Into Russia….. the land of the Ivan’s

Europe mileage 9914Kms

Thursday, July 03, 2008
The fearless travellers we have travelling with us are John & Lynda Pinder formerly of Auckland New Zealand now of Brisbane Australia and Paul & Jill Robertson, formerly of Mayfield Ashburton, now of Glen Inness Australia, they travelled from Singapore to Europe in 2005 via Asia taking eight months to complete the journey.

We camped 2 km from the Russian border and at about 8pm a large truck pulled up to eventually the driver got out and came over and spoke to us in Russian, and Luda did the translating, he was from Murmansk and was able to give us a little bit of indication as to what we may be up to see in that area, and what we could expect of the Road towards Murmansk and on to St Petersburg.

At 9 a.m. we headed off to the border, there was no one ahead of us, so we went through the Finland side easy and drove up to the Russian border where we filled in lots of documents and were very thankful for Luda's command of the Russian language.  The head customs official could speak a little English, but made it so much easier with somebody that could understand Russian.

One normally associates Russian border guards as being very unfriendly, uncooperative, and with not much interest in getting you into their country.  We were very lucky that this border that the guards were extremely friendly, most co-operative it and could not do enough for us.  This certainly send us into Russia with a warm feeling that things would be good.

After two hours we were all through the border formalities, this border is only allowed to give two weeks permission for a vehicle to be in Russia, so we got a special paper to last us for the full month.

Then it was on into Russia, but first we had to get out of the border control area and that was a very rough unsealed Road with lots of potholes, could be compared to driving over corrugated iron.  Then we came to a massive gate which was obviously the end of the border area and they are all of documents were inspected and were allowed to go on our way to a Road that we hoped would be better, but wasn't.  To be fair I would like to believe that the Road was in the progress of being upgraded Tar seal, as there was quite a lot of Road works in progress, but some of the Road was right on the foundations which was basically earth, and on a wet day that of course would have been immediately turned into mud and that would be a totally different story.

Eventually we ended up on tar seal, and then there was another patch of corrugated unsealed Road, then Road with large rocks, and then roads waiting for the water to be turned into a mud bath.

This of course is a very secondary Road, and at does not even appear on our GPS so I guess in any country a Road like this would present the driver with similar pleasures.

We pulled in for lunch at a clearing that was used for materials for the reconstruction of the Road and had a peaceful lunch and then got back on the Road again towards Murmansk, fortunately this time it was tar seal all the way, but that did not mean that was without potholes, and the closer we got to the city the more potholes became a problem.  Eventually being about 10 km from our destination we stopped in a suburb called Kola, we camped beside the river and what had been a hot day now turned into an overcast today with the wind blowing straight from the North Pole.

Friday, July 04, 2008
Today we drove on to Murmansk and our first stop was for a bankomat, it was my turn to lead so I followed the GPS which followed the only one Street that it had in this city the size of Christchurch, and we found a parking spot large enough for three motorhomes so we pulled in there, walked back to the bankomat, all collected 20,000 roubles, not sure how long that will last, then walked up to a large hotel to obtain registration, we were told we all had book into the hotel for one night the registration, no we could not pay for registration by itself, and the cost was €41 each, so we left to see if we could find a cheaper hotel.

After walking around half of Murmansk, and getting a quote for €100 each the first hotel seemed to be cheaper so we drove back, we were first quoted, when we arrived back and spoke to a different receptionist €28, but then the other receptionist arrived back and now there were none of those rooms available the price so shot back up to €41.  Lesson, pay the second receptionist quickly and move into the room then they cannot raise the anti, so we paid the money, and with the Russian system willing we will have registration tomorrow night.

Then we decided to go out to the Murmansk naval museum which was set up to celebrate the Murmansk convoys of Hitler's war, and other naval highlights of the Soviet navy but of course the Road going there was closed for reconstruction, so we followed some of the other cars which weaved us through blocks of apartments, some parts of the Road would have been too rough for the Paris Dakar rally but we accomplished it and finally about 5 km later ended up back on the main Road and we only needed one more stop at the fire station and we had all of the necessary information to finish our journey.

