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Alone in Vologda

I found myself in Vologda near the end of winter. The last journey was unique because I was left alone a lot and forced to handle the challenges of visiting places in Russia without the aid of a native speaker. About Vologda, I don't have much to say. I had no idea what to see here, with the exception of the Kremlin and a bunch of ancient churches. These are the same attractions appearing in almost every Russian town, and I was bored with these landscapes after visiting the Golden Ring cities. The day was cold, rainy and grey. A completely expressionless sky, not one cloud or hint of color, so even taking photos was no fun. Maybe I was just tired after the long road trip, but I found this city to be depressing and uninteresting.

1. I left the hotel mid-morning and again stepped out into an ice skating zone. I can't understand how Russians deal with this nonsense all winter, or learn to walk on complete sheets of ice almost everywhere, without falling or breaking a limb. There was a huge brick building being built in this area, and I assume this covered walkway was some type of protective or safety measure for pedestrians in case a brick fell from above. For a brief moment, there was a clear pathway on which to walk!!


2.  Just another example. I know I continually show photos like this and speak on the topic, but why don't locals demand that officials or the city take care of sidewalks? Or, implement some type of regulation so shop owners are forced to clear their entrances or face penalties? We have this all over the USA. If you want to see an example, look here for Boston, which had one of the snowiest winters on record last year. The video explains how the code is strictly enforced and even churches are fined if they don't comply. Yes, we live in a police State as many Russians constantly scream! :)) This doesn't mean there aren't violations or everything is perfect, but it helps provide some ease of movement and comfort in snowy or icy weather. Btw, in the video there's an older woman complaining about being fined for not clearing the sidewalk in front of her church. The church - "Albanian Orthodox Church." :)) Russia - the true land of freedom. Not as many rules, free to do as you wish with no responsibility or fines...Maybe readers enjoy walking in such conditions?


3. I used this green house as a marker point to find my way back to the hotel. What is it? I'm not sure if it's abandoned or some type of official building, but I like these classic wooden houses with the decorative windows.


4. The main source of tourism and interest is right here at the old Kremlin area. The ancient churches are very beautiful and there's a bell tower here. However, during winter it wasn't operative. I noticed that this area was completely clear of snow and easy to walk through! Not only in this city, but the areas around a lot of Orthodox churches were always plowed and free from snow and ice. Only the holy deserve to walk in peace and comfort?

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5. In winter, it is completely deserted and free from tourist crowds. The only people I saw were parents walking or playing with very young children. Later in the afternoon, a small tour bus arrived carrying old pensioners but they appeared to be Russians rather than foreign visitors. I don't know if Vologda is a popular tourist destination, but I don't see many reports from this town so I assume the answer is no.

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6. Russia - very cute toddlers! :) All bundled up like little winter eskimoes, with rosy and plump cheeks. I played ball with this youngster and his dad for a few minutes.

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7. The highlight of the day was meeting this woman. She operated a group of souvenir stands right by the churches, but I was probably her only customer for the day. Language barriers were strong, but it didn't matter. She was friendly and ready to take my American dollars. Charming lady, with a great smile!

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8. Typical souvenirs which you can find all over Russia, but these were higher quality and very cheap. I think I paid only $4 USD in total for four of these little wooden gifts. There were a lot of hand-carved roosters, birds and other little animals, along with the colorful matryoshka dolls. I buy these dolls in almost every Russian city I visit.


9. I think Vologda is famous for its lace, and there's a huge lace museum here but I couldn't find it. Perhaps it would have been interesting to look through because I previously created a lot of crafts in my early 20's. I was like a housewife at the time, living with a guy and bored most evenings. Russians always think that foreigners know only the following about the country - "bears, vodka and balalaika." Only the first two are true. :) I had never heard of a balalaika until I visited the country. My stereotypes before my first trip were - "bears, cold, ice, vodka and furry hats."


10. No chance to have a warm cup of tea or coffee. Almost all of the cafes and restaurants were closed during the winter weekday. I want to note that this is one major difference between Russia and America. Almost everywhere in the USA, you can easily find cafes, restaurants, or convenience stores to buy snacks, drinks or have a sit down meal. And free toilets! Big or small town, it doesn't matter.
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11. Cute bear, but even his cafe was closed. Btw, I recently read an interesting post about a new national logo and slogan for Russia. You can see the choices here. I voted for the first one, with the bear. :)

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12. Typical scene, where there's absolutely no organization or structure. Cars are parked on both sides of the road, and drivers weave in and out to avoid them. The city was busy during the work day, clogged with a lot of traffic.


