Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Our trip to the villages surrounding Vytegra gave us a view of the Russian Heartland I think we were all expecting. Here you could clearly see the paradigms of stagnation, isolation, and timelessness. The dilapidated wooden houses, the cold landscape of almost pure white, and the overall lack of people echoed everything I had pictured about the Russian Heartland prior to our trip.
That being said, I think I speak for everyone in the group when I say that our excursion to the villages was incredibly enjoyable and satisfying. First of all, we got to ride on a one-horse open sleigh through the village. This was a very COLD experience, but I still felt like laughing all the way. Even Mallory got over her fear of horses and joined us (see photo below). We also were joined by some friendly dogs who enjoyed chasing our sleigh and every car that happened to pass on the road, which was not a large number. After our sleigh ride we got a tour of the local library, which had a small exhibit of antiques and traditional artifacts from the area. The library was very small, but you could tell that it was very valuable to the locals. Finally, we had a delicious tea in the company of a couple beautiful бабушки (babuushkas, for those who don't speak Russian). The cooked us delicious блини (blini), which are like Russia's version of crepes, and other delicious pastries with homemade jam. I don't think I could've eaten any more than I did, but just writing about it makes me hungry again. The babuuskas were incredibly nice and lively, and it was obvious that they enjoyed our company overwhelmingly. Its no secret that they don't get many foreign guests to entertain. They were brought to tears when it was time for us to leave, which became no easy task. I could have sat and had two or three more cups of tea from the Russian samovar and attempted to eat more blini, but we were on a schedule of course.
All in all, I loved our trip to the villages. It gave us a first-hand look at what life is like for the locals. I was pleasantly surprised that in such a cold, harsh environment like a northern Russian village we were still able to find so much warmth.