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Going through old photos from Russia, I began to feel nostalgic. I can't say why really, but there is something about the Kostroma region that I really loved. I think this is one of the poorest regions in the country, yet there is a sense of rustic charm that's soulful, and in cities like Soligalich, houses are well-maintained and colorful for the most part. I think this is very important for the psyche, to not live in trash, or be surrounded by decaying or collapsing buildings. To have some bright visual stimulation to contrast against the constant grey winter skies.

This was one of the final stops on the last big road journey in Russia, and I arrived here in an unusual manner. After the wonderful experience in the village of Astashova, I awoke in a frozen state from my sleepless night alone in the forest house, and got in the car to learn we were taking a rather exotic route to the next stopping point. Yep, an off-road winter adventure through the remote Russian wilderness. :)

1. I haven't processed my photos yet, so I'll use one of Sasha's for now. Basically, the journey to Soligalich was through a paved pathway in the forest. A sort of teleport that can be used only in winter and with the right vehicle. Twice our car got stuck in the marked tracks, and there were some questionable decisions about whether to cross certain frozen rivers, intense verbal battles, and motion sickness.  I'll write a separate story about this experience, because it was quite memorable and fun. :)


2. Immediately the town looks similar to a lot of provincial regions of Russia, with people walking on snowy streets, carrying bags and bundled up as Eskimos. I'm not sure what the main industry in this city is now, although I know it has a historic legacy in saltworks, providing salts to various parts of Russia and even Scandinavia.


3. Black salt is a specialty in the Kostroma region, and I tasted it during the meal with Nadia. The texture was a bit coarser than regular salt, but the taste didn't differ much to me. I loved encountering a strong woman like Nadia, and learning about her daily farming adventures. You can read her story and learn about her life in this post.

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4. Roads in this city were in decent shape, better than other areas we traveled through in the Kostroma region. The population of Soligalich hovers around 10,000, at least based on the English language information I can find online. Not too big, not too small.


5. I couldn't understand what the image on the lower sign meant? My Russian friends on Facebook informed me the sign warns of "bumps" in the road, but is more commonly referred to by the vulgar name "tits." To me, it looks like a hat, and I would never guess the message the sign is intending to convey.


6. What I love most about Russian winter - frozen, snowy landscapes and rivers you can skate or walk upon.


7. No small town is complete without one or two statues of Lenin. :) Soligalich's town center is called "Red Square," but there didn't appear to be much administrative action going on during the work week. I saw almost no one coming in or out of the buildings.


8. Signs are plastered everywhere, all over the walls but at least they are artistic, and not just messy or torn papers tacked or taped all over city walls and bus stations. I hate this in Moscow, as it creates a very unpleasant and messy appearance.


9. It seems many businesses in Soligalich are tied to female names. I never noticed this in other regions of Russia, but several shops are called by female names. Most of them appeared closed for business, even though the signage on the door indicates the store should be opened. It's strange for me to not abide by your advertised operating hours, but I guess if it's your personal business, you can do as you wish. :) I've already been warned by many people about my upcoming expedition to Georgia that I should not expect anything to run on time, or as planned, even with tour operators. One friend informed me GMT stands for "Georgia Maybe Time." :)) So, I think this is just a cultural difference, where rules are not so strictly adhered to.


10. Store named "Victoria." Also closed in the middle of the day.


11. This vibrant blue color is woven into the fabric of many building facades, though I'm not sure it has any significance. I think this structure was part of an old church, but I can't find any English language information available about it online. This is a problem for Russian cities off the beaten tourist path, and unfortunately when I try to write reports a year after the journey I forget some details.


12. The main structure in the city is this abandoned shopping arcade, which is near collapse. Again, with the blue decorative touches, and perhaps it is now completely destroyed as it was on its last legs during our visit. Or, maybe it will remain there for decades, with no action by local officials to do anything about it.



