28 April 2010

Golden Ring (part two)

We had take a one hour bus journey back to Yaroslavl to catch our connecting bus to Vladimir, which would take about 5-6 hours.  There was very little hangover from the shots of Vodka the previous night, apart from a bit of druth.  The bus journey was uneventful.  Audrey spent the majority of it with her backpack on her knees, as she is pretty scared of Russians reputation for road safety.  It was a pretty dodgy bus, in fairness to her, and not a seatbelt in sight, even for the driver.

The bus station had an interesting feature.  On the big “scoreboard”, it gave the usual bus details; departure, destination, service number and platform.  But it had another number that took Audrey a few minutes to work out.  Number of seats left.  As we were trying to get our bus back to Rostov the previous day, while queuing we could see the number counting down for the bus that we wanted.  15.  12.  10.  9.  7.  Finally we managed to get our 2 tickets.  5.  It was pretty much up to date.  Happy to have got the ticket, we headed to the bus, as there was only 10 minutes to departure.  We got on the bus and grabbed a seat, but where soon moved on when another patron flashed a ticket with a seat number that matched where we were sitting.  We checked our tickets.  Both had seat 0.  This meant standing.  It seems the counter on the “scoreboard” wasn’t for seats, only space left.  By the time the bus left, there was about 15 people standing in the aisle.  It wasn’t as bad as the trip back from Auschwitz, where they managed to get about 40 people in the aisle and steps.

On the bus to Vladimir, it wasn’t full, and we had a seat.  The driver seemed to enjoy a bit of tailgating when it suited him.  We spent about 5 minutes behind a car, where he was so close to the back of the car in front, we could only see the top of the rear view mirror.  Any mistake by either of the drivers could have been a disaster.  Luckily the buses didn’t seem to have an impressive top speed.  We arrived in Vladimir safely.

Along the journey I was listening to Autobahn by Kraftwerk; the roads were anything but, closely followed by Back in the USSR by the Beatles.  (I’m listening in alphabetical order now since random sucks, as usual, in music players, even the mighty iPod can’t master it.)

On our way to Vladimir, we spotted the first signs of farming since leaving Riga.  I often wondered where all the food production took place.  There seemed to be next to nothing in these areas, and they must all be dependent on the southern areas of west Russia.  And livestock was non-existent.

Vladimir was a nice town.  In comparison to the other towns of the Golden Ring it looked like it was being looked after, or been well restored. A couple of interesting churches and a monastery was about all it had to offer though.

The next day we headed to Suzdal, about 40 minutes away.  It was a proper little Russia town, but one thing it had was an abundance of churches.  I was pretty much churched out by now, but I thought I’d be able to do this one more place.  At one stage in its history it had one church for every 12 people.  It was something to do with an old Russian tradition of having a small wooden church on each street, which somehow continued here, as they had not been polluted by new thinking that came with being along the railways of having a large church for the whole population.  And slowly over time the wooden churches got replaced by the current stone ones.

More interesting were the houses, many of them made out of wood, and some of them barely a ramshackle.  They reminded me of houses from a Tim Burton movie, standing at improbable angles but also with intricate wood-sculpted features  As we wandered the dirt path/road to our youth hostel, we encountered proper free range chickens strolling around (first farmyard animals we had seen).  Godzilla’s (the owners told us they simply liked the name of the monster) was brand spanking new, but didn’t look out of place, being made out of a lot of wood.  It was a quiet place, with few guests, and an alcohol ban, which I observed.

A river meandered through the town, which felt homely, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Churches were to be seen at every turn, but it was more of the same as we’d already seen, onion domes etc.  The fatigue had set in on me again, so much so that by one of the last large ones, I let Audrey head in alone, while I waited for her at the ticket office.  She raved about it, seems like it was the only interesting one in town.

I did like the place, but more for its rural tranquillity, and a quaint local restaurant that we ate at a couple of times (choices were limited).  The next day we had to get to Perm, a city of a million in the foothills of the Urals.  This would be the end of the Golden Ring for us.  We had wanted to visit Nizhniy Novgorod, but the logistics were proving to be a nightmare, so we skipped it.

We left Suzdal at 12 noon.


Anonymous said...

How many hours a day do you spend updating the blog? Don't tell me all that sparkling prose just comes to you on some of your lengthy bus journies? Maybe Karl is branching out from sport and ghost writing for you??

You sound like you've seen the inside of enough buses to last you a lifetime. Think how comfy a nice plane would be.

Unknown said...

Hi there,

was wondering when you would get sick of churches.

You took me around one or two in Munich at one stage and all I could think about was the old Hoffbrau house.

Who cares if Hitler did a bit of chatting there?

Ban church tours. A church is a church. As Isabel (aged 2, 3 next week) said to me when she was demanding a different spoon for her breakfast the other day "spoons is spoons daddy and bowls is bowls."

Even Isabel knows "churches is churches" uncle SOK.

Big spire, confessional box, stations of the cross, few pews, an alter. You must remember.

Have to say, I am being educated. You observing a beer ban.


Ada said...

1 church for every 12 people?! There must be more churches than doctors in these places.

Rhodri says hi and asks where/if you're watching the Bayern vs I Milan final?