Sulla Via degli Zar

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Mercoledì, 20 Novembre 2013 Scritto da administrator

Text and Photos by Enrico Rondoni (Translation by Luca Petralia)

From Moscow to St. Petersburg on the way of the Tsars, but very slowly...

Moscow and St. Petersburg are not so far away, just above 700km,  as from Naples to Milan...well, if snow and frost don't get in the way.
But there's also a different path between the two Russian cities, the so called waterway of the Tsars, a 1700km waterway to be enjoyed just watching around, with no hustle or effort.
A slow pace that brings us into the history, and in some way, into meditation.

Mosca e San Pietroburgo non sono poi così lontane. Poco più di 700 Km. Come da Napoli a Milano, gelo e neve permettendo.
Ma c’è un modo diverso per compiere l’itinerario tra le due città russe. È la cosiddetta via degli Zar: un percorso di oltre 1700 chilometri via acqua, da compiere senza fatica, solo osservando. 
Un “Andamento lento” che ti accompagna in un viaggio della storia e volendo della riflessione (Versione Italiana).

Our journey winds through rivers and canals, dams and artificial lakes: between past, present and a future yet to be discovered and to be decided in a country that is proud of its past but still unsure of what to expect from the next future.
Dazzled by the lights that "turn on" the St. Basil church and the Red Square during the night ( the "Beautiful Square" that witnessed so many 1st May parades, the square with the Lenin Mausoleum and the memories of great historical figures) we embark on a boat (the "Lenin" by chance) moored on a canal of the Moskva River.

The boat goes on slowly, touches the shores between the speedboats of wealthy, and a bit drunk, muscovites and fishermen already hit by the cold. Here and there we see equipped beaches living in the dream of a blue sea that it's not there. We pass under the bridges crossed by trains and an endless flow of cars of this 15 millions people city. A city with its austerity, its typical sovietic hive-type houses (many family still live in a apartments with shared kitchen and bathrooms) and the new modern district with all the skycrapers that dares to challenge New York in this regard.

Moscow, Cremlin

Moscow, St. Basil Church


Moscow, 120th GUM warehouse anniversary


Moscow, hammer and sickle

Moscow, Lenin Mausoleum

Then we pass across sad suburbs, equal to each other, followed by huge elctrical plants and cables that run between buildings' roofs rather than underground. 
It's a cruise towards the nature and the clear signs of dominance of the human beings, russian first, and then sovietic, between a disused submarine and aircraft prototypes.
With the Capital behind our back we will cruise on the Volga river that will lead us to the Rybisk Sea, then to the White Lake and in the end to the Onega Lake which is connected to St. Petersburg thanks to Svir and Neva rivers.




Kiji Island (Onega Lake)

This rivers network was a source of survival for the entire Russia. The country can be crossed North to South thanks to its waterways: from the Baltic Sea to the Caspian Sea. The nature was generous in this regard but it's the humans that made the most. The waterways are there thanks to the weirs: an hydraulic technique that allows to face the different levels of water between the rivers.
During our journey we encountered 18 of them, with differences in levels between 8 and 16 meters. Most of them come from the Stalin era, as well as the artificial lakes we cross, that are the result of a will that costed so many lives. In these lakes, with an area of tens of thousands square meters, where once there were villages that are now flooded, we can see only water till the horizon; it looks like we're sailing on a quiet ocean, filled with the tears of all the persons that made possible all of this.

Uglich, artifical lake; St. Nichoals Monastery's bell tower, now flooded

The water flows quiet under the Lenin boat that in its path touches shores lined by birch forests, housing that mimic the historic izbas and dachas owned by the new rich.
Everything seems still, calm, quiet. They tell us life far from the big cities hasn't changed that much lately.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are not Russia, as New York is not America.

To people like us, tourist and travelers, many questions remain to be answered about a complex history that from the Serfs to the Tsars, from the October Revolution to the Stalinist purges, from perestroika to the present, filled the pages of writers' novels and chronicles around the world. But our eyes still remember the charm of an ancient bell tower survived to the flooding of its village, the dam with the hammer and the sickle engraved in concrete, the complex and typical wooden buildings, the Orthodox churches with onion domes which are reflected in the rivers, the imposing architecture as the Palaces of the Tsars in St. Petersburg, the realist art in the Moscow's subway.

And much more keeping your eyes wide open as well as the lens of our camera, the Fujifilm X20.

Grandeur and misery, history and hope, will and sacrifice. Slow pace, we said.


Along the Volga river


St. Pitersburg, Summer Building