Myshkin (pop. ~6000) would be typical Russian province, with empty streets, sleepy blank faces, and all-around air of habitual low-key despair if not for a fortunate idea, successful marketing, and several enthusiasts who made a brand and build an industry around the city’s silly name. Moscow journalist Ilya Medovoy is credited with the concept. He came up with the idea around 1990, which was the height of Perestroika and when things looked bright and promising and the whole nation was in the most cheerful mood since perhaps liberal reforms of 1880 that ultimately led to the 1917 disaster.
I put Myshkin apart from other Gold Ring towns because it lacks the common imposing official style of Soviet/Russian “tourist attractions”. It may not even be on the Gold Ring list. Myshkin is actually fun. Remember that we are in Russia so something being “fun” is rare and thus to be taken seriously. As much as I don’t like the Gold Ring concept, I most definitely recommend Myshkin. I liked it. No kidding. Check my other projects to see that my usual mode is that of boredom and disgust. Coming from me, “I liked it” is most intense praise.
The place is about 150 miles north from Moscow. To get there you’ll travel through Korolev dubbed “The space capital of Russia”, that gaudy Sergiev Posad called “Russian Vatican”, and Uglych, where Ivan the Terrible’s younger son Dimitry was found with his throat cut, thus making it unclear who is to be next, thus provoking a series of ugly events knows as the “Times of Troubles”, thus probably Uglych as the name. Skeptics say that it bore the name long before Ivan the Terrible and a succession of false dimitries but if you look into the history of the place you’ll see that it consists of a succession of happenings you would not want to witness too closely. “Uglich” is from “ugly”. Non negotiable. Kashin and Kalyazin (flooded around 1940 during Stalin’s maniacal driver to turn the whole country into a huge industrial zone connected by waterways to transport barges full enemies of the people north and east, and coal and wood back) are also there somewhere. Yes, come to think of it, Myshkin can be easily made the center of a tour. But then it would become just one of those official places like Vladimir and Suzdal and that god-awful Sergiev Posad with its excess of golden domes and touristy hotels decorated with bears, hammers-and-sickles, Lenins in babushka scarves, and other such symbols of Russian-ness for you foreign tourists. If I want it to remain what it is I should not be promoting Myshkin. Damn poverty. Hope this page turns you off, and only the chosen will follow my recommendation to visit Myshkin. And hire me to get there.
Below is some info on Myshin, and a few odd photos.
Myshkin has fallen victim to a museum mania. At least a dozen operated by the Local History Society, and a few private ones. Most are humorous. Those dedicated to the former glory and how it ended – eg. the one about Myshkin merchants, the backbone of Russian provincial society – are of human scale, which makes them even more moving.
Museums are very inexpensive, typically 50 roubles ($1.7) to enter. Often a donation is requested instead of a fixed fee. You can and are encouraged to talk to people who run these museums and operate workshops.
Describing them individually is beyond me and hardly necessary but if you have a professional interest in any of them ask and I’ll share whatever info I have in my possession. See a few random photos below.
Myshelovka (Mousetrap), the only restaurant we visited, had good coffee and a menu with a decent vegetarian section. Unthinkable elsewhere in the Russian glubinka. ….
Restaurant at Rybinskaya 29…..
Lots of it too. Just ask. With just a bit of luck you’ll get a room from one of the few remaining old-style babushkas. But that may suit authenticity buffs only. I used to complain about these babushkas and their food torture and other quaint Russian rituals before realizing that in the recent years their numbers have dwindled down. They are a disappearing species and the few remaining ones need to be supported and cherished. Submitting to the food ritual that stems from the age when food was truly scarce is a small price to pay to show respect to true Russian babushkas, who are perhaps the most reliable and productive of all social groups that make up the Russian society. Support babushkas. Try making accommodation arrangements with them before turning to official hotels.
For the adventurous –
You can hire me and set up a camp in the vicinity of Myshkin.
For around $250/day you get a truck, a driver, a semi-knowledgeable guide,and a camper with basic sleeping, washing, and cooking facilities. Even a personal cook if you can put up with my quasi-oriental style.