The museum was in an old building built in 1946 and the staff told us they had been waiting renovations since perestroika and none of the locals ever visit the museum only foreigners.  In fact yesterday and Mr and Mrs Cooper from Sydney Australia where the visitors to the museum, the told the staff they did not speak English, but Australian!.

Today has been a wet cold day, the forecast predicts this for the next five days, I think we got up to a high of 10° today, I see a lot of the girls wearing knee-high winter boots, of course they were high heels, so I don't imagine anybody will be unpacking their swimming costumes of the next five days.

There was a large car park at the museum and it seems to be in a quiet part of town so we have made a decision to stay here the night and see what tomorrow brings.

On the other side of the carpark, in the basement they have a very small bar, and a very small general merchants shop selling everything from light bulbs to door locks to soap powder.  Paul bought two cans of Russian beer at 30 roubles a can and presented two 50 rouble banknotes and was given one banknote back.  Now the woman knew the westerners had more money, but to a Russian person friendship is more important than money, and we had been talking with her, she been showing us photos of the Russian fleet, she knew we were from Australia and New Zealand, so what she was saying was look 25 roubles a can is enough, you are my friends.

Saturday, July 05, 2008
It was a wet and miserable day with a high temperature of 7°C, so we did not make a quick start from the car park, but about 10:30 a.m. drove into the city to find an old Orthodox Church that was featured in the lonely planet guide.  After several false starts ending up in the wrong place we eventually found the church, and had evidently been blown up in Soviet times and had since perestroika been rebuilt, it was voted by the group has not been terribly interesting, but what was more interesting was the very old wooden apartments we passed driving to the church so there were many photographs taken of these.

We drove on to the centre of the city to Lenin Street, found a large parking area where we left the vehicles and wandered through a few of the streets observing all of the people dressed up for the cold, and what we would call in Christchurch winter clothes, but 69° North they pass for summer clothes.  Naturally observed many pretty girls well-dressed with some very high-heeled shoes walking over the footpath's that resembled a small bomb site.  They needed to be admired for their ability to walk quickly over such footpath's that the left the writer unsure of his footwork.

We filled up with diesel and found that diesel was about 63% of the price in Finland so that was a reasonable saving, we also filled up with water at the petrol station through some jury rigged hose's, John was presented with a bottle of vodka from one of the attendance, about six of the guys have a look through our motorhome, and we saw several photographs being taken of the three motorhomes so I guess that will be some interesting conversation for these people over the next few weeks.

Eventually was time to go back to the hotel to collect our expensive piece of paper and then we headed South over an atrocious roads leading out of the city and on the main highway some very bad roads until we reached some new tar sealing along which we were able to cruise at 90Km, of course that did not last and we were soon back to the bad roads and about a top speed of 40 km on the better bits.  Of course nothing is a constant so eventually we got back onto the good roads again so this may be the pattern for the next 1200 km's between here and St Petersburg.

Near Monchegorsk we saw a nice parking area by some fishing batches so we pulled in there and got ready for the night and then a guy wanders over and tells us we are parked on a helicopter pad which evidently a new Russian uses when he flies in his helicopter to do some fishing, we thought I was all very smart when one looked at the shacks that the local people were living in and so we found out why.  We drove on about 3 km found a nice flat tire sealed portion just off the main Road to the village and hopefully it will be reasonably quiet tonight.

It has been a bitterly cold day today and I've been very pleased with my polar rated flight jacket purchased in England two or three years ago.

Sunday, July 06, 2008
It was raining and the temperature was 7° outside this morning, although at one point in the night when I checked the temperature the inside of the motorhome was the same temperature.  And Yes! ….this morning we heard the helicopter so we were possibly wise to move!

We drove off into the city which was there because of the nickel smelting plant, and the town and the surrounding countryside suffered the consequences of such an industry in the town.  Most of the apartments were quite old and as usual most of the apartments garages were a good 30 minutes walk from the apartments.

There was a very impressive Orthodox Church which we photographed, the Church had a notice that it had been built by the nickel plant, and being a Sunday there was a service on inside with lots of people standing for the service, there are no seats in Orthodox Church.

