|For First-Class Camping & Hiking, Head to the Parks
Автор: By Svetlana Korkina
If this month's heatwave has inspired an urge to escape the city and get back to nature, consider a camping and hiking trip in the great outdoors.
The Moscow region offers plenty of picturesque woods, rivers and lakes where visitors can pitch a tent for a couple of days. Those who are willing to explore a little further can take advantage of some great camping facilities at the handful of national parks located within a reasonable distance of Moscow.
One of the most beautiful places to camp is Lake Pleshcheyevo , the main attraction of the Pleshcheyevo National Park in the south of the Yaroslavl region.
Located near the historic town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, the lake covers more than 51 square kilometers and is traditionally included in Golden Ring tours. It is fed by 19 rivers and streams and has shallow water for 200 meters from every shore, making it a pleasant swimming spot in summer and ideal for windsurfers.
Pereslavl was founded by Prince Yury Dolgoruky in 1152, five years after Moscow. Since then, the town and its lake have played host to many of tsars and leaders, starting with Alexander Nevsky, who was born here in 1220 and is commemorated by the St. Alexander Nevsky church in Pereslavl.
At the end of the 17th century, Peter the Great built a training fleet of boats and galleys on Lake Pleshcheyevo. Unfortunately, the fleet was devastated by a fire in 1783, and only one boat survived. The boat, which is known as "botik," or Peter's Boat, is exhibited now in the local museum.
The area's peaceful landscapes also attracted Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, Vladimir Lenin in 1894 and Tsar Nicholas II in 1913, during celebrations to mark 300 years of the Romanov dynasty.
One of the most legendary sites on the lakeshore is the Siny Kamen, or Blue Stone, a huge boulder weighing 12 tons that is said to have sat there for 2,000 years. For centuries, the boulder was worshiped by pagans and even up to the 20th century, people from Pereslavl and the surrounding towns gathered here on Russian Orthodox holidays.
The daily fee for putting up a tent in the Pleshcheyevo Ozero park is 50 rubles. There are a number of small resorts on the lakeshore where campers can pitch a tent or rent a two- or four-person summer cottage.
The park administration offers excursions around the park, including Pereslavl town, local museums and all the historical sites. Visitors can also buy a fishing permit for 30 rubles a day.
A bit further north in the Vologda region, the Russky Sever National Park also draws hundreds of campers from Moscow and St. Petersburg every year.
As well as boasting numerous lakes and streams, the 166,400-hectare park includes the Severo-Dvinskaya canal system, which was built in 1828 and features five navigable canals and seven sluice gates. Among the most beautiful lakes are Siverskoye, Borodayevskoye, which has 15 islands, and Ferapontovskoye, with two islands.
There are also two large forests in the park, Shalgo-Bodunovsky and Sokolsky Bor. The latter stretches 12 kilometers along the banks of the Volgo-Baltiisky canal and is a popular camping spot in summer.
From the three hills, Maura, Sandryeva and Tsipina, which stand up to 80 meters high, visitors can gaze down at the park's pine forests, waterways, church domes and centuries-old monasteries. Two of the four monasteries located on the park's territory were founded as early as the 14th century, and there are also 90 archeological sites dating back even further.
Entrance to the park costs 40 rubles but there are no daily camping fees. The park administration can provide firewood and arrange excursions, as well as laying on mushroom- and berry-picking tours with instructors.
Some visitors will rent a boat (450 rubles an hour) and explore the beauty of the lakes. The boat holds up to 15 people and has a kitchen and shashlyk-cooking facilities. Ecotours, fishing and hunting are also available.
East of Moscow, the Meshchyora National Park, encompassing the scenic Meshchyorsky lowland, is another beautiful camping destination.
Meshchyora features about 60 lakes and rivers that make for wonderful boat tours and are popular with fishermen. The lakes are rich in pike, perch, roach, ruff, crucian carp and other fish, while beavers can be seen almost everywhere digging holes and building dams.
One of the largest lakes in Meshchyora is Lake Beloye, which has a surface area of 33.4 hectares and drops to 50 meters deep. By contrast, Lake Martynovo is just 1.5 meters deep but covers 558.4 hectares, most of which are wreathed in sedge, canes, water lilies and other water flora.
The park provides a range of camping equipment and services.
Visitors can rent four-person tents for 93 rubles per person per day and sleeping bags for 35 rubles. Bonfire sets, which include all the essentials like buckets, plates, pots, spoons and cups, are available for 11 rubles per day. Campers who've brought all the necessities along with them can pay a daily fee of 50 rubles for setting up a tent.
Along with hiking, the park has various entertainment options. Bike rentals are available (30 rubles per day), as are river tours in an inflatable rubber boat (50 rubles per day). Those who fancy a longer-distance trip might prefer a ride in a motor boat on Lake Svyatoye and its inflowing rivers (40 rubles per hour) -- perfect for enjoying Meshchyora's splendid landscapes and for watching ducks, heron and other birds. Visitors can even rent a bus (12 rubles per kilometer).
Villages within the park have local shops selling basic products such as bread and milk, as well as medicines. Campers who don't want the trouble of preparing their own meals can hire a cook for 80 rubles per day. Guides are also available for 180 rubles per day, as well as instructors who teach everything from fishing to making a fire.
A number of old cathedrals still function on the park territory, while the nearby town of Gus-Khrustalny also has a few sites worth visiting, including a crystal museum and plant. The village of Miltsevo is another famous spot, thanks to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who lived and taught math in a local school here from 1956 to 1958. He also wrote one of his short stories, "Matryonin Dvor" (Matryona's Yard), during his time in the village.