Hello! From now on I also offer my services as a private guide. I don’t expect it to be an easy thing, but one has to start somewhere. So, I’ve decided to start with a post on those attractions, the provinces have for tourists.
The Charm Of Provinces
Cities rule the world. Cities are magnets. They accumulate all kinds of resourses – innovative technologies, best specialists, biggest companies & biggest money, newest modern conveniences. As well as scientific research institutions, treasures of culture and art, even the best hotels, restaurants and all kinds of entertainment… Gosh, it looks like cities have absorbed everything! What’s left to the provinces then? I mean, besides agriculture and the so called “healthy life in fresh air”?..
What’s, actually, our idea of “provinces”? – Small-scale, simple, traditional, modest or even cheap. In a word, PLAIN (some would say, BORING). Is that so, though?..
Well, I’d say, the provinces are no less magnetic, than cities. Just, their magnetism is of a different nature. It does not blind and deafen you with crazy lights and noises. It does not concave your mind with the inescapable rhythm of the daily cycle. Instead, it convexes it, so to speak, – makes you reach out to all those inconspicuous things, facts and places, you’d never learn of otherwise. It awakens your curiosity! It makes you less of a robot, and more of a human being.
Personally I love the charm of the provinces. Neat little towns, where everyone is a neighbour. Quiet cordiality and openness of local people, their unpretentious ways. Just ask them, and they will tell you the life-story of their place, show you to its sweet old corners and beautiful historical relics. Provincial monasteries and churches are real pearls sometimes, being not just interesting to see and visit, but also the source of many local legends, that live for centuries, turning into fairy tales. Mysterious ruins, with shades of the past hiding in each crack. Nobility’s castles and estates, abandoned and in decay or still inhabited and in perfect order…
In Russia even a city with half a million of population may be considered provincial. My native city of Bryansk is about 1 000 years old, and has around 450 000 of people. But together with its region that makes over 1 200 000. Of course, you can still find really provincial corners in Bryansk – old wooden houses with gardens at the outskirts, or a few streets even in the central part of it, quite country-side in style. But for true, authentic provincial spirit you should definitely go deeper into the region.
Some towns there are quite old. Starodub was founded in the XIth century, Sevsk, Pogar, Trubchevsk and Karachev are known since the XIIth, Mglin – since the XIVth, Pochep – since the XVth, Novozybkov – since the XVIIth… While there are also Klintsy, Klimovo, Navlya, Suzemka, Zlynka, Komarichi…
Bryanskovites are really proud of their rich and glorious history, as well as their heroic ancestors, who fought in every war on the Russian land. One of them is the legendary warrior Peresvet, who killed Chelubey, his Tatar rival, in their single combat, that opened the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). That victory eventually led to the elimination of the Tatar-Mongol yoke.
Peter the Great left a significant imprint in this land’s history. One of the famous Decembrists, Sergei Trubetskoy’s family name is derived from the name of Trubchevsk, where his ancestors ruled. Their burial vault is still there.
Within a few minutes’ drive from Pochep finds itself a settlement, called Krasny Rog. Count Alexey Tolstoy, a writer and a poet, second cousin of the Russian literature giant Leo Tolstoy, owned an estate nearby. The “castle” is actually a contemporary copy of his house. But the Assumption church, built in 1777, has survived until now, in spite of being a wooden structure. The tomb (the immured vault) of the count and his wife is right there.
One more great name of the Russian poetry, related to the province of Bryansk, is Fyodor Tyutchev. He was also a linguist, a diplomat, a statesman, and quite an outstanding person. Tyutchev was born and spent a part of his life in his family estate Ovstug, that is not far from Bryansk. The museum there is also a contemporary building, but the park around it, with the pond and the restored church composes a great view.
Close by is Vshchizh – an ancient Russian city, destroyed by Mongols in the XIIIth century, that now is a small village. No wonder, that many Tyutchev’s poems were inspired by the beauty of this place. It’s a wonderful corner, a piece of nature, frequented by local painters in every season. And my former colleague on her day-out with friends found an XIth century key there! Scholars from History Faculty of the State’s University of Bryansk determined her finding’s age.
Where else would you just step on history, lying on the ground, but in the provinces?..