August 20, 2004


Roughly halfway in between Tver and Klin the Volga River meets the Shosha river, and it is there that I spent the last couple of days relaxing in one of European Russia’s most beautiful sposts. I stayed in what is called a turbaza, a relic of the Soviet past that is very quickly dying out. In fact, my rich friend was at first shocked that I knew the word. He was even more shocked when I told him that they still existed.

I didn’t actually do much at the turbaza. My attempt to learn the favorite Russian pastime of mushroom picking was thwarted by the lack of mushrooms; my Russian friends and I only managed to find a small number of the poisonous kind. However, I gained a healthy respect for the rural skills Muscovites still retain. One of my friends, an elegant language student, seemed to leap at the opportunity to catch newts in her hand and thought nothing of poking around anthills. Both of my friends could easily identify at least 15 varieties of mushrooms though they had lived their whole lives in the city.

The clientele at the turbaza were mainly manual laborers and were staying at the turbaza to fish. The place was full of nostalgia. The men wore the large Soviet plastic frame glasses and the women donned shapeless flower print dresses no longer in vogue in Moscow. The summer-camp atmosphere made me appreciate the best in the socialist ideology. The turbaza is simple, pleasurable relaxation that everyone, no matter their wealth, can enjoy.

Almost everyone seemed to know each other, and the atmosphere was pleasant. Though the beds were olds and soft, the cabins were clean and rustically cozy and pleasant to look at like unlike the pre-fab housing in Moscow. The food was also simple Russian fare. Everyone ate together in a camp-style dining hall, and the lights were turned out after half and hour, so there was now lingering.

This type of vacation as been replaced for the capitalist all-inclusive Turkish holiday. 500 dollars for a week at a five star hotel just isn’t the same, and I hope that at least a few these turbaza remain open. If they could just improve the toilets at the turbaze a little bit, I think they could eventually thrive.
Posted by Aaron at August 20, 2004 03:32 PM

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