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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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!