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To the Swimming Hole

by Going Slowly

We start our morning by returning to Hundertwasser: Coffee & Blah Blah Blah to enjoy a few more cappuccinos. Not exactly eager leave our climate controlled surroundings, we procrastinate, putting off our departure into the scorching day. Instead, we relax inside, devoting our attention to warm drinks in cool places, and to the blank pages before us.

For all the traveling we do, these stationary moments together with nothing new to see or experience can be some of the most fulfilling. Once we've made a significant dent in our projects, we say goodbye to the friendliest barista I've met since leaving the US. Thankful for her bright countenance in a sea of blank stares, we leave her a hefty tip, and head to our LRC.

As we pull into a monastery on the edge of Kostroma, a shirtless, potbellied limo driver wipes the sweat from his brow with a paper napkin. He is hiding in a tiny patch of shade in front of the church. The sun is positively unrelenting today. As we perform our cover-everything-expensive-in-the-car routine, I wonder aloud if he is waiting for a bride and groom to emerge?

Sure enough, peeking through the chapel door, we spy decorative ceilings rising high above an altar where a wedding ceremony is being performed. Two gold crowns are being held above the bride and groom's heads. The scene reminds me of dear friend, Jess's Greek Orthodox wedding, at which the priest held crowns of greenery and ribbons over the two of them.

We tiptoe away from the solemn union, and explore other parts of the church.

Inside Russian Church Russian Church Painting

Back outside, we sit on a park bench and admire the flowers as we watch older women in kerchiefs walking to and from their cells.

Russian Church

Before we leave, Tyler spies this nun, quietly reading alone in a closed-off portion of the grounds. He deftly sneaks a photo of her between the wooden slats of a fence, intently reading.

Russian Nun Reading

Back in the car, we're heading towards our next Golden Ring towns of Ivanovo and Sudzal. On the way, I begin to notice that the bus stops here are covered in detailed mosaics. I think about it for a moment, decide I'm too lazy to stop for photos, and then tell Tyler:

"You know… not right now… but one of these days, we have got to stop and take pictures of "—the BUS STOPS!" Tyler interjects.

We laugh at our own laziness and our synchronized thought patterns, then force ourselves to pull over frequently for the next few kilometers to capture a few.

Russian Bus Stop Russian Bus Stop Mosaic Russian Bus Stop Mosaic

Once we're through, we drive into the city of Ivanovo and quickly realize it is too big for our tastes. So, we park the car for a brief walk, and leave a few minutes later.

Russian Bus

By now we are HOT. And sticky. And dirty. On the outskirts of town we stop for a grocery run. I long for the blast of cold air that would greet me on a similar trip in the States. The inside of the store is even more stifling than outside. Even the refrigerators and freezers barely have enough oomph to keep anything cold. I complete my task as quickly as possible and return to the car, tossing Tyler a bag of half-frozen dumplings to cool himself with.

Searching for even more refuge from the heat, I pore over our maps until I find a stream near the highway. Hopeful, we head out of town. Driving through the woods with no sign of a stream, and our GPS lady stiltedly announcing, "arriving at destination" we are momentarily disappointed.

But then, just a few meters further, I spot it: a clean natural pool right off the road, surrounded by trees and humming with life. Gravity-defying water bugs flit across the surface, and the occasional yellow leaf rustles on its limb before swirling down to join the party. A swimming hole! We park the car and climb down the well-worn path to the rocky bank. Stepping in, our dirt and grime floats away as the chilly water saps the heat from our bodies. Thank goodness for cool water on hot summer days.

Tara Swimming in Russian  Stream

Once we've have had our fill of splashing about in the cold, clear water, we emerge, satisfied, and decide to find a free-camp nearby so we can take advantage of the swimming hole in the morning.

Toweling off at the car, I spot a picnic table in the woods! Hmmm, if we could only find a way into said woods, we'd have ourselves a great free-camp. Some investigation reveals a bumpy dirt track leading off the road. We carefully follow it, Tyler driving slowly as he can, our tiny car rocking back and forth over deep rutted trenches.

And then, we find ourselves in a secluded spot in the woods, with a fire pit and a picnic table, and a flat area for our tent! If it weren't so hot, we'd make a fire.

Russian Free Camp View

As I prepare a dinner of fried potatoes and mystery meat dumplings, Tyler reads to me from the stack of books we got from Elizabeth, first a couple of chapters from Bird by Bird (a book by Anne Lamott about writing) and then a short story by Roald Dahl.

Once dinner is done and consumed, Tyler reads another chapter from Bird by Bird. Considering we spend much of our time writing, the book is very inspiring to us. As well, it frequently makes us laugh and nod our heads in agreement. Headlamp shining, our own dark shadows encompassing the tent, I feel a deep sense of belonging. There is no place I would rather be tonight.