We then drove on South towards the Kandalaksha and most of the roads were full of potholes and I believe they had these roads especially so that when you strike a little bit of tar seal without potholes you appreciated it.  We did passed a large 18 semi wheel truck and trailer lying on its side between the Road and the Lake with probably just the trees keeping it out of the Lake.

We eventually arrived in Kandalaksha, ended up on the main square with a massive Russian T34 tank guarding the city, so we felt safe parking beside it for lunch.

After lunch we went out to visit the old port, evidently a 15th century port, which of course was all fenced off, but there were no sailing ships in there in any case, so we drove on all of the further and found a Orthodox Church, reasonably new, built out of Wood, with people just leaving from presumably a service.

John had purchased a sim card in Murmansk so Luda went into the same provider who told him that he had to write in to their office to be able to make calls overseas on that particular card, he could receive overseas calls but could not make them.  That was put into the too hard basket and then we drove on South onto the extremely bad roads, but with extremely beautiful scenery, all we would have liked was beautiful blue skies instead of the overcast with rain.

We finally pulled off the road into a clearing with a dirt road leading off into the forest somewhere, but there was sufficient space for us to Park in the clearing and we just hope there's not too many semi-trailers going past rattling on the bad roads through the evening and early morning.

Monday, July 07, 2008
With hundred kilometres to Kem, where we filled up with diesel and with water, when we filled up with diesel we of course had to pay the money up front which is the normal Russian way except in the new petrol stations in some parts of Russia, then we drove through this old city which was the last point on the mainland that many of the inmates of the Gulag went through on their way to the Solovetskiye Islands the site of one of the most vicious Gulag that was the inspiration for many of the stories on the Gulag system in Russia's past.

This was a rather dismal city with old wooden houses that looked like a good puff of wind would blow away and of course the many blocks of the conventional Russian apartments which will would have been palaces compared to the wooden houses.  The apartments would have running water and possibly gas, certainly electricity, where as the wooden houses, on a whole, would have no running water, and the “ water station” where we refilled motorhomes from we saw people with trolleys, on which there was an old a milk Can collecting water for use in the home.  This would be a chore of probably of the youngest person and we saw a young guy with the milk can and later a young girl with a plastic bucket, which she could just carry, carrying water back to the house.

The whole city looked like it was back in the early 50s, a lot of the people we saw looked like they were well acquainted with the vodka bottle and it was rather dismal town to visit in the 21st century.

We eventually found the harbour and found that the boat to the Solovetskiye Islands left at 7:30 a.m. and returned about 6 a.m., we also found out that the price for the ferry to the island and back for a Russian was 1100 roubles and for a foreigner 1600 roubles, we were aware that most of the time in this part of the world it was overcast with rain and we did not feel that the wait was worthwhile no matter how much we want to visit the island.

So we drove back towards the Road, taking many photographs of the housing and then we drove on towards the capital of Karelia eventually turning to the left to do a side trip and find somewhere to stay for the night.

Our first selection turned out to be a military prison, and in reality the normal Russian is not aware of where any prisons are, but us tourists drive right up to the doorway, on our way back we wanted to find the right Road so we stopped and asked the guy in charge of the railway crossing the way, and he told us he was surprised that we, from New Zealand, would go to the prison, and he was wondering why.

So we headed back towards the main Road, with Luda asking directions, and eventually were heading towards the original city we had digressed from, and then crossing a bridge over narrow part of a Lake we saw a spot on which they were cars parked, and on investigation we found the room for three motorhomes with access that we could navigate.

Wednesday 8th July
We woke up to a beautifully fine day, the first beautifully fine day we have had in Russia, so we got on the Road to Petrozavodsk, a city named after Peter the Great, we were the leaders today so we drove over rough roads, and eventually a beautifully smooth Road, and in actual fact looked like a new road so we found very easy driving up to 90 km an hour.