14. It was here that I encountered the lady on the top left, who used an old school contraption to calculate sales. I already wrote a post about this, but I was confused when she began to move the balls, as I thought she was ready to play a game with me. :) Then I later learned that this was an abacus, and it was commonly used during Soviet times, and is still alive in many provincial shops. :)) I've never once seen anything like this in U.S. stores - not in the 70's, 80's, 90's or today. So, for an American, it was something very unusual, and I even found other travelers who shared similar impressions after encoutering these devices in Russian stores. Look here, for instance.

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15. As a winter tourist, options are often limited because many places are shut down. In summer, I assume this is some type of meat or barbecue stand, where you can sit and enjoy freshly prepared foods.

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16. Can't recall what this building is? Same as all the others, very old yet colorful and I think it was still operating.

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17. Neighborhood streets, sidewalks uncleared but roads are generally passable.


18. The landscape is quite nice, and the area clean and open. There are fewer fences here, and it makes a walk through the city much more aesthetically pleasing to not be staring at walls and barriers everywhere.


18. Some type of official government building. Btw, the city has an official website, soligalich.org, with "tourist" information. But it isn't user friendly, only in Russian, and generally doesn't tell anything useful or present any compelling reason to visit the region.

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19. Some type of memorial site, presumably to soldiers based on the statue and photos displayed by the red star billboard.


20. As an adult, I still love playgrounds, especially swings. I go to them frequently late at night, and one is located only a few feet from the door of my house. I sit, launch myself upward toward the night sky, and clear my mind in the solitude of darkness, as the brisk breeze strokes my face, drifting upward and downward, in a sort of floating motion for brief periods of time. And at night, there are no noisy children there. :)) Options are very limited in Soligalich, just a random slide placed in the middle of a town square.


21. I'm always amazed that there will be one street completely clear in all of these provincial towns. This is probably the street on which some official lives, and preferential treatment is given to its maintenance.


22. Classic Russian architecture, with the domes and lace-framed windows. I like it. :)

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23. During the walk, we had a debate about the restoration of old homes, whether they should be restored in classic wooden style, or made to look more modern? I argued in favor of keeping the traditional look, but my companion pushed for modernization in appearance and building materials.


24. My favorite wooden house, sort of like a log cabin in the Russian province. I think several families must live here, or perhaps there are individual apartments inside? It's unclear to me.


25. One other observation - many homes in Soligalich had holiday stickers placed in windows, even though we were there in March, long after the New Year's holiday had passed. What is the significance of having Ded Moroz, or Santa like stickers in the windows year round?


26. Gingerbread landscape, with snow-kissed entrances and triangular roofs.


27. When I lost sight of my companion in the distance, I sat and listened to these sparrows sing their tunes as the snowflakes began to fall at a heavier pace. My family collects bird houses, and they are placed all over the trees in my parent's yard. We just gave my mom a new one for Mother's Day on 8 May. They bring me back to childhood and there's something very calming about the hymns these creatures set forth and unleash in the open air.


28. Local resident on a mission for one of the basic necessities in life - water.

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29. Along the way, I met this young guy and tried to chat with him for a bit but it was almost impossible due to language barriers. He was friendly, ready to show off his strength and wood cutting skills. :) Then, he offered to hand me this tool and put me to work.


30. The father joined after a few minutes, and they were surprised to see an American woman wandering through the streets of their hometown.


31. They tried to put me to work, but I could not master the wood-cutting skills, or properly handle this heavy tool. I made a valiant effort though. :)


32. Lenin changing a lightbulb. It's very amusing to see the placement of some of these statues, and what exactly is he pointing to? In some cases, it's a McDonald's, other times it's a light bulb, but I believe the inherent meaning is to point to the future. Yet so many of these provincial towns remain stuck in the past. As if almost nothing has changed over the decades, or since Soviet times. I think some people honestly prefer it that way.


33. As I departed Soligalich, I encountered this man again, almost done with his task, and I began to think about living in a place like this. Could I handle it, or even be comfortable in such an environment?


Sometimes success can become boring and monotonous. This describes my current mental state...ready for a drastic change, but not sure what it should be. So perhaps sometime soon, you will find me living in such a province, in another country, experiencing a totally different culture and way of life...if only for a brief period of time. I doubt it will be Russia, but it will be somewhere. Suggestions? :)

Have you been to Soligalich, or know any interesting facts about this city or region? Please share your impressions and thoughts.


