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June - August 2002

    As promised in a previous story, this time we will not stay in the city. Moscow in July through September 2002 is unbearably hot, forest fires around it add their smoke to a generic smog of the summer, and most of our apartments are not equipped with air conditioners. Fortunately, most offices are, but even a workaholic occasionally has to leave a cool workplace. And get fried and smothered simultaneously.

Old dacha takes a new look

    There is a chance to avoid this summer torture at least on a weekend. All you need is to escape from the city into the forest and onto river banks, to breath relatively fresh air, to lazily float on a small ripples of a lake or a reservoir...

    Most Muscovites do have a place to escape, and the name of it is dacha. There are a few stories about dacha in this my collection, and now I will not add another one. Just a single picture that you see on the right shows a dramatic change. After dozens of years, an old dacha home was renovated and looks so different. For those who track my dacha stories, here is a link to compare the photo to older ones.

As always in my stories here, you can zoom in on any picture. Just click on an image and a larger and better quality photo will open. Many of the photos are worth looking at in postcard size.

Populat fun this summer on lakes and reservoirs around Moscow On a bank of Moskva river on a parhing weekend Waterfoil boats bring shiploads of Muscovites to the recreation areas outside of the city

Fishing is the best way to get some fun on a hot Sunday
   And now - let's go away from densely populated areas - no matter, villages or dachas. What Moscow area has to offer to one who is ready to drive off the beaten highways described in any tourist guide? The answer is, of course, "A lot!" We will not go more than 100 km from Moscow city border and still will see many wonders.

   Of course we start with the water, with small rivers and large reservoirs which offer cooler breeze amidst this furnace of summer. Boats of all sorts are really popular this summer - but if you prefer to simply relax on a bank - or do some fishing - welcome! There is enough space for everyone - Moscow is surrounded by a few large reservoirs, canals, rivers - so the length of their banks is impressive. And most people are lazy enough to get there anyway.

Another option for fishing - or sunbathing Boats of all sorts... We call it a water-bike

Young riders are fearless High in the sky
   Those those who love motor sport, dirt, loud engines and the smell of gas, Moscow this summer offered a lot to watch (or participate, if you care and dare). For the first time ever, Motocross World Cup was supposed to happen in Moscow. The event itself successfully occurred in September, but all summer local motocross fans and sportsmen were enjoying the new track built for the international event.

Around motocross track in Park Extreme Training in Park Extreme

   Those who ride these off-road motorbikes and those who watch them are somewhat alike - lovers of beer, rock music and speed. This community - like many others - is only emerging in Russia, but the mere fact that extreme parks, boat clubs, and even man-made downhill skiing slopes are growing fast shows: we are getting more and more interested in outdoor recreation, sports, fun.

   However, if you prefer quiet old-fashioned and cozy little towns with ancient churches and monasteries - instead of roar of motors inside a huge mad pit - you will also find quite a few locations and destinations around Moscow, and fairly close it. There are cities of a famous "Golden ring " - all far away from Moscow and described in any tourist guide of Russia. We're not going to visit them now. Let's stay closer to the city, there is enough to visit and enjoy within 2-hours drive from Moscow.

Inside the thick ancient walls of the New-Jerusalem Monastery Not every bell you can examine so closely Walls and towers of a monastery once made a perfect military sense Domes always bright

   For many decades during the Soviet time these monasteries were either public museum (that had nothing to do with religion) - or simply warehouses or factories. Over the last decade they are slowly but surely becoming seats of the Orthodox Church power and the centers of local religious life.

   I do not care much about their spiritual mission - but the presence of monks and rules of the territory that is at the same time a museum, a monastery, and a local place of choice for hanging out make the monasteries an interesting place to observe.

New Jerusalem unique style Monastery is also always a prestigious graveyard Not much changed in the looks of these buildings over the last three centuries Ladies visiting the monastery grounds have to rent skirts to cover their jeans...

Orthodox shapes A nice background for shooting historical movies
   Look at the right-most photo in the row above. This funny skirt on a young mother dressed in jeans is not a part of her usual costume. But in some monasteries there are strict rules for visitors and tourists, and they usually include specific dress code, protecting peace of mind of celibate monks. No short skirts or jeans/trousers are allowed on female visitors - and to help those who came unaware of the restrictions, ladies can get decent skirts to cover ankles or jeans at the gate. Looks interesting when a large group of lightly dressed girls and women put on similar shapeless skirts.