Around lunchtime we found a beautiful spot just off the Road surrounded by trees and unfortunately lots of rubbish that had been left by the previous visitors, so after lunch we carried on the way to the city, drove down to the wharf and booked a boat trip to Kizhi for the following day, and then we set about looking for somewhere to stay for the night within walking distance of the wharf and after trying three hotels we eventually settled on the hotel Karelia where they were happy to take 120 roubles off each motorhome so we had level parking, and easy access to the city.

About an hour after we arrived, a girl that Luda went to school with 36 years ago came to visit, she knew we were travelling with some Aussies, and observed the Russian tradition of bringing a gift for everybody that she would meet.  Later in the evening we all went to a restaurant within walking distance and the seven of us had a meal in a typical Russian restaurant that was named Petrovsky that was named after Peter the Great, and was in a building that was originally an old prison.  About 9 p.m. we all walked back to the motorhome for a peaceful night in the car park.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 It rained most of the night and was wet this morning and we had this expensive boat trip out to the island of Kizhi so we made our way down to the wharf for a 10 a.m. start and after an hour and a half we were on the island in the rain, not much else we could do but to walk around the island and look at all the old wooden buildings some of which dated back to 1714 but the island was originally an old pagan ritual site, and made a natural parish for the 12th century Russian columnists.

The centrepiece being the Transfection Cathedral with chorus of 22 domes and gables is the gem of Russian wooden architecture where as the small church close by was built in the 14th century and may be the oldest wooden building in Russia.  This island is on the must do list for most Russians and consequently today there are at least eight boats for passengers dropping this is was off to the island.

Being an overcast day all of the images will rather flat but of course, when was almost time to go, the sky cleared up and we had beautiful blue sky wonderful contrast on these old buildings which we managed to capture a few from the hydrofoil as we left.

Whilst we were in one of the churches the three Russian priest that were there sang a short religious song, with no music, this was a sample of the singing that one experiences during a church service in the Orthodox church.

We arrived back in the city and walk up the hill to the hotel, to be greeted by Luda’s schoolfriend who had some beautiful cakes with strawberry jam centres and some buns  with fish centre's there were very popular with our Aussie travellers.  We set off to get on our way to St Petersburg but first we had to have a Russian nail removed from one of the Aussie’s motorhome wheels which created a slow leak and once that was done we are on the way to the main Road and once we are on the M.18 we found that was in the course of major reconstruction.  When I say major reconstruction some portions of the Road had about 3 m in height, between the existing road and the new road.

We were very fortunate that we arrived at the construction work when it was the turn of the traffic travelling our direction to go, we drove for at least 30 minutes feeling sorry for all the ones we saw parked coming the opposite direction waiting for their turn.  I believe we got through the roadworks in record time and we could have spent at least two hours there given different circumstances.

We turned off to the first village after the roadworks and found the village itself had no parking place for us but the old main Road which led from the village and had no traffic any more was an ideal spot for an overnight rest, (61.33219N   33.35049E) and was far enough away from the main Road from no traffic noise.

We did get a farmer using the Road, stopped with his tractor, and told Luda of all the sites and places worthwhile visiting around this area.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
It was a very peaceful night on the side of the old main Road with no traffic and no traffic noise from the M18.  We got underway at 9:30 a.m. heading on towards St Petersburg over some good roads, some bad roads, and some terrible roads. 

We went into a village found at the water pump that worked when you press the lever down, a good volume of water flowed through it, so we filled up our water tanks, and whilst were at the water, did our washing through the portable washing machine we had, we left the village with clean but wet clothes, and a full water tank.

We stopped for lunch at a petrol station car park, and then we carried on with the roads becoming busier the closer we got to the big city, the GPS wasn't working half the day as it was obviously a new road so I do believe they have a lot more work to do on the Russian roadmaps for the GPS.

With about 54 more kilometres to go to our destination I was beginning to feel a little bit tired so we turned off into a village, a village of Russian apartments, and we parked in one of the car parks in front of the shops etc, (59.54 498° N by 31.04266° E and of course attracted the attention of all the locals with them all moving out onto their balconies to have a look at this circus, and of course the young boys came down to touch and to walk around.