( 148 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 18th, 2016 01:42 pm (UTC)
It is possible that not all of my neighbors are familiar with such pictures. Alas, the residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg can be such in life not to see.
May. 18th, 2016 01:44 pm (UTC)
I recently had dinner with one of my Russian friends who just moved to Washington, DC. We began to discuss my Russian adventures, and she was amazed, because she had only traveled to Moscow and Peter when she lived in the country. So, you're right, many Russians in these cities have no concept of life outside their cozy city environments. So, I try to show them with these travel reports. :)
(no subject) - ivalnick - May. 18th, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - qi_tronic - May. 18th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2016 01:56 pm (UTC)
Greece , to run away from success:-)
May. 18th, 2016 01:57 pm (UTC)
Never been there. It seems too luxurious for a serious change, and I don't like the sea so much. I need a mountainous region to run to. :))
(no subject) - qi_tronic - May. 18th, 2016 02:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
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May. 18th, 2016 01:59 pm (UTC)
#5 the sign warns about an _artificial_ bump which is installed so that cars have to slow down.
Do you have these in the US? I don't remember any.

#14 The photo from 1991 with vodka was shot not far from the place where I was born.
Across the street there are so called "red houses".

yandex. ru/images/search?text=%D0%BA%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%81%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B5%20%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B0%20%D0%BD%D0%B0%20%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B5%20%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B9%20%D1%84%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE&noreask=1&lr=213
May. 18th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC)
I've never seen a sign like this in the USA. For speed bumps, which are common in residential neighborhoods to slow down traffic, our signs are very clear. There is no guessing what they mean. :)

 photo speed-bump-road-sign-usa-dkjtkb_zpsxejejapj.jpg
(no subject) - qi_tronic - May. 18th, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - maniacscientist - May. 18th, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - May. 18th, 2016 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2016 02:08 pm (UTC)
не понимат!
May. 18th, 2016 02:11 pm (UTC)
If you want to understand, use an online translator. It is very simple.
May. 18th, 2016 02:11 pm (UTC)
I myself from Moscow but saw my share of province. Most places are very sad. They really rot. They don't stuck in the past because past for them was much better in many senses. It is why people have nostalgia over USSR. Most of that places in USSR times was not prosperious but had some industry or collective farms (kolkhoz).
I think it may be very interesting for you to visit some different areas like Kamchatka with its volcanoes or Kaliningrad (most western province and enclave)
May. 18th, 2016 02:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, many of them are depressing. After Soligalich, we made a final stop in Totma. Been there? It is apocalyptic. I don't even know how to write about that place honestly.
(no subject) - zloj_negr - May. 18th, 2016 05:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - maniacscientist - May. 18th, 2016 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2016 02:16 pm (UTC)
May. 19th, 2016 12:41 am (UTC)
And why are you confused?
May. 18th, 2016 02:20 pm (UTC)
Сортира нет,путинского.
May. 18th, 2016 02:22 pm (UTC)
American impressions from the Russian province - Soligalich
User n_piterski referenced to your post from American impressions from the Russian province - Soligalich saying: [...] Оригинал взят у в American impressions from the Russian province - Soligalich [...]
May. 18th, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC)
хрень, говнища мало
May. 18th, 2016 02:27 pm (UTC)

Thanks for an interesting story! I've been there once with my former girlfriend. I'm surprised you don't have a picture of the local school - a bright-orange neatly looking buiding. I generally love to visit Russian provinces, and this place certainly strikes a string in me. But to be in Soligalich and not to try the locally made lemonade is a crime :-)  You must come back!

May. 18th, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. :) I don't remember the school. We were only in the city a few hours, walking by foot. Lemonade is available during all seasons, or only summer? Most cafes and shops were closed during our visit.
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May. 18th, 2016 02:39 pm (UTC)

В природе черной соли не существует, но люди придумали делать ее сами. Такой, казалось бы, странный обычай делать чер­ную соль из белой существовал когда-то у коренных жителей Костромской области России. В некоторых местах он сохранился до сих пор. А готовят ее просто. Берется обычная соль крупного помола, в нее до­бавляется замоченный в воде ржаной хлеб. Все это перемешивается. Потом смесь заво­рачивают в тряпицу и кладут в русскую печь или в костер на горящие дрова.

