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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Paramotoring, Fishing, and Bisons!
Two Hours from Moscow
John Harrison

If you want to try something completely different, but not spend a long time getting there, you could do worse than going on an ecotour, in a nature reserve right on the southern edge of the Moscow Oblast. If you have kids, there are plenty of things for them to do.

On the tour that me and my 11 year old daughter went on, we were picked up from our door in Moscow on Friday evening, and driven 110 kilometers to a mini-hotel in Turovo where we stayed two nights. The hotel is about 20 kilometers away from the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve. The hotel turned out to be quite an experience itself. It is run by hospitable Alexander Shakovets and his wife, Anna. They run the hotel, actually a large house, with nicely done-up rooms, as a family business. Anna has three children, so there are numerous kids places both inside and outside the house, which means that I got some much appreciated time off, whilst my daughter played with new friends. The food was good, wholesome, Russian cooking, and the rooms were nice.

The next morning, after horse riding, which my daughter delighted in, we went off to look at the nearby Oka. It flows majestically by. It has a wide, big river feel about it. The water was already cold in the first week of October, but amazingly clear. We walked along the bank for some time, coming across large open spaces of light colored sand, intermittent with patches of grass and rushes. My daughter gathered shells and played with the sand. The fields immediately around the river are low lying, and Anna told us how they are flooded every Spring, and what a great time that is for the kids, to open the front door and see the sea.

After the river, I expressed a desire to find out what paramotoring was all about. Apparently, Alexander won the world championship of this particular sport in 2005. I previously thought that this was exclusively the reserve of athletic young people, i.e., not me. Alexander must have sensed my apprehension, and gave me a training lesson which consisted of running along the ground with wings attached. I was worried that I might take off and be swept off by air turbulence somewhere a long way away. Editor lost in the wind I thought. He assured me that that was impossible, that you could only gather enough speed and lift if you jumped off a cliff (right! I thought), or at least a hill. Nevertheless, on the second run, I felt an upward pressure on the harness.

I now wanted for nothing else but to be a birdman. Alexander fixed what looked like an overgrown lawnmower engine to his back and took off in the air, did a few loops and swooped gracefully down. He looked at me kindly and explained the 5 day training course that you need to go on to fly one of these things. Next, he brought out a three wheeled cart, with a passenger seat, with the same kind of engine and wings attached, and took me and my daughter up with him.

It would take a visit to a wide-screen cinema to convey to you the sensations I experienced during that flight. At first, I have to say I was rather frightened as the little cart gathered speed and abruptly soared up into the sky. The ground dropped away underneath my feet, there seemed to be nothing no cockpit, no fuselage, nothing between me and the ground. We circled and climbed for what seemed like an interminably long period, but was only in fact a few minutes. I saw forest stretching out in every direction below. A large patch of golden colored trees to the right, stretching to the horizon, and to the left what looked to be like untouched, darker conifers. Suddenly I was aware that I was six hundred meters up in the sky and began to feel my stomach going. Exactly at that moment Alexander cut the engine, at least I hoped that that was what had happened. He reassuringly said now we are going to fly without the engine, the best way. We swooped around, much like a bird does. Slowly the ground became less part of the horizon and the people on it, including my daughter, became larger than the size of half a matchstick. The sensation was indescribable. I forgot about feeling sick and enjoyed swooping around like a bird, with the wind. I wanted the flight to continue, but we were already landing. How much does that 5 day course cost? Can you paramotor in Moscow?, now that would be a way to get round the traffic jams.

On the way back to the house Alexander showed off his perfect shooting skills, shooting as well as fishing is something else on offer for guests at the house.


The next day we visited the Priosko-Terrasny Reserve, which is a small, 5,000 hectares nature reserve. The reserve contains a 200 hectare bison reserve, of 70 beasts. The animals are used to us humans, and come up to ask for carrots or grass, making it possible to get very good photographs of mammals which survived the last ice age.

The bisons quarters take up only a small corner of the reserve. The reserve itself is not the same thing as a national park, open for all, is more an open air laboratory where nature lovers, ecologists, anybody interested or who simply likes being close to nature, can experience 160 year old pine forests in primeval condition. The reserves staff are adamant about preserving the state of the forests, and visitors are not allowed to stray off the beaten path, or even stop their cars in unauthorized places. On a very pleasant walk through the heart of the reserve, the director, Dr. Michael N. Brynsikh, pointed out the many unique features of the forest. Three zones meet each other here: forest, forest steppe and steppe. I have got used to seeing the countryside here strewn with litter, in a worn out condition something that I became aware of immediately after leaving the territory of the reserve. But whilst you are inside, you dont want to raise your voice above the sound of the forest. You enjoy untouched forest in the full sense of the word. Here the main conversation is whether or not the next generation of pine trees is going to survive the next onslaught of deer in the winter, or the damage a herd of boars did on their last rummage through the hinterlands. And all of this is less than two hours away from Moscow. It was a great break.

My tour was organized by Astravel. This ecotour is available for small groups, but make sure you book well in advance, they get very busy. Tel: 781 2702, 781 2700,



Dr. Michael N. Brynsik, dirctor of the Priosko-Terrasny Reserve

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