Sunday, 13 January 2008

The great outdoors - near Khimki

It being the quiet Sunday immediately after the long New Year holiday, and not too cold (-2C), I set off on the bike for the forest. The first thing I came across was these three ladies in towels only and slippers standing outside this building, smoking. Though it was clearly a sauna, or banya, I was so astonished that I had to turn back and take a picture. Seeing me coming back, they retreated inside, and also I was forced to take the picture while cycling, so it is not much to look at, but it illustrates Rob Leitch's (from Mull, but living in St Petersburg) motto for Russia: "Expect the unexpected!"

Next I found these houses in the old part of Khimki, which was built in the mid-1950s when the Communist idea still had some genuine adherents. Khimki was a closed town then as it had aerospace industries in it--it still does--and many "secret" factories. These were some of the more attractive houses for the privileged workers who manned these high-tech plants and were better paid than average for thier contribution to the struggle against capitalist encirclement. They were probably desirable houses when built and, even now, might make nice homes if properly restored, or even maintained. But they are owned by the municipality and so are decaying tragically.

Then I headed out into the forest. The snow-covered tracks are wonderful for cycling on, and they go on for miles and miles. This is completely untrammelled nature, yet only three miles from the centre of Khimki, and not even as far out as the airport. Any further, and you are in total wilderness. One wonders how SNH's fatuous Landscape Inventory would categorise this ground. The picture below is of a shallow lake, with bullrushes round the edge. Doubtless it provides grand duck hunting in the season, as well as many charming places for discrete picnics at other times of the year.

Beyond the lake, I came to the first of new коттеджи (Cottage) developments, of which there is an almost infinte number round Moscow. I cycled up the hill and in through the back, which the viewer will see is open to the forest. I then nosed around taking pictures and having a look. After that, I cycled to the gate and had to ask the astonished guard to let me out through the high-secrity gate pictured at the bottom.