После того как смесь обуглится, ее тол­кут и просеивают. Черная соль готова. Можно брать и солить продукты перед едой.

Но чем же такая соль лучше белой? Ко­стромичи считают, что еда с черной солью вкуснее, чем с белой, и объясняют свое пристрастие старинными традициями. Как известно, в старинных рецептах, которые передаются из поколения в поколение, со­держится очень много полезного и поучи­тельного. Какими же полезными свойствами обладает черная соль в отличие от бе­лой?

Во-первых, черная соль не отсыревает, так как в результате прокаливания в ней образуется углерод в виде мелкозернистого угля.

Во-вторых, из-за того, что крупная соль пережигается вместе с хлебом, она стано­вится рассыпчатой и мелкозернистой. Раньше на селе соли «Экстра» не было, а солить пищу крупной солью очень неудоб­но.

И наконец, при прокаливании крупная соль изменяется по составу. Как известно, обычная белая соль состоит из хлористого натрия с небольшой примесью различных минеральных веществ. Анализы же черной соли показали, что в ней содержится 94 процента хлористого натрия, а остальное - зола от хлеба. Эта зола обогащает соль та­кими элементами, как йод, калий, каль­ций, медь, цинк и другие, которые в не­больших количествах очень полезны для организма.
а купить ее можно в спец магазинах -в Москве есть магазин все для индийской кухни -там она должна быть!!!
Google translation fixed by me:

In nature, black salt does not exist, but people do come up with it yourself. This seemingly strange custom make black white salt from there once the indigenous inhabitants of the Kostroma region of Russia. In some places it has remained until now. And it is prepared simply. Take the usual coarse salt, add the water soaked rye bread. All this is mixed. The mixture is then wrapped in a cloth and placed in a Russian stove or bonfire on the burning wood.

After the mixture was charred, it pounded and sieved. Black salt is ready. You can take and salt products before eating.

But why is this salt better than white? People in Kostroma believe that eating black salt tastes better than white, and explain their addiction to ancient traditions. As you know, in the old recipes that are passed down from generation to generation, it contains a lot of useful and instructive. What sort of useful properties has black salt as opposed to white?

Firstly, the black salt does not dampen. As a result of heating, carbon is formed therein as fine coal.

Secondly, due to the fact that large salt pieces are burned with bread, salt becomes crumbly and fine.
Previously, in villages there were no fine salt, and salting food with coarse salt is very inconvenient.

Finally, salt changes its composition. As you know, the usual white salt is composed of sodium chloride with a small admixture of different minerals. Analyses of the black salt showed that it contained 94 percent sodium chloride, and the rest - the bread ash. This enriched salt ash elements such as iodine, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc and others, which in small amounts is very useful for the organism.
May. 18th, 2016 02:40 pm (UTC)
Interesting, thanks! Now I know why the texture differs from white salt. :)
May. 18th, 2016 02:43 pm (UTC)
Wow, is non-ru-web LJ is alive?

Why're you so interested in such deep places? :)
May. 18th, 2016 02:45 pm (UTC)
Not really, most Americans have no idea what LJ is. :) I write on this platform because I'm interested in Russia, and I communicate with only native Russian speakers in this blog. I like rural environments much better than city landscapes, and Russia is an interesting place for an American explorer. That is why I continue to travel there. Many pieces of a complex puzzle to put together, with a lot of jagged, unrefined edges. :)
(no subject) - delepton - May. 26th, 2016 12:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - May. 27th, 2016 11:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2016 02:49 pm (UTC)
Если мне не изменяет память, то Ленин всегда показывает в светлое будущее, что-то типа : "Верной дорогой идете, товарищи!".
May. 18th, 2016 02:50 pm (UTC)
Is he always pointing in the same direction?
(no subject) - vasha_masha - May. 18th, 2016 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - May. 18th, 2016 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
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