Volga road trip: Silver Bears

February 10th, 2008  

Topic: Volga road trip: Silver Bears

Volga road trip: Silver Bears
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes is travelling in a Volga car along the Volga river to take a snapshot of life in Vladimir Putin's Russia, as the presidential election looms. This is his fifth piece, from the city of Saratov.
f you've never been to Russia in deepest winter then your impression may be of a land of endless cold and darkness. And indeed it can sometimes feel like that. But not today. Today was wintertime Russia at its very best. I woke to crystal-clear skies and dazzling sunshine. On days like this Russia can look spectacularly beautiful. With the mercury down around minus 12C the countryside is transformed into a fairyland of ice and snow. The freeze-dried birch trees stand out against the flawless sky like giant candyfloss. The green pine trees look for all the world like they've been covered with large dollops of icing sugar. The snow under foot is deliciously hard and crunchy.
The city of Saratov is another unexpected surprise. Russian cities are, as a rule, unrelentingly horrible. The few historic neighbourhoods that weren't erased by Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are now being bulldozed by property developers.

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