The journey from the magnetic hold of Moscow was only 200 km, however it took us 3 hours to leave Moscow to travel just 50 km. The traffic was thick. We moved at the walking pace of an old man. Russian drivers seemed to just accept this as normal, although I was getting increasingly tense and felt like turning back, my female passengers insisted to keep going, so I did as I was told. It took 6 hours in total and we arrived in Rostov in the late evening, it is still light at 11.00 at night here in Russia. The road there from Moscow is straight and we took the M8, which is a kind of two lane motorway. The road is not bad, although a few impatient Russians had crashed along the way and one truck had turned over, there were goods scattered all over the road. The roads off the motorway are not good and there are many large holes. The accommodation was basic and provided by a nice man called Viktor (correct spelling). At breakfast, we had fresh Syrniki cooked by his wife. This is a kind of small cake filled with a kind of sweet cheese. They are quite nice but very fattening and very filling.
One thing I did not think about before going, was the fact that we were going to stay on a lake. My body now looks like a road map of the Russian Urals. I am covered in red mosquito bites the size of mountains, they seemed to like English sausage. They were everywhere in the air. The town of Rostov does not look like it has had any money spent on it since the early 1950's. The buildings are old, faded and in need of some love. There is not very much in Rostov town. We found a restaurant that's is on the left down the high street called "Lion". You could choose from such things on the menu as as "fish from the chefs bottom" , "Love story", "chicken cooked to a crisp" etc. I never get bored of reading menus in English in other countries. I went in and there were four staff smoking at the bar with the restaurant lights turned off, we were the only customers, so service was fast. Various funny looking people were just sitting around in the towns main street, some girls sipping beer from plastic cups, wearing very short skirts. They may have been "professionals" although you cannot really tell nowadays, there were many men with missing teeth, kids smoking and many homeless dogs lying in the road. I can't imagine there are many career opportunities in Rostov or much to do for the young. In may ways, its not unlike my own country and towns in the UK, dead, dull and hopeless.
I highly recommend a visit to Kotroma. This is a one hour drive from Rostov. Its a nice town with a large monastery. The monastery is not so interesting, as like so many in Russia it is almost falling down. I think its a bit sad that the government does not do anything to help save Russians history, instead they spend money on weapons, on increasing their own bank accounts or for breast enlargement surgery for their mistresses. They really should be ashamed. We went to see a big monastery in Kostroma, located on the river, behind it is an interesting wooden village situated behind that is a museum. It is a romantic representation of how a Russian village would have been a long time ago. Its worth a visit and very beautiful. You can walk round the entire village and go inside each house. It seems to be popular for wedding photos and I saw one or two Russian brides with heaving wobbling breasts (with each bosom covered in tantalizing gold shiny glitter). They were squeezed into tight white wedding gowns, tottering along in white high heels, to have their photos taken under birch trees with nervous large Russian men.
We looked at many monasteries along and the way and in the area. You have to show your entrance tickets at each museum room you enter when inside the monastery. I don't why they make you do this, since you could not get into see anything inside without a main entrance ticket. Most of the old female staff that guard each room, look very miserable were often rude and it put me off looking at anything. They don't like small children in these places, I can understand with my child, as he likes to set museum alarms off and loves to run around, although I carried him most of the time. I am sure both my arms are now longer and stronger. Another strange thing in Russia, is that when you order food at a restaurant, they bring it to you on different plates. If you order chicken, potatoes and vegetables you have 3 small plates to eat it from. They don't smile much.
I have been told many times, that Moscow is not Russia and I agree. Some may say Moscow was once the jewel in the crown of Russia, I would say now its like another country. I think all expats and visitors to Russia should get out from Moscow and see other parts, to feel the real Russia. It may be rough in parts, but it has charm, you will see beautiful green forests of silver birch (Betula) charming painted and unpainted little wooden houses, ducks, geese, old ladies, and real cultural and historic charm. When you look at the houses, they look unchanged and as if many generations have lived in the them. The widows on the wooden houses have beautiful carved wooden frames around them, I would think many do not have running water or electricity. I took many photos.
If you do travel by car from Moscow, please be careful, Russian drivers overtake from both sides and use the hard shoulder to drive on, they don't signal and just cut in front of you without any warning. Keep your distance from other cars, regularly use all three mirrors to check behind you and make sure you have a spare wheel and that your car has been checked before you take a long journey. In Russia, you have to pay for petrol (gas) before you fill up. If you are a woman you will need to cover your head with a scarf when you enter a church and must wear a dress out of respect to religion.
I recommend Rostov and Kostorma, they are worth a visit but only go for 2 days, any longer would be too long. It was so good to get out of Moscow and breath cleaner air after being here since last September 2009, at long last, I have seen something of this vast country. If you do leave Moscow by car, go early in the morning or late at night to avoid the nightmare traffic. Despite my fears, It was a good idea of my wife's, to drive out of Moscow and I am pleased I went. The journey out of Moscow was not fun and yes they did both boss me around, (French women) I must now chill out at home, in my hot Moscow flat and unwind from the experience but all in all, I enjoyed the trip and want to see the rest of Russia.
© All Rights Reserved.