13. Again, something very strange! Why does the bus stop in the middle of the road and traffic to let one passenger off?? This was not a bus station, and immediately there was a chorus of honking horns and angry drivers.


14. Student skiing. Cool! I'm not sure if this is an activity in some U.S. schools, but definitely not in my area of Virginia because we don't get much snow.

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15. What is this? I stood and stared for a few minutes, and I never figured it out. At first, I thought it might be a random slide or playground for children but then it seemed too high and steep. If you know the purpose of this structure, please educate me.


16. No unique or interesting architecture in the areas I walked. Just run down, old buildings, but at least there is some color.

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On the way back, I got totally lost. It was then that I met a young dad and his kid. He was wearing a NY Yankees hat, and I stopped to ask whether he spoke English. He knew only a few words, but grew very excited when he heard I was American. He began to shout the names of a lot of sports teams, and even knew my local Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals, our hockey and baseball teams. I told him the name of the hotel, and he walked in the opposite direction from his intended destination to escort me to the street where it was located. So, thanks to that man! Very friendly locals in this city, and it means a lot when you're a lost, frustrated foreigner in need of help.

Have you been to Vologda? What did I miss? If you know interesting facts, or places to see, please inform me. Have a nice weekend!


( 112 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 11th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
u missed the butter. we all did. ;)
Sep. 11th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
What butter?
(no subject) - agathpher - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - procurator0 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - procurator0 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:54 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2015 03:24 am (UTC)
The wooden structure looks like a slide for teenagers, maybe built for some festivities.
Nordic skiing is very rare in schools, even in Massachusetts, unfortunately.
Sep. 11th, 2015 03:32 am (UTC)
I snow skied only twice in my life. Both times I threw my poles when I was going down hills very fast. :)) Not sure why I did this, but I felt more control without them. I grew up on a lake, so water skiing is second nature. I think I first did it around 5 years old.
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 03:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2015 04:10 am (UTC)
No wish to visit Vologda after tis report. At all. Unfortunately almost all of the small Russian towns are got into depression keeping be worse and worse, burying there potential deeper and deeper.
Sep. 11th, 2015 04:14 am (UTC)
Maybe there is something nice there and I just didn't know where to find it. A few of my readers live there. Hopefully they will tell us something good in the comments.
(no subject) - nickned - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nickned - Sep. 11th, 2015 05:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 12:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nickned - Sep. 11th, 2015 12:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 12:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nickned - Sep. 11th, 2015 12:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - saccovanzetti - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2015 04:22 am (UTC)
There is a very famous romantic song "Vologda" (from Soviet era), everybody loved it!
Lyrics and English translation:

Sep. 11th, 2015 04:24 am (UTC)
Another reader told me about the song. :)
Sep. 11th, 2015 04:51 am (UTC)
Yes, the wooden structure is a slide for kids , slide covered with ice )
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:02 am (UTC)
It's a nice slide! Some playgrounds in Russia are scary, with strange statues and gloomy objects. :)) I think they are relics of Soviet times.

 photo image_zpswi72pax2.jpg
(no subject) - tomcat81 - Sep. 11th, 2015 07:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:11 am (UTC)
Shannon, thank you a lot for your stories! I've been in Vologda once and i loved the calm atmosphere and friendly people there, definitely the city is much better in summer! :)
My friend has relatives there and twice a year brings me a butter stick as a present, the butter is really delicious but it is from the local private farm, her "local knowledge", i am not sure there is a large scale dairy industry.
Most small Russian cities look similar in winter,i think the climate does not encourage people to spend much time outside, so they focus on their private lives at their homes, it is not an excuse but might be one of the reasons why people do not care about such mess with ice and snow in the streets?
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:19 am (UTC)
Hello! You're welcome. :) I'm glad you find the stories intetesting. I wish I would've known about this butter ahead of time, then I could have searched for it in the city. I love snow, but when it begins to melt and mix with asphalt, dirt and rocks it really makes the city look ugly.
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:14 am (UTC)
Haven't been to Vologda, but why go during winter? Summer is so much better. You get fresh fruits, you can go hiking, or fishing, people are nicer!

