September 15, 2009


Food was always going to be "interesting" for me on this trip. With my vegetarianism and general food fussiness and Juris' unwillingness to sit down for a meal, Russia was always going to be a culinary challenge.

The first Russian meal was taken at 7am in some motel on the road after only 10hours of our journey. Faced with a menu that appeared only to contain the names of Russian cars from the 1950s I asked Juris if there were any scrambled eggs. His request was returned with the reply "three fried eggs".

I grabbed that option and then attempted to get something to go with it, and ended up with fried potato chips. I don't mean long straight "French Fries" style chips, I mean literally small odd shaped chunks of potato fried. A slightly strange choice but tasty and welcome after a night spent on homemade cheese sandwiches that were becoming a little jaded. Juris opted for a soup which looked very much like a Moscow Minestrone.

I can't remember eating much else for the day, but did manage tea and chocolate on arrival at the hotel. Breakfast was at 07:30 and was pre-chosen to be fried eggs. I suppose we were a little late to the breakfast room, and that might explain that my fried eggs were cold, but extremely yellow and very tasty. There was cheese sandwiches, Yoghurts and teas and coffees to share for the table. I should correct my last blog on location; our hotel is in Alexandrov and not Vladimir.

After breakfast we headed off on a marathon that lasted 13hours (Vladimir and Suzdal) and I believe covered almost 300Km. Lunch was taken at a very large supermarket in Vladimir. I got baked Salmon, boiled potatoes with mushroom sauce, vegetables and an Angel Delight with a drink of Pineapple juice for less than £5.00.

And what about the ONIONS. Well those of course are the Onion domes (or cupolas) and we saw several dozen of those. Suzdal (Су́здаль) is quite extraordinary with countless walled monasteries each containing several onioned places of worship. It was explained to us that churches were generally built as pairs; a large grand one for summer use and a much smaller heated one for winter use.

Our guide took us around The Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius and right on cue a small choir appeared to give us a song, and by sheer coincidence this was available on CD if we were interested. Mmmmm five young Russian men in Black Dresses; they've got to be haven't they! The sounds of these five were quite exquisite, ranging from the pretty one who had clearly had some kind of an accident around puberty, to the deepest bass who clearly had NOT had any kind of pubertical problem. It filled the vaults and rose up into the cupolas and was truly moving.

At the same location we were treated to a display of bell ringing for midday. 18 bells were rung and all by just one man using ropes and foot pedals.
Suzdal also has (The Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life which was quite remarkable and even the churches within it had onion domes fabricated from layers of moulded bark. Wooden structures only last about a century in Russia because of the humidity.

A steaming day ended in the steamer; the Russian Sauna or Banya. Only a few of us opted for this, but did include the courier and one driver and about 4 of us including Juris and I. No clothes were to be worn at all, and the driver appeared with a large carrier bag that contained much alcohol and some Russian Suchi (yuk!).

Anyway we sweated in an extremely hot sauna room within a large specially built complex in the hotel garden (Ostrov Hotel). This includes showers, cold tub, dining room, lounge, beds and a changing room. All very relaxing. Soaking in cold water were the birch twigs which you beat the skin to stimulate the blood. Most of the others beat themselves, but Juris and I chose to beat each other instead. I did use the cold shower but not the cold tub. The green tea was very refreshing, but after an hour I felt faint and left Juris probably to return far too late and far too Vodka'd.

We have a 7am breakfast tomorrow so I suspect the Mercedes will be Sprinting over hundred more of these horrid holey kilometres. But if today's collection of shots is to be believed then it will be worth it.

The Transfiguration Cathedral at the Saviour Monastery of St. Euthymius, Suzdal

Church of the Transfiguration from Kozlyatievo (1756) within the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life, Suzdal

Cathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin, Suzdal

The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl in Bogolyubovo

Bogolyubovo convent, near Suzdal
From Russia [a PICASA album by RedSimon]

No comments: