Descent into Koporye


Tourist season is over here in Petersburg, and for good reason.  Here the twilight of the year brings the cold of the Russian winter with the rain of an Indian monsoon, all under the cover of near-constant darkness.

But nevertheless, we felt like getting somewhere really off the beaten path, where not even Russians usually get to.  The fortress of Koporye, a military stronghold dating from 1240 AD that remains virtually un-restored, pure ruins, seemed like a good bet.  Its location in a cedar forest to the south of Petersburg doesn’t even attract the Russian dacha vacationer (a specimen who, I can attest, is perfectly content to splash about on the “beach” of a muddy brook before supping on some butter-slathered pork fat) due to the proximity of the region’s largest nuclear power plant.

As a rather spoiled study abroad student, I might say smugly that the ruins were middling to average.  I mean, broken stones are broken stones, and the initial charm wears off — “But what’s under that tower?  Oh, another featureless underground chamber” — after approximately four hours under a mean winter rain.  Welcome to the swamps of St. Petersburg.

Plank bridge through the bowels of a tower.

Plank bridge through the bowels of a tower.

The best part of the trip was getting there (almost didn’t make it, of course).  A bleary-eyed, 7 a.m. sprint to the Pushkinskaya metro, a breathless climb up the escalator, a cold elektrichka ride to freeze the fresh sweat in the small of your back — reminds me why my ideal Sunday morning is spent in untroubled slumber.

train-leaving-koporye-2After the elektrichka, we got on an ancient local train that shuffled us past a pastoral of pale fields and smokestacks somehow connected to the web of structures comprising the region’s nuclear power plant, something like the visions of a French Impressionist banished to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

impressionist-train-window2At 9:55 a.m., we disembark in the middle of nowhere.  At 10:00, a purple Lada emanating a heavy bass beat splashes by.  At 10:07, cell phones lose contact with the civilized world.  At 10:15, same purple Lada returns to give us a respite from the rain and a lift to the fortress.

The young dude driving didn’t say much.  I guess if I lived in out here, I’d probably spend my Sunday driving around listening to ’80s Russian dance music, too.

We climbed around the fort for awhile, but a bus full of Russian tourists appeared unexpectedly and drove us out.  Just goes to show you that in the era of the flight-hotel-rental car package, nowhere is safe.

Luckily, a salmon sandwich and a chance to indulge my babushka photo-fetish roused my from these gloomy musings on the way back.  babushka-in-window


2 Responses to “Descent into Koporye”

  1. […] and the Bear writes about a trip to the fortress of Koporye. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova  Print Version […]

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