That’s how the camp looks. The camper serves as an office and a kitchen. Tens are for sleeping. The truck and a small generator provide power. Note a fishing rod. It is used to raise the modem to get reliable internet. This arrangement may interest journalists and film-makers who need a semblance of a civilized workplace in the middle of nowhere.
Cooking for a group is done in a large wok. An ingenious device to make a lot of it fast.
Hotels, proper and official
Myshkino Podvorye is one option for a traveller with a comfortable budget. The rates are about average, i.e. $100+ for a double room. Tel. +7-48544-28275, +7-48544-28276, +7-910-977-2004. Moscow representative: +7(495) 497-60-33. http://www.myshkin-inn.ru
Dom Otdykha (“House of Relaxation”) Okhotino, on the other hand, if extremely, incredibly cheap. Something like $25 for a place to sleep and three meals. About 6km north-west from Myshkin, on the other side of the Volga where you get by a drive-in barge. It must have a special name. Please remind me. An adventure of its own. Tel. +7-48544-21571 and +7-48544-32335. OPEN ONLY IN SUMMER!!
Zolotoy Bor (“Golden Oak Forest”). On the edge of Myshkin, 3km from downtown. Good, medium prices (1000-1500 roubles for a double room, which is $35-50) but is summertime said to be mostly booked. Tel. +7-48544-21321.
Getting there by car or bus is too easy so I will not bother explaining. Just follow a map. If coming from Moscow there are no particular surprises. If coming from Rybinsk or Yaroslavl remember that there is no bridge in Myshkin and the ferry does not work in winter.
There is no train station in Myshkin. The nearest one is Station Volga 20-something kilometers from Myshkin. From Moscow it should be Yaroslavsky train and/or Belorussky.
If you want to get there by boat try Tourflot, Moscow, Bolshaya Ordynka 21, 2nd floor, office 201. It is right by Metro Tretyakovskaya, about 10 min. walk from my apartment that is available for rent.
These are both from the recent stop (Sept. 3 2012) and from one week long visit of Alexandra and Theo there 3-4 years ago.
Till recently visitors could closely inspect cars. Now, in line with the trend to control and limit, vehicles have been put behind a fence.
Inside a pavilion dedicated to Prince Myshkin of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot
What to buy in Myshkin
You can order things from an iron smith. There is a hurdy-gurdy expert in Myshkin. Pottery workshops offer to custom make or even teach you to make things that are pleasant to look at and appear to be of high quality.
Myshkin’s industry of scale larger than a one-man workshop is represented by and is probably limited to a felt-boots factory. I recommend felt boots (valenki) as the footware of choice if you live in cold dry climate and are too lazy to bother with shoestrings. There isn’t much worth buying this country produces but among these are felt boots, proper cast-iron pans, “малосольные” (“little salted”) pickles, and good books. Speaking of felt-boots (valineki) you may also want to check out the valenki factory at Vyshni Volochek about half way between Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.
http://digitaljournal.com/article/319274 – A typical touristy article in Newspeak. “Name” is coupled with “charming”, “village” is “tiny”, and “Russian winter” is “harsh”. I hate this sort of language. Please note that if you find it in my pages I resort to it only when business is real slow and I need to attract clients or else risk giving up on luxuries like beer, avocadoes, and shrimp.
These three are good but they are all in Russian:
Tourist information center
Unlike most cities, where the Tourist Information Center operates in a typically Russian fashion – hidden out of sight, closed on weekends, Russian only, go away attitude – Myshkin is said to have a real one. There even are rumours they will answer e-mail enquiries. Write to email@example.com or call +7-48544-22777.
More later, after a long and focused trip to Myshkin. I’m planning a trip there when the trourist season is well over, possibly around October 2012. Anybody wants to go with me, to have your touristy fun, and to sponsor the undertaking financially? I provide a truck and a camper so the exercise will not be expensive at all. You cover direct costs. Fuel, an average of one exploded tire per trip, food, museum admissions. I’m available where there is nothing urgent for me to do. Of course for full “commercial” rate I will go there almost any time.