Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Julia Unplugged

The last time I blogged I was fleeing Moscow for greener pastures in northwestern Russia. My goals were to find a place to think, move, and breathe without smog, smoke, and chaos (in essence, the opposite of late July's Moscow). Well, I got what I asked for. I spent six days in Staraya Ladoga and was without internet access the entire time. Four of the days I also spent without a cell phone signal. And the last day, after the severe thunderstorm, I was without power altogether.

Of course I searched for an internet connection, but to no avail. Neither Staraya Ladoga, nor the towns neighboring it to the north and south had an internet cafe or a place with wi-fi. So I decided to embrace my temporarily unplugged existence. I got a lot of writing and reading done. (I did have my computer with me so I wasn't completely "unplugged"). And I also got to leisurely explore local attractions in the historical town, including the old kremlin, monasteries, churches, and - my favorite - prehistoric pagan burial mounds. (I've been know to track down traces of Eastern European pagan culture in the past; looking at that post makes me realize I used to write much shorter entries... hmm...)

Unfortunately the mounds (called kurgans or sopki or long barrows, depending on the shape and the prehistoric ethnic group their attributed to) don't make for such interesting photos, but I'll put some up anyway:

I know they just look like big mounds of dirt or little hills. But on the inside there's supposed to be buried human remains and relics from the 8th to 10th centuries. And if you stand with your back to the sopki, you get to take in this peaceful view:

It's hard to say if all the peace and contemplation was good for me or not. I picked up some odd habits, like carrying around cat food and feeding local strays whenever I got the chance (there are a lot of stray or semi-stray cats in the area, as there were in Novgorod).

One thing I can say is that people are really nice up there. Locals started striking up conversations with me from almost the moment I stepped off the train. Interesting story, actually. I arrived by train from Moscow to the town Volkhov, which is the town closest to Staraya Ladoga with a train station (remember, I was out in the boonies), at 3 AM. The first bus to Staraya Ladoga was around 5 AM, so I hung out in the waiting room at the train station and made friends with a resident cat. I also made friends with a woman working at the train station who took a particular interest in me as an American female traveling alone in this relatively remote area of Russia. She helped me figure out the right bus to take to Staraya Ladoga and as I left she gave me her phone number, just in case something went wrong.

Yeah, it was good to get out of the city for a bit.


patentexaminer said...

That is SO thoughtful of that woman! I'm going to let that sit in my heart for a while to warm it up. Thanks for the blog! I think our efforts earned it. :)

marilyn said...

There are nice people everywhere. But the bad people take the spotlight. Glad your alright. Think about you all the time

Julia M. said...

Yes, I suppose I wasn't meant to take a break from the blog. And there are definitely nice people everywhere and it's nice to be reminded of that sometimes (that's one of the things that made the trip so worthwhile).