From Russia With Love, Part II or A 4 Hour Drive From Moscow to a “Golden Ring” Town

From Russia With Love, Part II or A 4 Hour Drive From Moscow to a “Golden Ring” Town

I have decided to jump to nearly the end of my journey in Russia and a visit to the small, ancient countryside town of Sudzal.  Probably nothing profound in the post, but just sharing some more of the history and beauty of the country I knew so little about.

Northeast of Moscow is a ring of ancient cities known as “The Golden Ring”.  These towns played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church.  The town of Sudzal, on the banks of the Volga River, is one of the oldest Russian towns dating to the 12th century.  It is also currently the smallest of the Golden Ring towns with a population of just under 10,000.   The last post, I introduced Yulia.  Yulia was my host, along with her mother, while I was in Russia.  She was also my roommate when I lived in Changning in Hunan Province.  Yulia’s father offered to drive us 4 hours to the town of Suzdal.  He wanted me to experience the Russian countryside.



On a beautiful morning with sapphire blue skies and sunshine, Yulia’s father picked us up bright and early to start our journey.  Note, I am a couple (insert a cough cough) years older than Yulia’s father.  For some reason, in his eyes, he had a couple of 10-year-old daughters on a drive in the country…..cotton candy, cheese puffs, and a giant pink stuffed rabbit just for me.  I giggled and said, “thank you”.  Yes, the pink stuffed rabbit traveled back to the USA with me when I left Moscow for Beijing and then on to the states.

With his 2 “little” girls in the back seat, we started out on our journey.  When we were outside of the hustle and bustle of Moscow traffic, we made our first stop of the day at a small roadside restaurant.  Here we had coffee homemade donuts and chebureki.  Chebureki is a deep fried turnover stuffed with minced meat, onions, and dill.  It was amazingly delicious.  We ate and continued our journey through the sleepy countryside.  I was enjoying the picturesque scenery dotted with the onion domes of Russian Churches when after about an hour, dad pulled to the side of the road and jumped out of the car.  He trotted to what looked like a roadside vendor.  He returned to the car with the infamous giant pink rabbit for me and cotton candy and cheese puffs for both me and Yulia.  It was at this point I realized that for today whenever we were with “dad”, I wasn’t a 54, at the time, year old woman, but a young girl on a drive in the country. Thank goodness I was a grownup again when we went to dinner as we sampled several types of Russian alcoholic beverages.

Arrival in Sudzal, Yulia had arranged for young and handsome Alexander to spend about 4 hours showing us around and giving us the history of the town.  I won’t get into everything he covered or this will become a long and possibly boring post, but I would like to hit the highlights.   Again, Russia surprised me and I fell in love.  In my mind’s eye, Russia was a cold, grey, unwelcoming country.  Each day I spent in the former Soviet Union as I remember it being called, I realized what I thought about Russia was entirely wrong.  It is a warm, (I’m not talking climate because Yulia tells me Russian winters are brutal), beautiful country which is full of history and culture.

Alexander started our walking tour at the sight of the Kremlin, now basically a hill.  The Kremlin sight is also home to the Cathedral of the Nativity.  Without going into a lot of detail, Sudzal is home to 305 monuments, 30 churches, 14 bell towers, and 5 monasteries and convents.  We visited the Convent of the Intercession, founded in 1364, where it is said in 1698, Peter the Great had his wife exiled after they divorced.  Alexander continued to share the history as we toured many of the sights, including climbing to the top of one of the Bell Towers which is being restored.  After getting past the babushka wearing lady at the entrance, we made our way to the top for a beautiful view of the Russian countryside.  This was our final sight to visit and Alexander returned us to Yulia’s waiting father.

I am inserting an FYI here, just because I found it interesting.  I noticed that often throughout the countryside, I saw 2 churches right next to each other.  Alexander asked if I knew why this was. My first thought was male and female. That possibly there were times men and women could not attend church together.  Wrong!  One church is generally smaller and “closer to the ground”.  The second church is sometimes larger with soaring, often onion dome, steeples.  The smaller church was easier to heat being low to the ground, so it was the winter church.  The usually taller, larger church was the summer church. Bottom line, one is heated, one is not.

Our “dad” suggested we eat in Sudzal for some typical local dishes and alcohol. This was fine by me.   Alexander directed us to a lovely restaurant where we had a nice table on the porch. I can’t tell you all the food we consumed as I didn’t take notes.  I just know I got a taste of very traditional local food.  I also know that I was not a fan of the caviar ordered by Yulia’s father.  It was served on a bed of shredded beets. We had a couple of appetizer platters with bread, meat, cheeses, veggies and a lot of dill. I had a chicken dish with a sour cream sauce and mashed potatoes that was out of this world.  Yulia had a meat stew.  Before the meal even started, I had 4 “traditional” alcoholic beverages in front of me.  One was a honey mead and the others were vodka based and infused with local herbs or fruit. If I recall, I slept on a bit of the long journey home.

We finished our meal and started the drive back to Dolgoprudny.  We had daylight during much of the journey home as the sun doesn’t set until nearly 10 pm.  Of course, it gets daylight around 4 am also.  We finally made it home around 11:30 pm.  Me with my pink rabbit in tow, we were both ready to fall into the bed for the night as we walked about 18 km over the course of the day.  I was very grateful to Yulia and her father for taking the long trip into the historic countryside.  It gave me a totally different view of the country I knew so little about.


Arriving Home


James Michener said,  “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home”.  My eyes have been opened to the food, customs, religion, and people of Russia. What a beautiful, warm country.  I hope to see more of it in the future.

Some random photos from our day…….

