DID WE CAPTURE KRAI OR WERE WE CAPTURED BY IT?
Written by: Tatiana Konstantinova, Translated by: Ekaterina Kolesova, Photos: by Tatiana Konstantinova
Cities and towns that were once thriving have been abandoned except for a few diehard old timers. As tourists we are captured by their great beauty and can’t help but wonder at the mystery lying in their shadows. Let me lead you through a journey of wonder with respect for what one of these areas once held and still offers.
In Russia, I have recently visited quite a remote place which is in the Meschersky Krai region. I could not visit all of the region, so I adventured around the village of Zhukovo and everything that is within walking distance from this place. In this article I am sharing my impression of the trip and how the village has managed to survive the difficult times after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Although everything seems to be in decline, its natural beauty is striking and timeless.
Below are my thoughts of what was happening there in 2019.
THE VILLAGE OF ‘ELATMA‘–VIEW FROM ‘OKA’
This is one of many picturesque places only 300 kilometers away from Moscow. It is Meshchersky Krai, in the Ryazan region, not far away from the city of Kasimov.
Truthfully I never thought that I would be impressed by the charming local sceneries. It seems there is nothing special about them for a person, who lives in the Central European part of Russia.
Of course there are forests and meadows, lakes and rivers, ravines and hills everywhere. But what is fascinating is the incredible expanses and the enormous energy felt there. You can breathe easily and freely far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
But local people, on the other hand, leave these villages and migrate to cities.
THE VILLAGE OF ‘ZHUKOVO‘–BORDERS VLADIMIR REGION
Two kilometers from the left bank of Oka, on a high hill, there is the village of Zhukovo. We are always regular guests there. The village has at most 20 houses. They are partly empty, and only three people live there permanently. There is a recreation center “Meshchersky Gorodez” nearby, which is owned by “Gazprom”. Thanks to such a neighborhood, the houses have gas access, although this is a rare case not only for villages but also for small provincial towns.
OUR MORNING WALK WITH OUR DOGS
Our morning in the village starts with a brisk walk in the forest. It charges us with a feeling of renewed energy. The indescribable aromas of pines make us dizzy; even, actually feeling drunk, like after a glass of wine!
Nature is favorable for us in these places. We are always thankful to it because of its gifts, but more because of the feeling of tranquility and greatness. Berries and mushrooms grow in abundance here.There are plenty of wild animals in the forest. There are also some hunting grounds nearby.
There are times when they don’t allow us to enter the forest, because the hunting season has started. Unlike hunters, however, we love animals and our dogs always travel with us. They are Akita-Inu, Tori and the adopted metis Poosia and two shelties: Nathaya and Snezhok.
THE DOCK IS OUR PORTAL TO THE FERRY
During the day we are going to visit Elatma (which is by the way, a very ancient village settlement from the XIV century). We want to see if a ferry through Oka is available. When we were there in the beginning of May, its banks were flooded, as well as the access to the ferry.
But this time we are lucky, it has already been opened.The ferry is used by the residents of the three villages and eccentric people like us who are driven by a thirst for adventure far away from civilization; people with a tents who love to sit by the fire.
Waiting for the ferry is boring, it arrives every two hours. But there is a pleasant bonus – it is free for everyone and 10 cars can fit in the ferry. We hear a compulsory whistle and finally we are sailing off!
Each water reservoir leaves happy imagines behind it. It makes your soul soothed and excited. The day is sunny, the water view is outstanding, and the clouds in the sky remind us lace canvas. Such beauty! The whole ferry transfer takes only 5 minutes. There are two hours at our disposal to get back to the ferry.
The places here are even more isolated and deserted with woods covering many kilometers. There are many rivers, lakes, and swamps.
Driving through the villages, we take pictures of local “attractions”. We see abandoned barns and some other distant buildings we can’t identify. This is all that remained from the Soviet state farm called “Mayak”.
I see an unusual picture in the village “Lasinsky”. It is very untypical to have barns, garages and workshops in front of every house. They are usually behind the house, so I was lucky enough to witness the whole barn street in front of me.
THE HOUSES ARE HEATED WITH WOOD AND HAVE OLD ALARMS!
I was also excited to see an alarm bell (rynda). It is an ancient thing, which used to be a piece of iron or rails. It was pulled up and people would ring it, notifying about fires in a village. By the way, this area has fires very often and peatlands burn every summer.
We meet people who are camping. We ourselves are not that eager to follow their example. Nights here are really cold . (May 10th 2018-2019, it was only +2C). As we continue our trip we go on along the lakes, probably they are old in the riverbed of Oka. Soon, we are approaching to the banks of Oka but that is another story.
That whole trip in the wilderness area and the scarcely populated areas of Russia was one of the most unforgettable and relaxing times of our lives. Your problems in such places seem to drift away leaving you alone with yourself and your heartbeat.
The place needs a breath of new life, but it only seems so at the first look. The wilderness, the tranquility and the peacefulness are big advantages over the modernization and noise of other places. These things are somehow enough unto themselves. Let’s welcome this place where your soul and heart meet briefly in nature!