Shatsk

Shatsk.

This is a blogpost about a small town in Russia that very rarely sees a foreign visitor. I thought I would give it a little mention on my blog though.

Shatsk is a small town with roughly 6000 inhabitants. Located in central Russia, between the cities of Ryazan and Penza. It has a vodka factory, a meatpacking plant. And a little motel That was all I knew before I came. I found out that is also has a bicycle store. And that was quite important for me during my two days in this little prairie town in the middle of Russia.

Why did I stay in Shatsk?

in the summer of 2018 I was cycling around Russia. The football world cup was in Russia. And for the first time more than 100 years, westerners could travel freely around Russia. I just had to seize that moment and use that as an excuse to visit unknown Russian towns on my bicycle.

Bicycle shop Shatsk

The bicycle shop in Shatsk.

Who throws caltrops by the side of the road?

As I was on the highway between the cities of Ryazan and Penza, my tire hit a caltrop and the inner tube went totally bust. I always carry spare tubes. So this should not be a problem. But for some reason, I had left the little bag with spare tubes in the previous hotel. I had already cycled 70 kilometers that day. And i had 40 kilometers to the next village with accommodation, which was Shatsk. It was raining. It was windy. And it was cold. I also had a fully loaded bike. I thought that getting a ride with a car would prove difficult with my loaded and rain soaked bike. So I decided to walk the remaining 40 kilometers to Shatsk.

Caltrop

Caltrops are a cyclists worst enemy.

I had 6,5 hours before the sun set. Making it a little hard, but doable to get to Shatsk before sunset.

Cycling through Russia

I was cycling through rural Russia during the football world cup.

I actually passed a couple of other small villages. But they were by no means big enough to have a bikestore. They also had no grocery stores, cafes or places to stay overnight. So I walked. I have a lot of stamina. Especially in situations of crisis. I never get scared when these things happen. Happy beer drinking Claus suddenly becomes a very rational Claus. I checked the clock and my GPS every 30 minutes to make sure that my walking speed was fine. And I managed to walk in to Shatsk 15 minutes before sunset, after a nice day of cycling 70 kilometers and walking 40 kilometers, while drawing a loaded tour bike.

Potatoes Russia

Potatoes for sale, outside a house near Shatsk.

Maybe this is why I liked Shatsk so much. Or maybe it was because the little motel in town was owned by Mongolians and has fantastic mongolian food at their little restaurant, Sometime we westerners tend to think that all Russians are pale people with blond hair called Vladimir and Natasha. But Russia is the largest country on the planet, spanning over 6 time zones. And that also means that it is a country with many cultures. Including Mongolian, as Russia borders Mongolia.

Mongolian restuarant Shatsk.

I loved the Mongolian restaurant at my motel in Shatsk.

The next day I found the local bike store. It was located in an old shipping container turned in to a shop. The couple who owned the place were very friendly and went out of their way to find the right sized tube for me. It wa sa little hard as few bicycles in Russia have 29 inch wheels like mine. But we got there in the end, using a lot of sign language and google translate.

We were using google translate because no one I met in Shatsk could speak a word of English. And this was how things were, as soon as I was outside the large cities that hosted the world cup. In my 30 days of tour cycling around Russia, I did not meet a single village person in Russia who could speak English. They simply learn other foreign languages in Russia. But I always found a will to communicate with me.

Going around a country where you have such different backgrounds was really an adventure. But I never felt unsafe cycling around Russia.

When writing this, I am talking as I am further from home than ever. But this is actually only a 2 hour flight from my native Denmark. The cold war kept these two parts of the world apart for a century. But the football world cup gave me the chance to visit places that were otherwise off limit to me. Good news is that Russia has gradually started to increasingly open its borders to westerners after the world cup. So step out of your comfort zone and visit Russia. It’s really an adventure that is surprisingly close to the usual holiday destinations in western Europe.

Rural Russia

You gotta love rural Russia.

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