This is an old page but not much has changed in my work and life in general. You are still invited to a camping-style trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg and beyond through small towns and villages, and even a bit of wilderness. A truck, a camper, and a bunch of gear, plus me, will cost you no more than hotel and restaurant meals for 2-3. Same cost and much more "experience". I'm adding links to newer and more dynamic materials but keeping this page for its nostalgic value..

Pasha
September 27 2012

 

 

Moscow to St. Petersburg via New Jerusalem, Tver, Staritsa, Torzhok, Valday, Staraya Russa, Pskov, Novgorod..    

A sketch of the region between
Moscow and St. Petersburg

@  Contact details

An semi-independent trip through small towns, villages and the countryside by car or public transportation. A part of this trip can be made by water (a boat or even a raft) or on a horseback. The degree of "reality immersion" of the trip can be adjusted according to how much of a wimp you are, eg. you can stay anywhere from decent hotels (if available) to peasants' dwellings to tents.

Why sign up (or not sign up) for this trip

  • You want to see and experience a real country populated by genuine people, not a succession of tourist destinations.
  • You don't feel totally comfortable travelling on your own, escorted travel may be the answer.
  • Enjoy the flexibility and independence of driving but scared of Russian roads?
  • See a slice of Russian life from a perspective not normally accessible to foreign visitor.

Highlights

Moscow to Tver: Pirated software market, perhaps the word's biggest, just north of Moscow; Tchaikovsky museum in Klin; Gorodnya, with a beautiful 16th Century cathedral and a spectacular view of the Volga river; New Jerusalem, a 17th century testimony to Russian ambition to become the center of Christian civilization... Tver has been used as a place of exile since Ivan-the-Terrible's times. Among the most notable of Tver exiles was Metropolitan Philipp, who was later strangled during Ivan's military campaign to deprive Novgorod of the last traces of its independence. Even now the Tver region remains a place of banishment, with Moscow and St. Petersburg homeless rounded up and dumped there, and a system of prisons.  Depending on the specific route chosen we may drive through the Zavidovo reserve, made famous for drinking parties by Russia's top brass, most most notably Yeltsin.

New Jerusalem deserves a special mentioning. The convent was build in the 17th century by Patriarch Nikon, who, during the rule of Peter the Great's father Alexei Mikhailovich tried to put the church authority above that of the tsars. Believing that Russia is the center of everything holy, Nikon attempted creating a model of Palestine. One of the nearly rivers was re-named Jordan, one of the hills was designated as Calvary, etc.  It is interesting to note that later Nikon lost much of his influence and was confined to New Jerusalem conceived and built by him.

Alternative route from Moscow to Tver or Torzhok, especially recommended to those interested in Russian military and political history:  During the World War II, from the fall of 1991 to the winter of 1942 the city of Rzhev moved from the Soviet to German control six times.

One of the alternative routes will take us through New Jerusalem, and Volokolamsk, with a possible detour to the Borodino field, where Russian troups led by Field-Martial Kutuzov fought Napoleon in August 1812.

Stopover at our cottage near the city of Staritsa [a separate site coming up but for now see /staritsa_eng.htm], Tver region, on the Volga. Exploration of Staritsa, a city that was founded in 1297 and managed to preserve its historic character though several decades of Communist rule. Staritsa is famous for its ancient convents and caves on the high left bank of the Volga river. In late 1500ís Ivan-the-Terrible was even thinking of relocating the capital here.. Horseback riding will give you a sense of the Russian countryside. Working holidays may be possible for those who wish to participate in the cleanup of Volga banks, tree planting, or masonry work.

Small town of historic and cultural significance:

  • Torzhok, full of the spirit of military glory. The town offers historical sites, military friendly colleges, and many statues of war heroes. In 1238, a handful of citizens stood against the Mongol hordes, and preferred burning themselves together with the city to being captured by the invaders - an act of heroism that left the Mongols without supplies, thus saving Novgorod. Subsequently Torzhok was a center of economic activity in the Tver region;
  • Ostashkov, which is interesting from the military history point of view;
  • Lake Seliger and many of the Valday lakes, some of them of meteorite origin;
  • Staraya Russa, a city associated with the name of Dostoyevsky, presently famous for its mineral springs and salt mines.

