In the beginning....
As you may remember, the tour started at 7:00 on Sunday morning..., I woke-up at 7:05..., and the departure point was 25 minutes away by Metro.
Yes Jen, I still have that horseshoe up my butt! For some reason, I had insisted on getting the tour guide's cellphone number when I paid for the tour the previous Friday. Found the cell number then borrowed a cell phone from one of the Hostel Staff to call the tour guide (in my underwear.
The 10 minute discussion that followed taught me a bit about the finer points of Russian customer service traditions and ended with the tour bus/van picking me up at the local metro station about 10 minutes later = The 10 700 (non-refundable) Rouble fee was saved. I'm glad I talk to stressed people for a living!
The expats = Engineers from BP (+escort) and Nissan (Steve), an accountant from Shell (+ chicky pooh), the wife and daughter of the Dutch Embassador and an American prof at Moscow U.
The tourists = A family of four from New Zealand and me.
Somehow, I was able to get over my natural inhibitions and have great conversations with all of them except the Kiwi's who tended to keep to themselves.
The small Provincial towns are a very nice change from Moscow (dirty, noisy, etc.). I was lucky enough to get my fill of Cathedrals and Icons in one tour. I will probably not have to see any more for the rest of the trip? These places are truly amazing... but you do get saturated.
The Russian Orthodox Church really knew how to play with the Tsars' and the Merchants' sense of pride and self-importance. It seems that every story involves competition between villages to have the biggest Church! Guess who benifits...?
The 3 words that were said most often by our great guide were, Catherdral, Volgariver, and the toilets (not in order of importance). A word on Russian bathrooms outside of Moscow = What a crap shoot! Paper/no paper and, more surprising, seat/no seat (even in toilets you had to pay for!).
The rural areas were very similar to Canada. I think I would feel right at home in these woods. Dachas are very prominent in the rural areas... but they are much like some commercial campgrounds back home => right beside the highway only a few minutes out of town, and sometimes, literally down the hill from the large appartment complexes where the owners live.
Overall the tour was great => Very good food and hotel (Kostroma). Good company. Great sights.
I met up with a guy from the UN... one of the very few who carry weopons. An ex-marine who specializes in extractions = very interestng conversations. He is on duty for 6 months followed by 9 months vacation............. but the stuff you see and do might not be worth it! He has been to 180 countries, i.e., missing only 3.
He gave me advice on how to travel in the provincial towns... I think I will follow it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On the doggie side of things
Alot of Russians have dogs for protection, I saw some Pitbulls, Dogue de Bordeaux, and 1 Middle Asian Ovtharka (Snooky wompums, can I get one... please, please, please, I promise it won't eat the children unless they deserve it!).
I will spend the entire day at Victory Park, the museum dedicated to the Great Patriotic War Museum that is on the western side of Moscow. It is located at the furthest point of advance of the German Army = My first full day of WWII Memorials. If there is time, I will also visit the nearby Napoleonic War Memorial Let the Gloom and Doom Tour begin! Yeah!
Note: I encourage everyone to stop complaining about the roads in Quebec. In comparison to Russian road, the roads in Quebec are a soft a goose down!
Happiness and Joy