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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Into the Forest

Russian forests evoke many images and emotions. Featured prominently in Russian literature, they are both tangled and tame. Some sport manicured pathways and fountains, while other corners shade wildflowers and weeds, picturesque in their ability to fill an empty patch.

I go there to escape the heat of the scorching summer sun. Peace and quiet reign in the forest of my first choice, close to a cathedral under renovation. I am undisturbed by petitioners or picnickers alike.

But it is early in the morning when most revelers and ramblers are still asleep. At the stroke of ten, the swelling sound of an orchestra fills the forest for all of ten or fifteen seconds. I pause, only to discover that it stops, almost before it begins. A war memorial marking the hour. The birds surrounding me continue their calls and songs, trickling fountains babble, again enshrouding the forest in deep, hushed mystery.

I visit another forest close to the center of symbolic Starii Krai. This family fun park beckons those children who wish to rent a small, pedal-powered car–whether a VW bug, a military jeep, a sleek sports car, or any of a dozen different selections:  10 minutes for 50 rubles (almost $2). Closeby, a young boy sails his remote-controlled sailboat on a placid pool, while families watch turtles and geese sunning themselves on the banks. There’s a kiddie carousel, and a trampoline, and swings, and a slide. Disneyland it’s not, but the typically Russian flavor of it all, with old-fashioned cotton candy and plastic pinwheel vendors dotting the landscape encourage me to bring the girls here. They will not find another experience like it outside of Russia.

Just a few months ago, my wintertime flight from this region to Moscow was diverted. Heavy snowstorms closed all of the Moscow airports. We ended up landing in Nizhny Novgorod and as we circled, I spotted cross-country skiers silently speeding through the forests below.

Historically, forests hold secrets. I wonder what the forest knows about me. I am not here to pick mushrooms, nor to picnic, nor to find Baba Yaga’s hut. Instead, I seek a quiet place where I may collect my thoughts and gather strength for the days ahead.


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