Btw, have you been to Vladivostok? That's where I am from, beautiful city on the pacific coast, a lot of people compare it to San Francisco.

And there are things to do there, submarine museum, art galleries, cable car, longest over the water bridge, bunch of Japanese cars :)

Sep. 11th, 2015 05:23 am (UTC)
I haven't been to the Far East yet. If I travel there, I'll write you for recommendations on places to visit. I'm always in Russia during the winter because I love the cold and snow.
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:56 am (UTC)
Библейская притча
Once i was in St. Petersburg, walking through the city, it was quite late. I wanted to attend a church to admire the interior, but when i came, i meet the priest, he told me it is too late and locked the door in front of me. I was upset... (and drunk, of course) i rounded the corner and pissed the church.
It was one of the most soulful moments of my life, the experience of communion with God. While such wonderful people like me exist on earth, God will forgive the sins of mankind and the end of the world is not going to happen:)
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Библейская притча
I never know if your fables are real or imaginary, but they always contain valuable life lessons. :)
Sep. 11th, 2015 06:17 am (UTC)
Are you planning on visiting Russia again?
Sep. 11th, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, but I'm not sure when. On the next visit, I want to go to Siberia.
(no subject) - am_i_a_human - Sep. 11th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Sep. 11th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - am_i_a_human - Sep. 12th, 2015 06:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 11th, 2015 06:22 am (UTC)
The funny story about this museum is that my aunt was in Volodga several years ago and she was desperately trying to locate the museum of lace, but she couldn't,and she keeps telling that nobody she asked knew where it is. Might it be imaginary?
Sep. 11th, 2015 11:32 am (UTC)
Come on, it exists! :) Moreover, it's in the centre of the city, central square, near Kremlin. OMG, these people... :)))

here, what's inside
(no subject) - am_i_a_human - Sep. 11th, 2015 12:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Евгений Ожогин
Sep. 11th, 2015 07:05 am (UTC)
Hi Shannon!

My name is Gene and I live here in Vologda =) It was a surprise for me to find some words about my city here in LJ.
Yeah, that wooden structure in the picture IS the slide (we call it Gorka). Lots of our citizen can not understand why we have this huge ugly structure right in the town center, it is way better to slide down from the river bank, but OK, let it be. Children like to play there though.

As for the roads and pedestrian lines, yes, we still do not have them =) Everything what our services are trying to do in summer is washed away by rains and snow.

But you know, there are a lot of positive sides here. People are very kind here. Town is not so big, so you can go everywhere in half an hour. A lot of cultural festivals take place in Vologda, e.g. "Voices" (European movies), "Voices of History" (Historical plays by many famous theaters), Jazz festivals and many more. Some great cafes and mini-hotels opened recently. Near the city we have lots of historical camps and places with great old architecture and parks. And also we have very beautiful countryside where you can swim in the river, sunbath, do russian barbeque (we call it - shashlyki), go to the forest to find eatable mushrooms and berries and sleep under the sky.

If you visited only the center it's not just Vologda or Russia. You should have asked someone to make a plan for you and show you places =)

Sep. 11th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
Hi Gene! :) Next time I'm in this city, I will be sure to write you. Yes, I noticed there were no zebra crossings in the city. This was also confusing. :) I didn't know where to cross the road!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:34 pm (UTC)
It's very hard for an American to understand this mentality. If a politician fucks up here, he will not be re-elected. This is especially true on the local level.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:44 pm (UTC)
This is why they continue to live in unkempt cities like this. I think many Russian simply can't live without struggle. It's the only mentality they know. A comfortable life quickly becomes boring and unchallenged.
Sep. 11th, 2015 07:32 am (UTC)
When were you there ? Last winter
(Briefly looks through the post )
I'm surprised you went there because even from Russian's POV there is nothing interesting
Sep. 11th, 2015 07:38 am (UTC)
About pavements, buses, buildings , etc
They are poorly maintained because town officials don't use them . I bet the street where the mayor lives is in perfect condition. And he don't walk he is driven in his luxury car which costs more than 10% of town year budget
The question why american officials and business men want to make their city better and russian's don't is one of the most difficult to answer
Sep. 11th, 2015 05:46 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was there in early March, at the end of winter. We stopped there to spend the night on our way back from the Kostroma region, and then went to Yaroslavl the next day.
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