We leave Suzdal heading to Rostov Veliky. Not an easy task as both places are on different roads leading out of Moscow so we hope for the best in terms of getting a ride along barely used roads in the countryside. Well, we end up hiking and enjoy sun and surroundings but our backpacks didn’t get lighter since Thailand when we shipped our Indian souvenirs off to Germany. Eventually we get a nice ride and a full sightseeing tour to surrounding lakes (and find out about an alternative route that had just been rebuilt and therefore attracts ALL the car traffic – oh well).
In the evening just before arriving at Anya & Sasha’s home it begins to rain and the temperature levels drop to typical Russian autumn levels. Sasha runs a few businesses in town and Anya is preparing a feast which we enjoy till late. Russian hospitality at its best and certainly my belly is prepared to keep me warm during Russian winter.
Rostov Veliky and nearby Yaroslavl were Sascha takes us for an afternoon visit are also part of the Golden Ring with beautiful monasteries and churches. When leaving to Sergiev Posad three days later it still rains so we abandon hitch-hiking plans and Nastya got us a ride on Bla Bla Car the ride sharing portal.
Our driver is advertised as “russian, orthodox, nice” and indeed next morning we meet and hit the road after him crossing himself before starting the engine. He’s excited to hear our stories while the other two ride sharers listen to their headphones. Every church we pass (and that’s a lot) he’s crossing himself and then we get to listen to some clerical music. After two songs a female voice in Russian announces the beginning of “Belly Dance Course Lesson 3”, he quickly skips the track and we’re back in the religious program while speeding through the rain. In the next city a sudden lane change cuts off the driver to our right and the car crashes into where I am sitting. Great, we hitch-hiked thousands of kilometers across two continents and on our first “commercial” ride we have a crash. The guy in front of me smashed his head in the dashboard, a good lesson on the benefit of wearing a seat belt (and being a bit more German 🙂 ), but we’re fine, thank our driver politely, take our bags and leave. By now his religiousness has vanished and he is cursing in Russian Mat:
Mat has thousands of variations but ultimately centers on four pillars: the words (1) khuy (“cock”); (2) pizda (“cunt”); (3) ebat’ (“to fuck”); and (4) blyad (“whore”)
The rest of the way we do what we do best and end up hitch-hiking with a priest who repacks his whole car (loaded with muffins) to make room for us. He takes along hitch-hikers all the time as he often didn’t get a ride back in the days when he studied at the monastery. He drops us downtown Sergiev Posad, the center of the Russian Orthodox church and we’re off to see more Chinese, but also some of the oldest and impressive churches on our journey.