Friday, November 21, 2008


They say St. Petersburg isn't Russia. They say Peter the great succeded, he built himself a truly European city that has little to do with mother bear.

There's evidence to the contrary.

Nevertheless, I decided to take a deeper plunge while I'm here. The city has five major railway stations, gateways to the distance. I chose the Moskovskaya and took a train two and a half hours south east of the city, to a random place called чудово.

This was my first view of my destination:

I began walking and soon realized that this place was hardcore, that it defined hardcore. I've been to worn, post-Communist towns in Slovakia and such during the 90s. They looked better than this.

Here in Chudovo, Lenin still persides over the square and the smelliest polluted river is flowing twixt commie-blocks and ramshackle farmhouses.

There was literally nowhere to have lunch, only scores of tiny grocery stores all offering sausages, bottled kvas, the occasional pickle and not much more. The only sign of gentrification is in the clothes. Grownups and teens are dressed not in a westernized way, but in an conscious manner that strongly contrasts the townscape, children are in bright colors that Vladimir Ilich would have frowned at.

Almost all Chudovoers, regardless of age group, seemed to be in a good smily mood. If there's anything Russia's got to spare, it's character. I swear I'm inspired, but this does not mean that Chudovo is not a shithole. It most certainly is, and this becomes ever more apparent as night draws in.

Yes, you guessed it right. I missed the afternoon train out and had to wait for a nocturnal one. I tried to find the internet, to let my friends in St. Petersburg know I'll be late. No internet. I tried to find an English speaker to help me work out the phone information so I can call them. No English. For a few rare hours, I was outside of globalization. It felt a bit like being dead.

7 comments: said...

I like your blog.

Anonymous said...

so you didn't like chudovo at all?

well i born there and if you was traveling with me i was showing you a beautiful places that chodovo has.


Yuval said...

To tell the truth, Inna, I liked it very much. The visit there was one of the most precious days of my Russian trip.

What I felt most strongly, though, and what I saught to point out in this post, is the obcsene contrast between St. Petersburg's condition and that of a town like Chudovo. I felt as though there are two Russias: one in the limelight, one forgotten.

I believe that there are beautiful places around the town and in it and if I ever happen back there I will seek them out.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely true. Great observation. I've been there, actually I still own an appartment in one of those awfull apartments pictured. It's so safisfying that I don't have to live there anymore.

Anonymous said...

I have to say i loved this post!

My dad works in Chudovo and i don't think i'll ever forget the first time i visited. It was my first time ever in Russia, and we came at night. When my dad parked the car and i looked at the house i was sure i could make the whole six-story building collapse by kicking it. Finding place for a picky person like me to eat was impossible and the only place i found cozy in the whole Chudovo was my dad's living room + the place he works in, a finnish-owned factory.

He has worked there for four years now, and i've lived here in St. Petersburg for three years. I love it here, even though i can find millions of things to complain about. I even enjoy the two-day visits to Chudovo we make once a year. It's the sort of place that makes me appreciate the country i'm from. At the same time, Chudovo is much prettier in the summer. My dad likes it there and does not like the fact that he has to leave this fall.


Anonymous said...

I got bored at work and random googled some small places where I was working earlier and ended up here.

I've visited Chudovo many times because I had a project at URSA factory there. Totally staying almost 3 months in Chudovo. It's one of the most memorable projects I've had. Really nice memories from Chudovo. I met a lot of local people and had fun with them, enjoying the local nightlife at Disco Adrenaline, cafe next to hotel "Zwanka" (or something like that) and some other places. In the beginning it looks like a dead city but it definately has some life inside also.

The first time I visited this place it was a huge shock. It was also the first time in Russia for me. I definately agree that this is the real Russia, nothing like St. Petersburg.

- Eero

lyud said...

I have been there twice, always stayed at the Cigma Hotel on the H-way to Moscow-Saint Petersburg. Had a great time with locals, played billiard, went out fishing, great fish, b-b-q and beautiful and interesting girls at the local night club. Beers were inexpensive and food the same. Nothing to complaint. I loved Lenin statue, true national hero during other times, I did not go there to compare roads, lack of high end restaurants, etc... I knew Chudovo ain't gonna be like NYC and my trip was about having fun, meeting local modest people. I recommend it. I will never forget those wonderful days!