When I think of brides, I envision romance, passion and vivid images. Ivanovo has long been known as the "city of brides" due to its historic textile industry, which brought 100's of thousands of female workers to the region. Yet all of these flowery, descriptive terms don't describe the emotions I felt in this city. Perhaps for men there's some intrigue in visiting a place that has a reputation for being filled with beautiful women yearning for male attention, who smile and flirt at the drop of a coin, or are more easily seduced by male charms. I think these stereotypes of the city are a bit outdated, and I read that the male/female ratio is now almost equal, especially for those under 30. Ivanovo to me is not really distinguishable from other larger cities we visited in March, except that the Soviet legacy seemed stronger here than in places like Vologda or Ples, which I'll write about next week. In some ways, it's a city of contrasts - the old, Soviet style mixed with more modern landscapes. Let's take a look.
1. We reached Ivanovo from Suzdal, located about 90km away. Ah, my favorite narrow Russian roads. No proper shoulders on which to pull over, and big trucks coming at you in head-on traffic. I guess I've now grown accustomed to it, after so many long road trips in the country.
2. It's always interesting for me to see the various items being sold on rural roads, everything from banya twigs to cheap, massive stuffed animals. Almost always you can find men selling windshield wiper fluid, which is an essential item for long road journeys during Russian winter.
3. Welcome sign for the city.I like these landmarks, which let you know when you've crossed into a new region or city. We have the same in the USA, where welcome signs appear when you cross State lines on highways.
4. We were greeted by two local journalists who walked with us the entire day. Unfortunately, neither spoke English so I didn't really understand any of the interesting folklore or history being told by the locals. I can only share personal emotions and some photos, but perhaps I have some readers from this area who can provide more detail and history about some of the images. We met the journalists in the early morning, right on the riverbank. To the left, you can see some modern buildings. I think they are newer residential apartments.
5. Lenin hangs over the city. It's my understanding that Ivanovo was a hotbed for activity during the revolution, and one of the first meetings of the Bolsheviks took place here.
6. Monument to the fighters of the revolution. There was a long story and joke told by the locals, something about a nickname for the statue that relates to the prohibition of alcohol sales after 11 p.m. during Soviet times. So, the statue is called "get up already 11", or something to that effect. I don't know the proper English translation or meaning.
7. My eyes were immediately drawn to the legendary hammer and sickle. What do you think about buildings like this? Should the symbols remain, or should the outside of the buildings be redesigned?
8. The Soviet legacy was immediately felt when we checked into the hotel. :) It was necessary to present my passport, show my registration card as a foreign visitor, and then we were handed a card with a room number, but no key. I was tired and became confused. How do we get in the room?? Rolled my suitcase through this hall, and at the end of it sat a sullen babushka. I handed her the card, and she handed me the key. I've never experienced this at any other Russian hotel. I think she lived there, taking care of all the housekeeping as well.
9. Worst and most uncomfortable hotel room of the trip.
10. View directly outside of the hotel.
11. But the city is not all doom and gloom! There are some modern and colorful buildings mixed into the landscapes.
12. Very bright exhibit called The Walk of Fame, which is dedicated to rescuers. Shiny, red fire engines are displayed along the city sidewalks, some older tanks also.
13. Of course, the sidewalks and areas around this attraction were poorly maintained and covered in a sheet of ice, as is the case everywhere.
14. Locals don't seem to give a damn, and maneuver through the uncleared ice, snow, puddles and holes with little effort. I guess it's a life skill you quickly learn growing up in Russia. During the day, a heated debate arose with one of the journalist about who should be responsible for clearing sidewalks in the city. The local's opinion was that city administration should play no role or responsibility for monitoring conditions. As I've written before, such mentality is totally foreign to me and I can't understand how people make no effort to improve winter walking conditions and ease of movement in their hometowns.
15. Beautiful ducks, with perfect posture! :)
16. Every Russian city is filled with Orthodox churches, but I especially liked the entrance to this one, with the antique looking clock.
17. There's a festive part of the city with its own version of Disneyland. "Silver Park", a children's park filled with colorful images and fun rides. Excellent place for families to come and play in summer, and in winter also. Entrance fee is only 50 rubles.
18. The rides are closed in the snowy weather, but the area outside the park is also cheerful, and filled with statues of cartoon characters which are sure to entertain young kids during a winter walk. A lot of benches around here for people to sit and admire the scenery also.I think I mentioned it before, but I love these ferris wheels, and try to ride them in all places I visit. But, I've not yet taken a ride on one in Russia, or seen many of them.
19. I've seen a lot of photos from Soviet style playgrounds, filled with creepy statues and images, but in this park there are smiling clowns that are actually trash bins. Hippos also. :) It's a fun way to liven up the grey skies and snowy landscapes of winter. But, this is still Russia, so the park has a confused Indian freezing in the snow, and a rather gloomy Snow White with her dwarfs.
20. Tree trunks wrapped in picturesque, hand-sewn fabrics. What is the significance? Who cares really, when it brightens the city.
21. Traditional wooden house.
22. Now, back to the brides, love and lust. On the bridges over the river there are numerous love locks, which is now standard in almost any city around the globe.
23. The river walkway is nice and even romantic in the snowy weather, but there are no clear paths. There's nothing to do here, except admire the scenery. Maybe in summer there are a lot of stands selling drinks or food, but in winter it's rather desolate.
24. Young women in winter furs. What do you think? Anyone want to take them as a bride? :) It seems like a lot of young people leave Ivanovo, in search of better opportunities in Moscow, which isn't far away. Yet those that remain appear invested in the city, trying to bring more cultural events and improve the city landscapes and lifestyle. Hopefully they have the support of the local government.
25. Lonely musician, living in his own world. He sat in the freezing cold, playing his accordion for no one but himself. I once read a poem that the accordion always sings, even if the tune falls on deaf or distant ears. This is one of my favorite instruments.
26. Special thanks to the local journalists who took time to walk with us in the city and meet in the evening for a warm drink in a local cafe. If you're interested in Ivanovo, be sure to visit the blog of resident Michael Shor michail_shor, who served as our primary guide.
Have you been to the city of brides?
Have a nice weekend! I'm glad it's now officially autumn, and summer and the warm temperatures are quickly fading away.