My last day in Razdolye was bittersweet. While I was a little anxious to get back to civilization, I had been so spoiled there and felt so calm. I’m never calm. It’s like an unheard-of state of being for me.
Lounging around, I finished my John Grisham book– I like John Grisham books to cotton candy. You scarf it down but never really feel like it enters you. Can’t remember what the book was about but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I drank a ton of tea as an excuse to gobble up all the local-berry preserves in my room. Russians often drink unsweetened tea with a side of fruit preserves. The idea is that you eat a bite of preserves and then while the sweetness lingers on your tongue you take a sip of tea. Mmmm. So comforting.
I was out for a walk and Dima came up to me to chat. He said, “If you don’t mind me asking, why are you alone? You’re so pretty. I’ve seen you in your pictures” Oh geez. I decided to mis-interpret his question and answered that not everyone enjoys vacations in Russia in November and that was why I was traveling alone. But I also wanted to ask him: wait, you’re saying you’ve seen me be pretty in pictures, but what about right now while I’m standing right in front of you?????
As we left Razdolye, I actually shed a tear.
An hour and a half later we were in Yoshkar-Ola. We were much later than planned, so I only had an hour for my tour. It was also dark. The entire enterprise felt like folly to me, but I had to go along since the tour guide was already set up. We arrive and the tourlady had been waiting for three hours! I apologized and explained it wasn’t under my control– I left when I was told to leave. The tourlady said that Tatiana had apologized, but now I felt doubly obligated to go on the tour.
As I explained before, up until about five-seven years ago, Yoshkar-Ola was just a grey city filled with Soviet block-style buildings. The new governor wanted to beautify, so he decided to make the city a collage of European styles. Indeed, I saw the Dutch-style buildings, the Belgian embankment, the replica of the German Neuschwanstein castle, etc. The tourguide insisted that I watch the glockenspiel, which had figurines that emerged at 6pm. It was Jesus and the apostles and, in the cold of the night, it felt like it took forever for them to come out, turn around, and file back into the clocktower. The tourlady really loved it, though, reminding me time and again that it is the only such clock in Europe. She pointed out a bunch of other things, like the eyeglasses museum, and reminded me that the only other eyeglasses museum is in France. This is where tours of Yoshkar-Ola and Cheboksary are similar: in an apparent bid to increase the prestige of their city the guides point out that the city’s sights are similar to sights in other countries. It just ends up sounding ridiculous, though, because the sights are always of dubious importance to begin with!
The tour also included a visit to a souvenir shop. While generally annoying, this was actually convenient because I need to pick up a few gifts. She also then pulled me into a grocery store to buy items for the train. She pushed hard to get me to buy goat yogurt, but I resisted.
The frantic and utter uselessness of the tour really grated on me. I had been so calm! I wanted to just say to the tourlady, “Hey! Stop harshing my mellow, man!”
In the end I was deposited into my train kupe and delighted in my luck at being alone. Also, it was a super-nice train with biotoilets and a restaurant car. I got some beer, snuggled into bed and had another short cry about leaving Razdolye and Mari El.