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
- See a slice of Russian life from a perspective not normally
accessible to foreign visitor.
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
Small town of historic and cultural significance:
- Torzhok, full of
the spirit of military glory. The town offers historical sites,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
$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
Some or all of our usual
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.
The Tchaikovsky museum in Klin.
One of the most
postcard beautiful sites on our ways to St. Petersburg.
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
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
Small rural communities are worlds
apart from Moscow.
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.
We will avoid the straight, rough,
dangerous and after a while boring direct
road between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
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.