speak no English.

They have never seen the internet.

They have been to Moscow twice.

They have never met a foreigner before.

Indeed no one could every remember seeing a foreigner in Vicuga before…

…and they welcomed me into their home and treated me like family.

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After the first night I was there I awoke in the morning to strangely familiar music……that sounds like…..

Very loud……

Deep Purple!

…with Sergey sitting on the sofa gently head-banging and playing air-guitar!

Seems his favourite band though just happens to be….

Pink Floyd.

…well who needs a common language to communicate anyway!

He had 2 albums missing from his collection…Animals (my favourite….which he couldn’t find in Ivanovo or Vicuga) and the live album Pulse (which I think just may have been a bit pricey)

I gave him my Animals and Pulse CD’s as a parting gift so If anyone could download MP3 copies of each and email them to me I’d be mighty obliged……..its hard to travel without your favourite tunes!

They adopted Harvey….

fed him…..

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…and Galina even made him a bed!

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…….but we found out Harvey can’t handle his vodka…

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Harvey, Harvey, Harvey….never drink and dive.

They thought Harvey was great….

God knows what they thought of me…..

But I thought they were fantastic…

They’ll probably never read this…..but thank you both for your friendship and hospitality which roundly trumped culture and language. x

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