Donkey Crossing

Welcome to Donkey Crossing! Donkey Crossing is an on-line account of one Limey and one Yank living one Dream. From September 2006 until the end of 2007, we plan to visit friends and family on five continents and immerse ourselves into various cultures, natural phenomena and ways of life. We hope you enjoy our tales and visit often! Cheers, Jason and Rachel Napoli

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Train #45 and the Mighty Volga

As we wrapped up our time in St. Petersburg, we decided not to head directly to the madness of Moscow. Instead, we opted to spend a few days in a quaint village on the Volga River. Leaving St. Petersburg meant it was time to embark on our first journey on the Russian rail system. After a challenging visit to the central rail office, we successfully exited with two first-class tickets to Ivanovo, a sixteen hour, overnight journey from St. Petersburg.

A monstrous map of the Russian Rail system in one of St. Petersburg's many long-distance train stations.

The destination placard on the overnight, express service to Ivanovo.

As we had spent a large amount of the previous week in and out of the central rail office sorting out our tickets for the Trans-Siberian and Ivanovo journeys, we were quite anxious to head out on our first Russian train. The journey to Ivanovo would only be the first leg to the Volga, as we then had to take a local bus to the quaint village of Plyos.

Rachel reading the St. Petersburg Times in our classically upholstered cabin. We were immediately impressed when we boarded the train and found our cabin suitably mirrored, furnished and technologically equipped with a flat screen television.

The gorgeous Russian countryside was a welcomed change from the urban congestion of St. Petersburg.

It was certainly an unexpected treat when our train attendants produced a full salmon dinner and charcuterie platter an hour into the trip. They also brought us two large cartons of fruit juice and plenty of coffee and tea for the morning.

Finally, around the midnight hour, the sun headed below the horizon.

Although it was a challenge to secure the tickets for our first Russian train journey, it was an excellent experience. We didn't want to get off the train when we arrived to Ivanovo, but we knew the mighty Volga was awaiting us in all it's glory.

After a fairly uneventful two hour bus ride from Ivanovo to Plyos, we immediately felt the urban stress of St. Petersburg lifted from our shoulders. An inspirational retreat for artists from Moscow during the communist period, we found Plyos inspired us to relax.

A local boatman's house with setting sun on the Volga.

Our accommodation was the top floor of this yellow cottage. It was extremely spacious with a good view of the Volga, ten Russian television stations and a very friendly staff. The only problem with the staff was that they seemed to have never seen a foreigner in their lives and the concept of the English language was nonexistent. It was pretty much the same throughout the village and we felt accomplished in finding ourselves very far off the beaten path.

It certainly isn't the same quality of "pedalo" you would expect to rent at Naperville's Riverwalk or London's Hyde Park, but we survived our voyage on this ancient machine during a particularly choppy hour on the Volga.

We managed to travel about five hundred meters upriver before realizing it had taken us over half an hour and was time to turn around. Our time by the Volga wouldn't have been complete without a short cruise on the water!
Located in Russia's famed Golden Ring, Plyos was not only a peaceful artist retreat, but also an important site for the Russian Orthodox Church.

Plyos is also known for the beautiful wooden architecture of it's many cottages (and dilapidated communist era vehicles parked in front of them).

For young and old alike, we found Plyos as an excellent, yet linguistically challenging, stop within Russia's Golden Ring.

Next on Donkey Crossing: the hustle and bustle of Russia's must-see (then must-leave) capital city, Moscow.


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