Sergiyev Posad north of Moscow to the Latvian border 26 August 2014

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August 27th 2014
Published: August 29th 2014
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Sergiyev Posad north of Moscow to the Latvian border 26 August 2014

After leaving Suzdal and camping in a little village outside Suzdal , the next day we drove towards Moscow. Before our travels started this year, I had read about a town about 75 km north of Moscow that had a monastery. Poor Tom being subjected to my 100s of ideas!! I suggested that we drive past Moscow along one of the 3 ring routes around Moscow, to visit Sergiyev Posad. So off we went.

Wow, we were both glad we did. The monastery in Sergiyev Posad was celebrating its 700th anniversary. With our new GPS on the Samsung, we found the town with ease. We also quickly found a secure park in the town near the monastery. We then walked towards the walled "Holy Trinity - St Sergius Lavra" monastery with its 13 cathedrals/churches/chapels. It was obvious that all the buildings had a new coat of paint for the anniversary which had its major celebrations at the end of July. People, including those making religious pilgrimages to the monastery, continued to flood into the town.

We spotted an information centre and as we couldn't read Russian, we wanted more explanation of the promotions we had seen on bill-boards, vans and banners around the town. It was obvious that it was a 700th anniversary ....but of we couldn't read it. A fantastic English-speaking Russian was keen to answer our questions. He also gave us a festival badge, and English booklet describing the history of the monastery. He wouldn't sell us tickets to enter the walls but suggested for us to 'dissolve' into the groups that were walking through the gates so that we didn't have to pay!!!!! This is exactly what we did.

We walked through the Holy Gate and Red Tower and was confronted with these incredible cathedrals and chapels and towers. With our map inside the little booklet the Information Office gave us, we walked from building to building. The only building we didn't go into was the Trinity Cathedral & St Nokon's Church as the line of people (all the women had scarves on their heads) was very long and I discovered as I stood in the line for 15 minutes, that it was hardly moving.

The other cathedrals had heavily frescoed walls, and ceilings as well as tombs and religious paraphernalia.

The general story of the area which I quote from our little book was:

"St Sergius, the founder of the Holy Trinity Lavra, was born of wealthy Rostov boyars on May 3, 1314. On the 14th day the local priest baptised the child, naming him Bartholomew. From his childhood he grew accustomed to solitude and sought his salvation through prayer, fasting and work. In 1337, at the age of 23, after his parents death, he decided to leave for the desert together with his elder brother Stephen. The brothers chose to found their hermitage in a clearing surrounded by thick forest on a low hill, later called Makovets (a tern often used to indicate the top of a hill). They built for themselves a cell and small church, which they dedicated to the Lifegiving Trinity. That was the birth of the monastery, which later served as a source of pride and inspiration to the people of Russia.

Stephen went back to Moscow and Bartholomew remained alone in the desert, and in silence and prayer he prepared himself for his monastic vows. He was then named Sergius."

To cut a long story short, he influenced other monks and eventually became a Saint. At that time, the Mongols rules and the country was in crisis and many people sort refuge in the dessert and heard of Servius. Many people came to seek the blessing of St Servius. Over the next 8 Centuries, the walled area evolved with new buildings being built in memory of priests, or built over their graves.

I'm really not sure about all this philosophically, but it is history.

After having lunch in the town, we started our journey towards Latvia as we had 2 more days on our Russian visa. Other than missing a vital right hand turn onto a ring route around Moscow, and therefore going further into the constantly grid-locked city of Moscow, we arrived in a little village of Zubtsov for the night. It took us 4 hours to travel 100kms from Sergiyev Posad, through to the outer limits of Moscow. Oh well, we saw more of the newer parts of Moscow.

It has been really interesting to see other parts of Russia, rather than just the 2 main tourist cities - St Petersburg & Moscow. As we looked for good spots to park for the night, we have gone into little villages. What we have found is many unsealed roads, many derelict houses, but signs of restoration and infrastructure improvement. It's such a big country, the needs are extensive and we have a feeling that the people still have to rely on the Communist or dictatorial Government. We hope they really start to want to, and demand to operate in a free-enterprise manner, and that their Government allows this. May be.

We have 550kms to travel due west tomorrow to get to the Latvian border with 1 day up our sleeve re our visa.

Wednesday 27 August:

We headed out of the little village that we stayed in for the night. It was raining lightly and the road was fantastic as it had recently been resealed. All along the way, except for 10kms before Valikiye Luki along the A9 highway and after the town, the road was excellent. There weren't anywhere near the number of trucks on the road like there was in the road between St Petersburg and Moscow.

We noticed quite a few 1941-44 WW2 war memorials along the highway. We saw quite a few Russian Lada cars which bought back memories of the Lada Tom, Sheryl and I hired to drive around Turkey. All I will say is "that bloody car!". Oh the experience of travelling. We also saw many ex-military vehicles (cars & trucks), but one type in particular caught our attention. It is a very square van with squat roof, and they were either painter army green or grey...very Soviet!

We arrived at the Russian/Latvian boarder at 4.45pm and we through by 7.45pm. On the Russian side our whole vehicle was checked twice - engine, front cabin, inside all cupboards. These were also checked again on the Latvian side. The process is soooo slow. On the Latvian side, we had to throw our milk, cheese and meet away due to their quarantine regulations. What will be, will be. There were 10s of semis lined up. They must hate the process.

We then drove about 25kms into Latvias to a little town called Ludza and parked near a community area. It was showering with rain but that didn't worry us. We were satisfied with what we had seen in Russia, both in the cities and country. It is such a big continent and with such big distances to travel, one can only skim the surface. We have learned heaps about the country which was fantastic and now look forward to exploring Latvia.

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