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Wilderness Weekend in Russia

“Attachment to things and comfort is the main obstacle for an interesting life”

(C. Castaneda)

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Have you ever loved and hated something at the same time? Well, I felt this way about my last weekend. Guess what, I went camping!

As with many Russians, I cannot say I am crazy about spending my weekend or holidays inside Russia. I would much rather go to some nice beach in the South of France or in Italy. But this time was kind of spontaneous, so the next thing I knew I was in the train to Tver, a city on the northwest of Russia. Tver is quite a well-known city; it was previously a capital of a powerful medieval state and a model provincial town in the Russian Empire.

Tver is situated at the conflux of three rivers: Volga River, Tvertsa River, and Tmaka River

We actually didn’t stay in Tver though but went to the countryside; a village called Bab'ye. That’s where we started rafting on the river Tvertsa.

While rowing, I was looking around and kept wondering: “How come Russia is so beautiful?!” I’ve traveled around the world and admire the beauty of other countries, but living in Moscow I just forgot how fascinating my own country’s nature is. Gold sunshine and crystal blue sky mirrored in the water, white and purple water lilies, and all kinds of green trees and plants on the riverside - a true palette of God. It could be perfect without a hostile army of horseflies and mosquitoes.

I can’t say rafting is easy, but if you love water and activity, this sport is for you. You have to use almost each muscle of your body in order to move the canoe in the right direction at the right speed. Be careful, though – one wrong move and you may hit your partner with your oar! You also have to watch out for the snags and whirlpools in the river so you have to stay alert. And if you have good company aboard with you, like I did (a young guy), you won’t even notice how the time flies. Or how you get absolutely fried on the sun… you should definitely wear something more than a bikini, and of course a hat! After about seventeen kilometers, we stopped on some coast for the night.

The view from the coast that became our asylum for the night

There was the best part – the banya. Don’t get me wrong, it was a totally improvised banya – made of stones and young twigs of willow-herb covered by the tent. We would stay in until we couldn’t take it anymore, jump straight into the river naked, and run back in. It felt sooo good! In Russia, the banya has always been a panacea for any illness; moreover, it makes your skin as smooth as a baby’s, and improves your mood.

Warming up after the banya

And I was in a very good mood before I realized my iPhone almost died and there was no service at all so there was no chance of sending an SMS home. In the US or in Europe, in a modern, well-equipped camping zone, this would probably not happen, so yes, I was disappointed, but I must admit, being isolated from the whole world felt actually pretty cool. We humans have become slaves of the technology that we created… Try living without your phone at least for a day and you will see what I mean.

Now, I have never thought I would say this, but I actually spent my Sunday morning sunbathing on the Russian beach, and I loved it! Clean, warm, and sandy – what else do you need from a beach? Well, a bathroom would be nice, but I guess we should be grateful for what we have…

After a true Russian lunch with grilled potatoes, mushrooms, and shashlik, we continued rafting towards one of the oldest Russian towns – Torzhok, our final destination. Torzhok was founded at the turn of the 11th century and was famous for its trade route. No wonder: on the way we saw lots of fish, berries, and mushrooms! Moreover, Torzhok is the “richest city” of Tver region, if you judge by the number of historical/architectural monuments – it has about 400 of them.

Torzhok - a town in Tver Oblast, located on the Tvertsa River

In total, we did about thirty kilometers of rafting. To be honest, I still can’t feel my back.

Will I do it again? Probably not. But only because I think I am not a “nature person”. So if you have never done it, you should certainly do it at least once and find out if you are. Just remember: Russia can be pretty wild sometimes.

The rafting team

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