We introduced as the Aussies to Russians shopping in a Russian village and there was slightly flabbergasted that the plastic bags we get by the dozen with that shopping at home costs 1.5 roubles in these shops.

We passed about five motorhomes today that were obviously on a tour and they appeared to come from Denmark although there was an Italian numberplate in amongst them.  There are a lot of police on the Road with radar guns and we saw quite a few being “chatted to.”

Friday, July 11, 2008
Today we left at 6:30 a.m. to go into the centre of the city, to the Fiat dealer, one of the Aussies was having a problem with his motor cutting out for no reason.  Thank goodness for GPS, it took is right to the door without as having to read one single map, I have no idea how we coped before GPS.

We were about two hours early so we waited, made an appointment to later in the afternoon, and drove to a supermarket car park where we left the cars for the day whilst we went into the city by Metro.

Now I should add a note at this point, for about 15 years I have been very much aware of pickpockets, I carried my credit cards and drivers licence in a special belt wallet that hooked inside my trousers, carried my money and passport in a special wallet inside my shirt, and never had any problems.  Okay so I have got careless, I carried my wallet and my pocket with the local currency, my two visa credit cards, my two cash cards, and my drivers license.

Going onto the Metro there was a crowd pushing in to the carriage, and of course my wallet disappeared!  The pushing of course is a deliberate manoeuvre to pick your pocket so goodbye to 8000 roubles and all the plastic cards.  Fortunately I had an international drivers licence which may get me through the rest of the trip, if not it looks like Luda will be having a crash course on driving a motorhome.

So was off to an Internet cafe, log on to direct banking and send the message to stop all the cards, then go through the performance of reporting it to the police, they pulled out about 24 photographs of potential suspects above of course I had no idea who the culprit was, oh for the good old Soviets days when these 24 suspects would have been doing time in one of the gulag's, every system has its good points and its bad points.

Tomorrow we have to visit three Metro stations, then visit the police station and get statement of what has happened.

Fortunately Luda had her cash card so we're not destitute, but I have certainly learned a lesson to use all of the special antitheft devices that I have.

Well after all that drama, we came home and it was sort of nice walking from the Metro station to the supermarket car park at a 31°C, quite a difference from Murmansk!

The supermarket handles almost everything except car lightbulbs, so we replenished our supplies, collected some money from the bankomat, and this being Russia there was a plentiful supply of caviar at a reasonable price and quite a collection of various wines from all of the old Soviets.

We checked out other GPSs to see if there were any better Russian maps and the Garmin appeared to have the same as what we have in the TomTom, except the assistant said you buy extra cards for the area that you are in which is not much use if you are a traveller.

Saturday, July 12, 2008
It was noisy night in a supermarket car park, as the supermarket was open all night, so what could we expect, I took a sleeping pill and missed most of it.

Today started out being a bright sunny day, and we had to go into the city, so I wore my dark glasses for the first time in Russia this year and by four o'clock it was raining.

We had to go to the four Metro stations that were close to the wallet snatching episode of yesterday to see if the wallet had been entered in, minus the money, it hadn't, so then off to the police station that we are at yesterday to get a letter saying that we had reported the loss of the wallet with the money with the credit cards and with the driving licence. 
After a 20 minute wait the officer arrived that was to do the letter and that took about 15 minutes, the police station was, well, let us put it this way, if this is the conditions the police work in, I'm sure I do not want to be in a Russian jail.

We then went to the in Internet cafe, found that the National Bank had cancelled the necessary cards, made a suggestion as to where they could send in the new cards to, then we had lunch at Pizza Hut, we were going to go on a boat trip round the canals, but it was just starting to rain so we elected to go back to the motorhome and do this on out next trip to SP.

Comment, if you carry a wallet, and you keep your credit cards separate and your money in another pocket, you wallet could still be stolen, because the thief does not know your security precautions.  Most Russians have lost their wallet and money at least once and Luda tells me it has had happened five times to her.  If you use public transport instead of private cars, you are always carrying parcels and it is not possible to be fully alert every time you travel morning noon or night.  I will be looking at the clothing that is designed by a travel clothing company in the States to see what they do with pockets and security.

