As good as last weekend was, this weekend was FAR superior. The weather only half-cooperated, but I think even with a Saturday of rain and cold, we had an awesome time.
I wasn’t exactly sure where we were heading – the Polish girls (Ashia, Isa, and Eva) and Alexandr (aka Steven, from
Now, I must warn that some of the things I am about to mention might not sound so nice, or may even seem like flat-out bad ideas. Therefore, I would like to say beforehand, that everything that transpired this weekend ended being completely worthwhile, even down to the whole outhouse situation. But that will come later…
First things first – let me start with the ride there. The best way to get to Arshan is to take a marshrutka (mini-bus) from the bus station in
I didn’t have any problem with the marshrutka ride. I’m pretty used to the way the drivers operate here by now. The others (except Ashia) got violently ill. I’m not sure if it was the turbulence of the ride or Cindy’s going away party from the night before coming back to haunt them. I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery, distracting myself from the sight and smells that might have made me sick too.
One our fellow passengers on the marshrutka was this little old lady from Arshan. As she tried to comfort my car-sick fellow travelers, we got to know her a bit, and found that she had a summer house sitting empty, with plenty of room for all five of us. And so it was that we found a place to stay with even more ease than we had anticipated. Our plan (well, their plan – like I said, I wasn’t in on the planning part of the trip), was to find someone to stay with when we got there. This is one of those places where little old (and not-so-old) ladies stand around the bus stop (or train station, if the town is big enough) with ЖИЛЬЁ (ROOM FOR RENT) signs and you pick the least shady-looking one and bargain for a good price. For the less than our bus tickets, we paid the lady for two nights’ stay and the use of her banya.
Our hostess led us through town to her place on the other side of the stream. Only in
Now a couple of side notes. I can now appreciate how much work goes into getting a banya ready, especially with no running water. You have the fire to build, the water to haul and heat, the birch branches to gather – so much to do. And then there’s all the maintenance once it’s up and running. Wow. I think it makes it that much more special when someone sets one up for you. And it’s soooooo relaxing – even the whole birch branch thing. Yes, it is traditional to use birch branches to hit each other with in the sauna. I think it’s supposed to exfoliate or something. It stings a bit but my skin felt so good afterwards. More on the banya in a bit.
Back to no running water for a moment. While Arshan is a great place to visit (so long as you know what to expect), I wouldn’t want to live there permanently. The only source of water in the house was the radiator, the source for which I never discovered. I like running water – and my toilet. I’m so much of an outhouse fan. But now that I’ve experienced a few days of using an outhouse in
When we got up on Saturday morning, it was raining a bit more steadily than the day before, and there didn’t seem to be much hope of the sun coming out anytime soon. So we scrubbed our plan to visit Peak Lyubvi, and instead hopped on another marshrutka to visit the
When we finally got back, we found that we were no longer alone in the dacha. Some family friends had shown up – three couples from
After breakfast, we packed a picnic and took off into the woods. We walked to Datsan (the Buddhist temple), then found a good little clearing and made ourselves a little fire. I’ve always been amazed at the ability of Russians to make something out of nothing – the same goes for their skills in the country. The men built a fire with wet wood and wet leaves, and we roasted hot dogs and warmed bread and drank some more balzam. All in all, it was a wonderful way to end the weekend – just hanging out, continuing to get to know our new friends.
Eventually we had to head back. We packed up our things, thanked our hosts for their help and hospitality, and headed to the bus stop. Unfortunately, we had made a slight mistake in the timetable, and ended up having to wait for another three hours for our marshrutka back to
I can’t imagine how this weekend could have been better. It was just plain awesome. I don’t know what’s on the books for next weekend, but hopefully it will be something equally cool.
I'll try an have the pictures from the trip loaded in the next couple of days. Right now I have a whole lot of homework to catch up on.