Novgorod and a detour to Pskov. These two cities occupy a special place in Russian history. Both thrived for centuries as democratic republics, and only the ruthless ruler Ivan III and his tyrant grandson Ivan-the-Terrible managed to curtail their independence and crush their democratic spirit. Their true nature, however, seems to be prevailing after the demise of Communism, and now Pskov and Novgorod are among the most democratic and economically successful regions.

St. Petersburg needs no introduction.

Russian North. From St. Petersburg we can proceed to the true Russian North, where people live off their gardens and the forest, don't lock doors when leaving the house, and hitchhikers get picked up immediately.

Duration

From 4 days, but we recommend at least one week to travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The "natural" duration of this trip is 10-12 days, same as two centuries ago.

Options

From independent to monitored to 100% escorted tour.

The main mode of travel may be a small passenger car (for 1-3 persons) or a military van (for larger groups, suitable for off-road conditions, especially in the winter, very little comfort but huge load capacity and rough-terrain performance)

Cost

The cost of a trip like this quite flexible.

Travel expenses may be in the range of $20 to $200/day. Yes, Russian travel can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.

Helpful and knowledgeable escort will cost from $50 to $250/day. For $250/day you will get me, the famous "Uncle Pasha", at your service 24 hours a day, with the use of the vehicle included into the price. $50 will get you Cyril or Olesya who will accompany you by public transit, help you in securing tickets, accommodation, local guides or anything else, and keep you from getting lost.

Disclaimers

Some or all of our usual Ugly Disclaimers apply. In particular please note that we are not travel agents, and this is not a "tour". You hire us to assist you while it is you who remains ultimately responsible for your own fate. You hire us, not surrender yourself to our care with the "protect and entertain me" attitude.

 

Be prepared for adventure. This is the good old Renault Encore, with an inflatable boat on top.
Russia remains pretty much a horse and buggy place. You only need to step outside the beaten track to find yourself in the middle ages, technologically, culturally, and lifestyle-wise.
[The Mitino market] Get back at Bill Gates. Pirated soft is available for $3-4 per disk.
[Klin, Gorodnya] The Tchaikovsky museum in Klin.

One of the most postcard beautiful sites on our ways to St. Petersburg.

[Barklay-de-Tolli statue??] The western and north-western direction is if interest to the military history buffs.
[The Pyramid on Riga Highway???] Many Russians believe in healing properties of pyramids. Here you can buy "charged" items to bring you health and luck.
As me move towards St. Petersburg, war artifacts, from monuments to fortifications along country roads, become more common.
Lots of places offer riding lessons. This photo shows two travellers learning how to harness a horse the old-fashioned way.
[small-town scenes] Small rural communities are worlds apart from Moscow.
[New Jerusalem] A monument to the ambitious vision to make Russia the center of Christian world.
    Accommodation, unless you are a wimp, will be found whenever the end of the day finds us. A typical peasant's house (right). A cave along the Volga (left).  This house is actually our "dacha" and the cave photo is one of the catacombs nearby.
Vast open spaces nearly undisturbed by development and farming, will perhaps be soon recognized as one of the country's true riches. The Volga river near Staritsa.
Rolling hills of the Valday mountain range. The vicinity of Staritsa
[raft on the Volga] Travelling FROM St. Petersburg to Moscow as opposed to from Moscow to St. Petersburg allows making part of your trip by a raft leisurely floating down the Volga.
We encourage travellers to participate in local life. These two Americans collected garbage along a three-mile stretch of the Volga.  Got them a place in local history (a newspaper article and a flame about it being a shame that we the locals* can't take care of our own river) and discounts.

____
*Details on my combination of modern PR and Bizantinesque politics available on request to those who need and deserve to know.

[road] We will avoid the straight, rough, dangerous and after a while boring direct road between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
truck_front.jpg (18330 bytes) If you don't want to depend on roads and other conveniences of civilization, this military vehicle can be used as a mode of transportation, and a source of exciting adventure and mis-adventure.
   
   


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Posted July 3, 1999      Last update April 27, 2003