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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 01:43:50 +0000
Subject: Yaroslavl part 2

When I wrote about our travel and arrival in Yaroslavl, I forgot to mention a very pertinent fact. We arrived in town with 3000 roubles, and after purchasing our tram tickets, had only 1000 roubles left. (That will purchase about 2 eggs at the local yarmarka.)

Our first order of business was to find a way to get some money. We had breakfast at the hotel (breakfast was included in the price of the room, which had already been paid before we left Moscow) and then asked the registration clerk where we might find an autobank. She didn't know (and I'm not sure she understood what we were asking, both because of the language barrier and autobanks being fairly new here). We collected our passports (the hotel had kept them so we could be registered with the local authorities) and left the hotel.

We started walking almost randomly. After finding the Yaroslavl kreml (kremlin = old walled city center, most Russian cities have them, although not usually as well repaired or politically important as the Kremlin in Moscow) and some spectacular examples of Russian architecture dating from the 1600s, (See pictures of ancient buildings) we found a street which looked fairly major and headed up it. There were a couple banks but no autobanks. Bela rang the door buzzer at one of the banks, and spoke to the disembodied voice of the security guard. Yes, this was a bank; what was our business here?; oh, an *autobank*? Sorry, can't help you.

On we walked. We finally decided to change the US$26 that Bela still had in his wallet. We found a store with an "obmen valuta" (currency exchange place). They are very common, much easier to find than autobanks. Inflation is not very high in Russia these days, but that has not always been the case. Around the time of the end of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the Russian Federation, inflation was terrible. It wasn't that many years ago that 1000 roubles would buy a small house in the country (a dacha), and today it buys 2 eggs. Anyway, many people prefer to change their roubles to more stable US dollars or Deutsch marks when they are saving them. Then when they need the money, they change the marks or dollars back to roubles.

We went to the obmen valuta and found that they take Visa cards as well as cash, so with the help of a Visa debit card, Bela was able to get money out of his bank account in America. You have to present your passport to exchange money, and they seem to have an extensive computer database of all transactions. Money in hand, we started walking again, exploring the beautiful old city.

Across the street from the obmen valuta was a peaceful shady park. We walked up the side of the park and around the block, looking for a place to eat lunch. At the far end of the park, we discovered Ploshad Volkova (Wolf's Square). There's a large multi-lane traffic circle (roundabout) surrounding a beautiful garden. The gardener must be very happy to be able to create such gardens! The center piece was a wonderful sculpted bush in the shape of the bear which appears on Yaroslavl's city emblem.

(Picture of a poster containing Yaroslavl's City Shield, celebrating the city's 985th year) (A picture of the garden) (A close-up picture of the bear)

We saw a cafe across the square, so again crossed the traffic. A major difference between Moscow and Yaroslavl struck us: the traffic in Yaroslavl actually stopped for pedestrians. Everyone, pedestrian or driver, seemed much more relaxed than Moscow. We chose a table with a view of the square and enjoyed some more really delicious Russian food.

After lunch we resumed wandering. We had noticed that many buses were coming from one particular street, and they were all full, so we decided to walk that way first. We found ourselves walking through another tree-filled park, dividing a major street. There were many people out enjoying the sun that day. A couple of girls were riding horses through the park. There was a children's amusement park. Some construction caused us to detour, then we found more gardens in the style of Ploshad Volkova. We walked maybe a kilometer (1/2 mile) (It's hard to tell, because our map doesn't tell us what scale it's in.) to another large square, Krasnaya Ploshad (Red Square - a common name. The Russian words "krasnaya" (red) and "krasivaya" (beautiful) come from the same root word. The park area continued to the right, so we joined the other people headed in that direction. Our path started to angle downward while paths on either side continued level. When we passed under a bridge connecting the two paths, we passed into a large yarmarka at a dock on the bank of the Volga River.

We spent much of the afternoon examining the various stalls at the market. Some of them were full of souvenirs for the tourists passing through the boat terminal but there were plenty of stands with items for residents (such as school books). We bought the first Yaroslavl map we found (and it turned out to be the only one we saw) and a couple of books, then spent the rest of the day watching people and ships. The Volga reminds me greatly of the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon, USA, for those of you who are familiar with it.

We wandered back towards our hotel, taking a slightly different route. The street we found ourselves on had single-story buildings (I've never seen one in Moscow), old log cabins with intricate wooden gingerbread trim. We went back past Krasnaya Ploshad, past the children's park, past Ploshad Volkova, and found ourselves at a bookstore. Needless to say... There were several postcards and an English book on Yaroslavl that I wanted to get. I thought we'd go back the next day when there was more time, but we didn't manage that. *Sigh*

After this, we found what looked like it wanted to be a street fair. I wasn't sure if it had just ended, or if it was just some restaurants who had barricaded the street and put up tables for the evening. We had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant there called "Saigon". At first we thought it was a Chinese restaurant, because the Cyrillic letters look a lot like the word "Canton" if you're American and not paying much attention :)

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more. There are some spectacular old buildings in the city, particularly the domed churches of which I'm so very fond. I'd found a large one marked on our map nearby, so we went to look at it. In front of it was an area which would be great for parades (perhaps that is its purpose). I took pictures from several angles, trying to get all of the towers in the photo at once. The sun was low and to our left, making the dragon- scale domes shine brightly. Bela asked if I had gotten a picture of the church catching on fire, and I thought he was joking about dragons. I always have the impression that these buildings are just sleeping dragons, and one day will just fly away. We took some closer photos and walked around the building clockwise.

When we got to the back, we found a brush fire in the yard behind the church. About this time we started hearing sirens as fire trucks came our way. We quickly walked to the other end of the building, out of their way. I got a picture of the firefighters, but missed getting one of the group of teen-aged boys lounging under some trees nearby, with a small fire which they put out when they saw me and the camera. (See pictures of the Church Ili Proroka and the firefighters)

We found ourselves in another strip of park, so we walked along. The memorial to the casualties of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (known to Americans as World War II) was decorated with fresh cut flowers. Russia suffered huge losses, both of soldiers and of civilians, and does not forget them. Eternal flames and marble monuments mark them in both Yaroslavl and Moscow. These monuments are always surrounded by bouquets of flowers, some brought by bridal parties on their wedding day (it's traditional).

(Picture) Eternal Flame and Memorial in Yaroslavl

We walked further into the park until we saw a soccer field to our right. One team scored an amazing goal just then, so we decided to watch for a while. But they started dismantling the goals. About this time, a boy of about 10 years old came up and asked us something, probably about the game. Me: "Ya ne ponimayoo..." (I don't understand.) Him: "Oh, American." I must have a very distinctive accent :)

We wandered along the River Kotorosl (which feeds into the Volga at the base of the park) towards our hotel. I got some nice pictures of the sunset seen through the church domes. We went inside when the mosquitos got to be too aggressive.

(Picture) (Picture) Church domes and trees outlined against the sunset

Our next day in Yaroslavl was much the same except that we went farther afield with the help of the tramway and buses. It's a wonderful, beautiful place. I can understand why it's such a popular vacation spot. I want to go back there someday, for a longer time. As much as we saw and did during our visit, there was so much more we would have liked to have done. The day we left Yaroslavl, we had to catch the 7am train. It was hard enough leaving the city without having to leave quite so early.

Sandy (Cannady) Lubkin
Currently in Moscow, Russia

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.