I have a goal for the upcoming months. That goal is to explore several cities across the Russian territory, seeing the different kinds of landscape that this uniquely vast land offers. Not only expecting an adventure but also willing to produce something in return, as a way to express and give back the special affection and understanding that I’ve received from this people since I started communicating with them.
While the full projection of this work must be kept as a secret, yet it is always a good time to share some of the impressions I’ve had in an specific point of this immense nation.
As some of you already know, back in November of last year I did a short trip to the city of Rybinsk, not far from Yaroslavl, less than 6 hours by bus from Moscow. Winter was to come only in two months but the city was covered in snow in a way that autumn was not a proper name for that season. I arrived in the town around 3am and luckily the shuttle to which I was transferred stopped right in from of the hotel where I was going to stay. Had it been different, I bet I would have many more stories about that city.
I came inside the lobby and rang a small bell, at the response of which came a woman who told me that at that time I could find no room ready to be occupied. For this reason I asked to lay on the waiting couch and have a rest somehow right there. Three hours later I was already awaken and so far I had no signs that I would be sent to a room so soon. Eager to wander, I decided to go out and take my camera with me, expecting to make some good shots and find anything of unusual in that area. Dawn was still thick and the road was very dark at the moment I started my walk. I could make no complaints but only enjoy the experience the way it was and in result I ended up making bleak moody pictures, featuring the light beams coming from the cars boring through the darkness.
It didn’t look like anything touristic at first, but it was Russia and that’s what I wanted. The dull sky started becoming brighter and buses became more frequent on the road. People started to come out on the sidewalks and I began to change my perception about life in that place. In that ice cold morning people were gathered at a bus stop nearby waiting to pick up their ride to their jobs and businesses. Later in the day, after checking in the hotel and resting for a while in my room, I went out again and reached the center of the city, with its old buildings and landmarks. Being a person who grew up thinking of every snowy place as a magical land, it was shocking to see the people around living normal lives and displaying none unusual expression. Unfortunately I spent there an extremely short time and I had no opportunity to talk properly with someone and listen to local stories so that I could understand better how does it feel to live there. Photographing tho was a great thing to do as well, hence I was getting something of significant value out of that expedition.
I crossed the bridge of the town, walking over the Volga river which was flowing normally and accompanied by a strong freezing wind. Although the river was inexplicably liquid yet, my hands were giving me unsupportable pains and I couldn’t stay for too long on that viaduct. So, within few minutes I was already on the other side of Rybinsk, where houses were smaller and few shops could be seen. As I kept walking the roadside way, houses became gradually scarce. Finally at some point I stood in front of iron gates that gave entrance to an actual forest, absolutely white and silent. I had no idea of what to do if not follow the trail and feel for the first time what’s the vibration inside such a harsh environment, one that at same time sounded like a delightful adventure inside a dream. The trail led to the riverbank, all the way sided by tall trees and bushes, all completely covered in snow. In every step I could hear the muffled sound of snow being crushed under my feet. My toes could barely move by the time I reached the end of the trail and besides me I could see only a family enjoying their time sliding down a short slope on the right side, few meters away from the walk path. The trail had a turn to the left and far ahead on that way there were couple of dachas. I moved further down to the riverbank and stopped few steps away from the water. Closer than that could cause me to sink my feet in cold water, the ground didn’t seem resistant enough to contain my weight. From the spot where I was I sighted the downtown of Rybinsk, with some church steeples stretching a little bit higher. I squatted right where I was for a while and just stared at the blackness of the water, did my best to absorb the air, the vibration and the grace of being in such an amazing place.
I’m lucky for perceiving the diversity of this country in the way that I do. It doesn’t matter that many of these cities across this large territory have a small population and that they’re not in travel catalogs. Every piece of the Earth is worth of admiration as any other and we should reflect on the fact in all of them there is always someone who made a living strictly related with the local geographical factors and this is by many ways a rich source of knowledge and wisdom. Furthermore you exercise commitment and confidence by completing a promise or a proposal that you made yourself counting solely on your desire and intention.