I Survived a Chinese Hospital, Part II

I Survived a Chinese Hospital, Part II

Technically, this should be From Russia With Love, Part II, but, since I spent a good portion of today at the hospital, I pushed Russia aside and decided on part II of The first thing I will say is that this was a radically different experience than the first one.

Roll back to February of this year and Spring Festival.  I was traveling to Suzhou, Tongli, and Shanghai before leaving for my holiday in Bali.  My driver to the train station in Jinan dropped me off a short walk from the station.  I was pulling a small roller suitcase and came upon a small “fence” for lack of a better word.  Basically, it was an iron barricade blocking cars from pulling onto the square.  Me, thinking I am still young and fit decided to jump over the fence holding my suitcase.  Why didn’t I just set it over and then step over the fence, I have no idea, stupidity, I guess.  The fence was probably knee height and as I jumped my right foot didn’t make it. Yes, I was a spectacle landing on my suitcase with my ankle wrapped around the iron rail.  I jumped up as quickly as possible, which probably wasn’t quickly or gracefully and hurried on my way toward the train station not stopping to see who saw me face plant on my suitcase. I limped to the station, got my ticket and soon boarded the train for my approximately 4-hour journey.  Once on the train, I popped a couple of Advil as I knew soreness was in my future.







My Noodles










I arrived in Suzhou, found my hotel, which just happened to be next to a noodle shop, ate and went to bed as I knew I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow.  The ankle was a little sore when I woke so I took some more Advil as I planned on much walking on the canals in Suzhou.




15km later I arrived back to the hotel for the night and planned to visit Tongling the next day, which included much more walking.  The following day I would head to Shanghai and more walking.














The Bund, Shanghai


All this walking was probably a really bad idea, but, I wanted to see the sights, so I pushed on.  By the time I returned to Dong’e my ankle was lovely shades of purple.  Luckily, one of my little’s father is a doctor.  When he brought her to lessons, I asked him to look at it. He said it looked worse than it probably was because of all the walking.  He advised me to rest and elevate as much as possible before I left for Bali.  By the time I returned from Bali, it was pretty much back to normal.

It’s now the end of April, I am jumping and dancing with my kids at kindergarten and twist the same ankle again.  No bruising this time, but boy did it swell up.  I elevated it and iced it which helped.  If I would stand for any length of time or do a little walking it was quite painful and would swell in strange tubular ways.  That is how I ended up at the hospital today.

This time, we (me and one of my semi-English-speaking friends) went to “The People’s Hospital”.  This is not the same hospital as my first experience.  This hospital is fairly new, within the last 5 years, I believe.  The Dong’e People’s Hospital is actually a partner hospital with The Loma Linda University Health Global Health Institute.  There are also international nursing service opportunities through the Global Health Institute’s International Service Program, visit for more information.  I just stumbled upon this information by accident.


We left for the hospital at 8:00 am by scooters.  When we arrived, we had to check in at the desk and pay 200 RMB or about $30 which was to see a doctor and have an x-ray.  After the doctor examined my ankle, he decided I needed an MRI instead of an x-ray.  Back to the desk to pay another 300 RMB or about $45 since the MRI is a tad more expensive than an x-ray.  Next to wait for my turn for my MRI.  At this point, it was about 9 am.  With the number of people in front of me, I was told they would probably call for me around 10:40 am.  Ok, no problem, we would just wait outside the MRI area.  The hospital, I found out is also a teaching hospital.  As we were waiting, a group of doctors and students came by.  What?  A foreigner!!! They stopped to chat, and the lead Dr. spoke very good English.  He wanted to know why I was there, is there any way he could help me, etc.  My friend asked him to see if he could get us pushed up in the line.  He went to the office but came back and told us he couldn’t move us up.  No problem, thank you.  AND then they had to take pictures. Of course, this isn’t anything I am not used to.  Off they went and finally around 10:50 I was called for my MRI.  After having me remove my earrings, I followed the Dr. into the MRI room.  It was a nice open MRI.  He got me set up and 15 minutes later I was told the results would be available anytime after 2 hours.  We decided to head home for lunch and a nap and then return to the hospital around 3:00 pm.


The Open MRI, not my photo, but it looked like this.



My report we printed from what looked like an ATM machine









3:00 pm, we headed back to the hospital, checked in at the desk and got our instructions.  We were to return to the MRI area, swipe my card (I was given a type of ID card when I first arrived) at the machine near the MRI area and it would print my results. We were to take these results back to the original Dr. I saw when I arrived.  After viewing the pictures on his computer and reading the results he decided he wanted someone with more expertise to take a look.  Great! We were sent to the Orthopedic Surgery floor where another Dr. was waiting for us.  He reviewed the pictures and explained everything to me using a plastic model of the foot.  He explained there were no fractures and no tears in the ligaments or achilles.  Good news.  He did say my achilles was stretched which is why I was having pain there and that I also had soft tissue damage.  Treatment….4 to 6 weeks in a stabilizing boot.  Here’s the funny/not funny/funny thing.  They didn’t have the boot.  The Dr. had me order one from Taobao, the Amazon of China.  It will arrive in 2 to 3 days, until then, elevate and stay off my feet as much as possible.


The surgical floor where they sent me.



My fancy footwear for the next 4 to 6 weeks.







Not nearly as exciting as my first experience with a Chinese hospital, but I wanted to share this very positive experience.  I can’t say enough about the kindness and helpfulness of the staff.  That being said, I am not sure what an MRI cost in the states, but I saw 3 doctors and had an MRI for $75.

China never ceases to surprise me and here are some boring photos of my ankle, which I was glad a photographed as all the doctors looked at them.

I leave you with a quote from Peter Pan, “To live

Weird tubular swelling

will be an awfully big adventure”.



This was 5 days after my initial fall.


Yup, it was a tad swollen