Life carries on and whilst these problems are a nuisance it is part of travel that up till now I have missed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008
We left was supermarket shopping car park and headed out towards Pushkin and the Catherine Palace and Luda and the Aussies went through a walk through the Palace after waiting an hour to get in, it was not an easy place to get to because there are a tremendous amount of new roads being built around St Petersburg and half the roads I ended up on were not on the GPS, which makes it very difficult to get to destination however it took us to the other side of St Petersburg and then the route was very simple because there was no new motorways.

We then headed on South towards Novgorod on the very busy St Petersburg to Moscow highway and was most interesting looking at some of the rest areas that were packed full of trucks and with trucks overflowing onto the Road, there were far more trucks looking for rest areas then there was space available.

We were looking for water all the way along the road, there are a lot of water Wells in the various villages, but I for one did not fancy turning the well handle sufficient times to get all buckets of water we would need, so we eventually found an automatic setup which was a piece of pipe coming up out of the well that obviously had a pump underneath the cover and on a power pole beside the well was a switch which you pressed and you got water.  We rigged up a Heath Robinson arrangement to hook our hose into the pipe and we managed to fill up our water tank.  A woman came and told us that were not allowed to run the pump more than 10 minutes because of overheated so after filling up two motorhomes we had to call it a day.

We got to Novgorod, tried to Park where there was parking indicated in the police told us that we could not parked there was suggested parking behind the town Hall which is where we have located ourselves for the night with the intent of looking around the city in the morning.

Monday, July 14, 2008
Another beautiful fine day in Russia, so we walked off through the Kremlin, it was all being renovated for the 1050 years celebration, but the Cathedral is still open so we all went in for a look, it's interesting once you have photographs something you may not remember the inside of the Cathedral from the outside, but once inside the door I remembered every photographed I had taken, they charge a hundred roubles to do photography so I guess I must paid at last time, but as I did none this time, so I will make do with those of two years ago.

In the Kremlin a lot of the buildings were covered with wood or scaffolding giving a total facelift so we walked over the bridge to the other side of the river and the other seven or eight churches of different vintages, some very old and others just old.  I did repeat a few photos from last time I was interesting to see everything again.

Then we walked back to the motorhomes via an ATM machine, and then we were off out to the edge of the city to see a very old monastery, of course we were on the wrong road, so we turned back to the city, did an illegal crossing of the Road, and filled up with water from one of the water hydrants that everyone uses, there were people filling up in containers from one man with a small Coke a bottle to a woman with about 6 or 7, 5 L water containers than originally contained spring freshwater, now it was just well water, some of the Russian said you still have to boil the water, but the guy with the Coke bottle was going to have it straight.

Then it was on the Road South to Vyshnly Volochek where we turned off the main St Petersburg Moscow Road to go towards Uglich the first city of the golden ring that we will be visiting.

After about 20 km long the Road Paul turned off into a side road with the track towards the Forest that looks like a bulldozer has been down, and were set up in the middle of the road, hoping that is not on the main bus route.  We are at 57.42406° N by 35.06562° E

Tuesday 15th July
We carried on our drive towards Uglich on what one could describe as a main back Road passing through lots of villages that during Soviet times were probably parts of communes, and probably had lots of people and lots of activity, with a large population of children.  Today there are less than 20% of the houses being occupied with the rest slowly decaying and falling in on themselves.  The houses are usually made from logs in the log cabin style often with many rooms.  Every so often we see one has been destroyed by fire and with no real running water this would be very hard to prevent.  Most of the houses are probably 60 to 100 years old so the wood in them would be tinder dry.

There were two main sources of water for most of the villagers, the first one being wells in which you lower a bucket and bring up the water you need, and the other being ones that had installed water tower which supplied water to standpipe which flowed when you pressed a lever.  It was this latter sort we used for filling up our water tanks.

The roads varied in repair from many potholes to quite smooth roading, however as were coming to one railway crossing the lights were flashing red, there were two guys standing there to make sure we did not cross, they had massive roadworks on both sides of the railway line, so we stayed on our side and pulled up to the railway line.

