We slept in this morning, awakening when Russia's heat wave gathered enough steam to smother us inside our tent. After yesterday's accidental twelve hour marathon of sight-seeing, we wanted to take it easy. The plan was to drive to Kostroma, our next Golden Ring town. There, we'd skip the churches and find a nice air-conditioned place to settle into for the day instead.
On our way, we passed several of these cop-car decoys. Tara liked to imagine that they had been constructed by local school children. Her working theory is that the kids built the these in the hopes that their presence would save them from being plowed over by speeding traffic as they walked to the bus stop.
The fake police weren't the only ones out in full force today, but they were about equal in their usefulness! We were pulled over again this afternoon. When the officer who had waved us down walked up to the car, he unceremoniously shoved his radar gun through the driver's window, and into my face. Then, he pointed at the readout which displayed that I was doing 89kph.
After he was done gesturing importantly at his plastic gun, I looked at him blankly and handed over my passport. The limit was 80kph! This is roughly equivalent to speeding by 5mph. The whole encounter was pretty silly. There were cars blasting by us in the left lane all morning. In fact, we were being passed even as we were flagged down.
Passport in hand, the officer flipped through it, not really looking (or was he searching for a bribe?). When he found nothing which pleased him, he began pointing at it and asking questions. Next, I handed him our vehicle registration and offered, "I'm very sorry, but I don't speak Russian." When he heard this, he promptly shoved everything back into the car and walked away without another word.
Then, we sat there for a minute or two, confused. When I finally looked behind us, I saw that he'd already resumed clocking people with his radar gun. Apparently we were free to go. So, I tentatively drove away, and that was that. Is this really the extent of the evil, corrupt police force which we were led to believe we should be very worried about?
Obviously the corruption runs deep and affects areas other than simple moving violations, but I won't be doing anything subversive or protesting against Putin any time soon, so it seems like these concerns are moot. For us, anyway.
Though we didn't set out to see any churches today, we passed many:
They are everywhere in this part of Russia.
Arriving in Kostroma, we rolled over a bridge spanning the Volga, into the city. There, we quickly found a nice coffeeshop with free wireless internet. It was called Hundertwasser: Coffee & Blah Blah Blah Odd! Inside, we sat down and got to work over a pair of cappuccinos.
Around 8PM, we left the city using our GPS to follow roads along the river Volga. We didn't find any secluded free-camps this time around, but we felt perfectly safe staking out our public turf along the bank. Not too far from us, plenty of others were doing the same. On one side of us, a group drank beer around a bonfire, on the other, a family dipped in and out of the river.
Tara's Note: Over the course of the past year and a bit, I've gotten used to swimming in lakes and rivers and streams and I love it. But for some reason, tonight of all nights, my fears came back to me, and I was very squeamish about the Volga. Everyone else was clearly enjoying it, but I was petrified as my feet sunk into the murky bank.
The resulting conversation as we swam went a little something like this:
Me IS THAT A DEAD BODY?
Tyler *smiling and shaking his head* No it's a stick.
Me DID YOU FEEL THAT?!
Tyler You're fine!
Me I think it was an EEL!
Tyler *laughing* No it wasn't, relax!
After our swim, we scaled the steep bank, getting our hands and feet dirty once more. After toweling ourselves dry, and wiping off the remaining mud stains, we sat down to cook spaghetti. I prepared the noodles, Tara made the sauce. As we ate together, overlooking the Volga, we both declared it had been a good day.