Day 26: Moscow to Yartsevo: From Moscow, we continue to Smolensk – visit “Borodino” on the Dnieper that became the strategic key to Moscow in 1812 and 1941. Later we arrive at our overnight hotel in Yartsevo. (Breakfast and Dinner included)
I woke up at 8:10, before my alarm, and used my extra time to go to the grocery store for food for the bus today. I met Leah at 9:30 for breakfast as we had agreed on the night before, and then we headed out to the market near the hotel. The art market
here is famous for good prices and selection so most people used their free time to shop there this morning. It was raining this morning, which made shopping outside a bit of a struggle. We walked through the non-art market market, which consisted of mostly clothes, shoes and stuff like that. Then we got to the art market where there was a 5 Ruble charge to get in (the locals didn’t seem to be paying though). We decided not to go in as it was already getting a bit late (it took a while to get through the market with the rain) so we wouldn’t have much time and it was pouring rain which was dampening our shopping spirit. We ended up at the grocery store where I tried to spend most of the rest of my Rubles on candy and snacks.
At 11:30 the bus left for Yartsevo. I had trouble with my ipod last night, it wouldn’t turn off and it scrolled through my songs, but wouldn’t actually play any so I asked Andy, my new best friend, to take a look. Apparently charging it last night fixed it and it was working fine. At 1:30 we ended up making a quick stop at a McDonalds because we had been stuck in too much traffic and needed to stop soon anyway. I just got some fries in an effort to use up some more of my Rubles, the remainder of my Rubles would be used as donations at different memorial/ monuments and as souvenirs.
At 3:40 we stopped in Borodino
to see the monument and use the bathroom. During the war of 1812 when Napoleon tried to take Russia the Russian army retreated to Borodino. In Borodino the Russian’s took up a defensive position and Napoleon’s Army took a frontal position. 75,000 people died and the Russians retreated, but both armies claimed victory. The Russians burned Moscow and when (as Maggy called them) General January and General February stepped in, the French were forced to retreat. Napoleon returned to France with 25,000 of his 700,000 member army. One third of the military age men in France had been killed. Today there is a monument and our first encounter with squatter toilets in Borodino. I did not use the bathroom, but they didn’t seem that bad, for squatter toilets.
At 6:30 we arrived at our hotel – the Motel Oasis, best described as a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, Russia. Outside waiting for us was Dodgy Michael; we had been warned not to buy his cigarettes or his Vodka as they were both of very questionable quality. This hotel wasn’t terribly nice, the only nice thing was that my room (and some others, but not all) had a bathroom and separate bedrooms or a bedroom and a living room. When you walked into our room you were in a foyer and straight ahead was a bedroom (Tania’s) and to the left was the bathroom, both the bathroom and the bedroom connected to my bedroom. Maggy had warned us we might not want to shower here. While I couldn’t smell the water (still had a cold) I was told it did have an odor to it, and the shower had seen better days, about 50 years ago. Every Contiki tour has a dodgy hotel, this was ours.
At 7:30 we had dinner which was to be followed by a show. Apparently whenever Contiki shows up some of the local girls come to do a show for them, and the Tour Manager and Driver cover the cost of the show in an effort to help out the local economy. Since I don’t think there is a local economy (we were in the middle of nowhere – I’m not just being a wiseass) I’m sure it didn’t take too much. 4 girls, who seemed to be in their late teens came on and did a couple different dances to differen
t songs. Since they changed after each song we had a little intermission between each song. I like to think of this as the Moulin Rouge of Yartsevo – the dancing they did wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t high caliber – think HS talent show caliber. After the teenage girls finished a stripper came out (we had been warned incase anyone wasn’t interested) and some people got special attention. It was an interesting night, Dodgy Michael was around all night; apparently his services also included prostitutes. When Kieran knocked a glass over, breaking it, Dodgy Michael tried to swindle 100 Rubles out of him for the glass. But since he hadn’t actually seen it, just thought it was Kieran, Kieran was able to tell him he didn’t do it and as far as I know Dodgy Michael didn’t get any money. The sign that the night was going downhill was when Clinton’s leopard skin g-string came out. At that point I decided it was time to go to bed…