The train went past and we tried to drive over the railway line but the stones were to lose and we could not move forward, at that point the two guys that had been watching us indicated we should have moved to the left hand side to cross, so we had to back up as well as we could stalling the motor many times and to we finally got back far enough to swing over to the left and pass with out problems.

Of course the the guys only job was to make sure we did not cross the line whilst the light was red, it was not their job to tell us we were on the wrong side to cross, I guess they thought we were silly to try to across where we did!

Along the way we saw some old churches, some that will almost in ruins, but still had the brick frame of the building standing to others that were in the process of being restored.  When you look at how the magnificent some of these ruined churches were you almost feel like crying for a large part of the Russian heritage that had been destroyed.

As we were driving along in a beautifully fine day the sky started getting black and we ran into an electrical storm with lots of rain and we pulled into a commune yard that was empty, but this morning we have almost a couple of dozen men getting ready to go to work.  The Location is 57.49347 N by 37.37227 E.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
So we made it to Uglich, photographing quite a few churches on our way in, somewhere in total ruin, but some had survived the fall Soviet experience intact is not a little grubby.

One church we stopped at the priest was just about to conduct a christening, but we sidetracked him a little coming from so far away, and he struggled with his English to talk to us and Luda was listening and had forgotten she could speak Russian so when I suggested to the priest Luda knew the language, he blossomed and told us very much about this church and its history.

It appears that almost all of the churches in the Golden Ring were built in the 16th century and this is what makes them so unique.

However we moved on and eventually arrived in the city of Uglich where we found a parking in a side street and walked to the Kremlin to see the churches, and on the way we saw about four other churches that it had the refurbishing started, but it is probably going to be at least 10 years before they able to be viewed and their full splendour.

It was then time to move on to Rostov the Great, one of the oldest cities in Russia again full of magnificent churches, or the churches will be magnificent when the restoration is complete.

On the way to Rostov, we saw in the distance what looked like five magnificent churches close together and it turned out to be a monastery and again the churches were getting some TLC.

There two Rostov's in Russia, most Russians only know of Rostov on Don, a large city with about 1 1/2 million people, and the smaller Rostov does not get any attention.  For example the railway station at Rostov on Don is about 10 times the size of Rostov the Great, and as most people still travel by train in Russia that is a pretty good illustration as to the difference in the city's.

We found the camping spot outside the walls of the Kremlin where we settled in for the night.  Location is 57.11023 N by 39.25102 E

Thursday, July 17, 2008
It was fine morning as we drove out to the monastery, parked and walked through the monastery with those wearing shorts having to put on covering, and the ladies had to put on covering to make the address is longer, and of course they had to wear headscarves.  Yours truly was dressed in such a manner that I needed no further attention.

From there it was back to the other side of the Kremlin to where we spent the night and we did the 10 rouble tour which was looking at the outside of everything without going inside.  There are tremendous amount of churches and I must say we are slowly moving into church-overload.

We headed off to the next destination which was Yaroslavl and we headed to a location that a English adventurer had parked his motorhome two or three years ago, but tour three years ago in Russia is a long time, that was no longer available but we found a nice spot in a park, which I am sure we were not meant to be in, so we camped there for the night not realising there was a disco due to run most of the night, but we overcame that with a sleeping pill.

We of course need fresh water for the motorhome and were discovered that Russia is the ideal place to obtain fresh water easily as they have standpipes in the old part of town that don't have running water.  So today as we pulled into this town that had row after row of apartments, we just drove down the side of all of these apartments until they stopped and then we found the little old wooden houses without water that collect all of the freshwater from the standpipes that are scattered around the area.  The first one we went to made a noise but had no water so we drove on to the next one and found some boys playing with the water so we knew we were successful, connected up by one of our universal fittings, held the pump handle down and the water flowed.

We went out from walk around the churches and there were a few new interesting styles which we recorded on film, opps, digital!

The Aussies told us that there are lots of people bathing on the beach on the bank of the River and some of the girls, I understand, had quite a brief bathing costumes, of course as everyone knows unless they are wearing high heels I don't give them a second glance!