Rossosh in the South of Russia is where my mother was born. Last time we were there with her was 25 years ago and to tell you the truth I do not remember much. There were stories, photos and those silent family movies from that last visit which in reality constructed my own ‘memories’ of it all. It seems as if I remember something but most probably it was all just created in my mind by what I later saw in the family albums.
This was a very old-school journey. Regardless of all those shops and sushi and ugly contemporary buildings and shopping centers you can see in any Russian city. There is something to this place which suggests a very heavy trace of the old ways of life still present in the town and the villages around it.
It was a rather short visit too, for family reasons we had to come back earlier – but I guess we saw almost everything we could. My mother who would spend her summer holidays at her babushka’s place as a child, was obviously taken aback by all those changes and now absent places, buildings and other objects which she preserved in her memories.
What was present though was this stupendous aroma of the sunflower seeds being processed for sunflower oil. Just sweeping you off your feet and making you instantly craving for a pan of sizzling potatoes! This land where Rossosh stands is called Chernozem or black soil. And it IS black!
And almost everything grows there miraculously fast, just drop an apricot seed in your garden – and you will get an apricot tree soon! The problem with this region is that the droughts can easily ruin all your harvest, turning you into a bankrupt. We visited our relatives in a village called Ukrainsky, a former sovkhoz (it is in fact close to the border with Ukraine).
And they actually do speak a certain Ukrainian-like dialect there. And their Russian is also reminding me of what I heard in Ukraine… And these traditional mazanki houses (wikipedia claims it’s called wattle and daub in English) just transport you somewhere into the Gogol’s tales!
Look closer at the roof – it is first covered with reed and then with composition roofing (a later addition) – a traditional way applied to most of the houses in the town, Mom says. And these windows are amazing! It’s obvious that glass was kind of expensive and rare back when it was built!
My childhood memories do not contain any of these details. I just remember that the street we lived in (in a third of a former merchant’s house, separated into tiny one-floor apartments with all the conveniences in the yard) had more trees and that there was that mount of sand in front of it. And we hid a sandal in there with my sister, just to make our mother’s life easier, you know 🙂
Saw these nalichniki (traditional window casing moldings) too often in Rossosh to believe they were kind of a characteristic trait of the town. My guess is that they introduced them somewhere in the 1970s to make them all look alike…
This window belongs to the only house we saw which had the authentic reed-covered roof. With all its ruinous look it had this curtain moving with the wind. Someone used to care for this house, someone made this window look pretty. Love decadence but at the same time I always feel sad when I see something which was useful and who knows, very cozy too, so irreversibly abandoned.
Hand-painted advertisements promising you loads of cheap fur coats and bed sheets to be sold at the local house of culture, – THE best! Next to it was an abandoned park with a ruined pavilion and the remains of the dancing place. AND the aroma of sunflower seeds as there IS a functioning factory still!
A very 1970s view to my mind. There’s something about this town that is either 1990s or 1970s, I couldn’t make out the period it got stuck in exactly. The other thing which amazed us was the feeling of spring rather than of late autumn the last day we were there – such a disarming and confusing feeling when you see those multi-coloured leaves just about to fall to the ground!
The coat of arms of Rossosh on the gates of the market place – the town took its name from the Old Slavic for ‘bifurcating river’. And the apples there are AMAZING there! And it’s such a SHAME they never reach our shops here in St Petersburg. They are pink inside, they are super sweet and not acidic as our local apples are. And they make thick apple juice with no sugar added! Ohhh…
They also make wonderful honey there. But in vain did we search for it in the local shops and at the market even. If you need authentic honey from Rossosh you have to buy a local paper, find a producer and make an appointment. This is how you avoid buying Moscow honey while travelling in the honey region!
Golden Lenin. Mum says it’s typical of the Southern towns to paint their heroes in gold. The WWII monument was also painted in gold. BTW, there is this explanatory plaque for the new generations apparently: Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the first socialist state in the world. Probably to justify his still standing out there in the middle of the square.
A local Venus de Milo – a pioner-girl without a hand. This couple is right in front of the school where my great grandmother used to work. I remember her telling me about the war times when they had to write on the book margins for the lack of any paper. And she also taught me to read faster and lots of other curious things I struggle to recall now…
- bookstore & postcards – none
- museum – nope
- local food – homemade borscht, potatoes and apple juice! Plus a nice fruit braid and delicious grapes…
- market – full of clothes and other junk because we were there on Monday when the food is not sold there
- old town – it IS old anyway 🙂 There’s a 19th century church near the market and merchant houses here and there
I definitely miss traveling in Russia this autumn. Even though it takes ridiculously long train rides to get around, I enjoy this slow-tempo discovering of my country!
P.S. Just remembered two hilarious names we encountered in Rossosh – Aphrodite Lux for a beauty salon and Ritual Plus for funeral services. Everything better than the ordinary!