Brides like the after-wedding photos on the monastery grounds

   On the other hands, visiting a monastery becomes a tradition for newly wedded - like a tour to Vorobievy Heights or Unknown Soldier Grave in Moscow. This often has nothing to do with a religious feeling of the couple or their parents - it's just reflects the fact that outside of larger cities there are very few attractions and landmarks, and any monastery offer a nice memorial place for the first pages of a family photo-album.

Sergiev Posad and its Lavra are among standard tourist  attractions New churches are erected near the old and famous ones Sergiev Posad looks like a postcard not only inside the Lavra

This part of Istra river is believed to be blessed, and swimming here is a religious treat
Russian nature at the banks of small rivers looks amazingly beautiful
   Steep banks of rivers are not usual for all Moscow region. In this essentially flat area or great Central Russian Plains every slope looks special. It is hardly surprising that not only down-hill skiers, but also believers of all confessions (including pagan sects) find these slopes attractive. Clear and cold springs that often run from the slopes have long history of healings and other miracles behind them. Now te Orthodox Church learns to make money from that history and the natural habit to bring this clear water home from the divine springs.

Chapel near saint springs A line to get some water from a saint spring Close-up of the chapel When chapel is not enough, they build a church

   Chapels and churches grow in the areas of famous springs by the week. They are built according to old traditions, and the wooden architecture makes even nicer these already charming landscapes.

   Well, telling about that hot summer it's only natural to return all the time to the theme of water. Cool and refreshing, it was a true blessing, no matter do you believe or not.

Banks of a lake Here alligators are just inflatable fun, nothing more More and more decent and well-kept beaches are built around Moscow.

And again there are wedding festivities by the river and bathing house
   Wood and stone are good companions for the water - and very traditional, too. Visiting all these nice historical places around Moscow, one always sees ancient constructions built of stone or wood. Well, not always ancient… Some of the stone monuments are new - but still impressive - and most wooden buildings are remade recently. Wood - the old one not familiar with modern technologies - is not extremely long-lasting material. The climate of our area is just fine for rotting.

   Take a look at the pictures below, they present samples of these wooden and stone constructions that are the landmarks of the places worth visiting on a summer weekend outside of Moscow.

In the museum of Wooden Architecture in New Jerusalem Wooden windmill in New Jerusalem - operational and with a neat store of wooden items inside Modern monument to Sergyi Radonezhskyi, most prominent local Saint in the northern part of Moscow region Walls of Kremlin in Kolomna, fantastically beautiful and cozy town

   But let us come back to water - the two months covered by this story were so unbearably hot that the main dream over weekdays was to escape from the furnace of the city and enjoy freshness of the water. Any sort of water.

Windsurfing has been and remains very popular summer attraction on lakes and reservoirs around Moscow These boats made their way to Russia only a few years ago - but they alaredy are frequent hobby of wealthy Russians There is no sea in Moscow, so welcome to RIVER cruise liners!

Waterfoil bats are as covenient on canals as trains on railroads
Drinking water for Moscow and a wonderful place for fishing in the mild wilderness
   All water surfaces on a summer weekend are covered withy vessels of different kinds and dimensions. Inflated mattresses for lazy ladies taking a sun-bath on the water, windsurf boards for sporty types, yachts and fancy motorboats for the rich, cruise ships for the ones on vacation… And busy waterfoil boats that play the role of intercity buses on canals and reservoirs around Moscow. Fast, comfortable, relatively cheap.

   Even small private planes take off from the water - and make money on those who are ready to pay for the fun of a flight above the water at low altitude watching all the fleet of new Russian toys.

Hydroplanes are new here - another way of private use for public waters
    Of course while driving around Moscow you will not be on the banks of rivers or other streams all the time. There is not all that much water around - but other landscapes and views are also wonderful - even if not equally refreshing.

People still live in it, though it's a historical landmark and architectural monument
A typical landscape - and who cares what battles took place here two centuries ago. Now it's simply a beautiful meadow
   Small Russian towns deserve a separate full-sized story about them. They are so much different from Moscow - even if located not too far from it. Quiet streets and old-fashioned log houses, low and long waves of forests with crosses of distant churches like masts of small ships in the ocean in the background.

   Small towns smell with fine dust on the dirt roads, fresh fruits, and the smoke of ovens. Lazy barking of dogs breaks the silence not known in the urban centers where hissing of tires on the asphalt penetrates every corner.

   These places are another reason to leave the city on a weekend. They are perfect for a short rest between busy weekdays - but this story is over, and the summer of 2002, too. Next time, next time...

   Let's have a short break - until the next story, until the cold of winter...

Andrey - asebrant@online.ru

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