A Trip to the Countryside

Posted: October 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

I went on an adventure today. Lana, from the Simbirsk Resource Center (the private language school in the center of the city), invited me out with her friend to visit the house of other friends. The friends own a farm out in the countryside, about and hour away from the far side of Ulyanvosk in a village called Staraya Maina. Apparently, Catherine the Great once visited the village as a break on her tour of the Volga.

Lana, and her friend Pasha, picked me up in Pasha’s Jeep at the university. The ride out was fun. Pasha would sometimes tell me stories about the things we were passing. For example, we passed a power plant, which supplies power to the airplane factory. The factory is supposed to produce 80 planes a year. In the process, it uses so much energy and generates so much heat that goes through the smokestack. However, the plant is not running at capacity, and thus the operating temperature is much lower than intended. For this reason, the smokestack is falling apart. Fun other fact, this year was a record for production at the airplane factory – one whole plane!

Doomed to fall in the near future?

The country house wasn’t that far from the city; however, it took a while to get there because of the condition of the roads. For the most part, they are two lane roads full of pot holes. Pasha was driving at 50 mph maximum. It’s days like today in which I truly value the Eisenhower Defense System. I-95 may suck, but I’d rather drive on it than have to make extended trips on roads like the ones, which we took today.

Standard Russian road.

After a while, we pulled off of the main road. We got to a gate, called шлагбаум (Schlagbaum) in Russian. Yay for learning German, it has taught me so many more words in Russian. Pasha got out, punched in a code, and we carried on down a dirt road. Due to the wet weather that we’ve had pretty much the whole time I’ve been here, the road was a field of mud and it was clearly fortuitous that Pasha’s car is a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Pasha asked me if our roads looked like this and when I told him that we mostly have paved roads he asked me why so many Americans have SUVs. I replied that we need them where I live. There is no reaching our house in the snow without an SUV, usually even after the road and driveway have been “plowed.”

Offroading in Russia!

The country house was once a retreat of sorts in the Soviet era. When the Soviet Union fell, Alexander (Sasha), bought the land for a very low price. At the moment, it’s a farm. Sasha built his own house and tennis court. He also renovated a series of other buildings on the grounds, one of which acts as the guesthouse. Sasha also has some neighbors who use their house only as a weekend retreat, while Sasha, his wife, and young son live year-round in their house. Pasha and Lana go out to visit Sasha as much as once a week in the summer. Their most frequent activity is to play tennis, which they made me do. I’ve never been very good at tennis. I didn’t so much play as aggravate Pasha with my baseball swing. Furthermore, years of weekly playing racquetball with one of my good friends at Lafayette has taught me to almost always hit the ball as hard as I can.

The tennis court.

His farm was beautiful. While walking around on the grounds, I got excited when I saw an old Ural motorcycle. The Ural was originally a BMW from the 1930s that the Soviets stole and reverse engineered to create the Ural, which is still made to this day.

I got to sit on another Ural!

Sasha’s farm is also right off of the Volga. He has a nice beach on the river.

We had dinner with Sasha, his family, and the family of Sasha’s good friends. Sasha and his friend Stas made plov in the outside kitchen, where they properly grilled the meat. It was quite tasty. Sadly, after dinner, we had to return home.

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