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Journey to Krasnoe-- Diligence — Road - Bridges-Inns—Istvost
chiks—Peasants' dress--Dreary landscape-Novogorod - Russian village-Military colonies—TorjokArrival at Krasnoe-Description of the place—Russian farming-Peasants' houses Hospital and bath.
Krasnoe, July 12th, 1837. You will be glad to see by the date of this letter, that we have reached the place of our destination for the present, and that we are fairly established as visitors in a Russian country house. We are now in the Province or Government of Tver, and about four hundred miles south of Petersburg. In my last, I told you we were anxious to start on our journey, but that no diligence was to be had, and we were detained for two days longer, making frequent but fruitless enquiries at all the offices. On the evening of the 30th, however, as I was returning home after an unsuccessful search, I fortunately spied the object of which I was in quest, namely, a diligence for four persons, passing slowly along through the street. My servant, who was with me as interpreter, ascertained that it
was just arrived from Moscow, and, having set down its passengers, was proceeding to the office. To this place I, of course, lost no time in making my way, and engaged the diligence, which I was told would be ready to start, if I chose, in two hours: I, however, preferred setting out in the morning.
Though we were only going as far as Torjok, which is five hundred versts, we were obliged to pay for the diligence all the way to Moscow, two hundred versts further. The price was three hundred and eighty roubles, somewhat more than sixteen pounds. A Russian verst is about three quarters of a mile: the rouble, if in coin, is worth about ten pence; if in paper, about ten pence half-penny: as in all payments the former is understood unless the contrary is explicitly stated, the rouble may in general be considered as equivalent to a French franc.
The expense of engaging a diligence between Petersburg and Moscow is considerably more than that of posting, and the additional cost was of course still greater for us, since we were only conveyed about two-thirds of the distance, while we bad to pay for the whole ; for strangers, however, who arrive without any carriage of their own, it is very convenient to travel in this manner.
The vehicle having been brought over-night into the yard of our lodgings, for the convenience of packing the luggage, by nine o'clock in the morning of the 1st, every thing was ready; the conductor, who
spoke a little French, arrived; four horses abreast were put to, and we started on our journey, having delivered to the conductor our passports, authorising us to leave St. Petersburg. After passing the barrier, where a handsome triumphal arch is in progress of erection, and will soon be finished, we found ourselves on an excellent macadamized road, which is completed all the way to Moscow. The bridges are handsome and solid, being built of granite, with a cast-iron balustrade of an open pattern, exhibiting the Imperial Eagle, with helmets, swords, fasces, &c. The new bridges are not yet all finished, but the deficiency is in every case supplied by a safe, temporary wooden bridge.
At distances of from fifty to a hundred versts apart along this road, are handsome inns belonging to the crown; some of the apartments in them being reserved for the Imperial family, and only used for ordinary travellers in case of necessity. The innkeeper has the house furnished, on conditions which forbid his charging any thing for the use of the rooms, which are kept always heated in winter: the traveller pays merely for what he orders, and the price of every thing, from a cup of tea to a dinner is fixed by a printed tariff which is hung up in every room, in French and German as well as Russian. These inns are a very great comfort and accommodation, for which travellers are indebted to the liberality of the late Emperor Alexander, who built them to re
place the palaces which were formerly kept up along this road, at a great expense, for the use of the Imperial family, without any advantage to the public at large. We travelled from eight to ten miles an hour, and reached Torjok on the morning of the 3rd instant, after a journey of forty-nine hours. The post-horses are in general miserable-looking little animals, but they are much better than they appear, and can go both far and fast. No sort of care is taken of them, and the manner of treating them would soon destroy less hardy creatures.
The Russian postillions, istvostchiks, or, rather, yemstchiks, as they are called, always drive from the box. A great deal of time is lost in changing horses, an operation which we seldom performed in less than half an hour: there is always a great deal of bargaining and disputing as to who is to go, among the peasants who keep the post-horses, and the question seems generally to be decided by lot: they have, however, rules, though I do not understand them. We frequently were driven by a lad of fifteen, but they all seemed perfectly skilful in driving four-inhand, though in a very different fashion from the team of an English coach. The istvostchiks seem, generally speaking, a gay good-humoured set of people: one stage, however, we had a very sulky fellow, who did not drive at all to the satisfaction of the conductor, and the latter rated him, till at last the man, in rage, stopped, jumped down, and was pro
ceeding to take off his horses, and leave us in the road : the conductor, however, was soon at his back, threatening him with the police, and abusing him most violently, hitting him all the time tolerably hard over the head with a thick leather pipe, till the istvostchik, whom I at first expected to return his blows, at length remounted the box and proceeded.
The dress of the istvostchiks, is that of the Russian peasant in general. They wear a shirt, usually red, which is made without a collar, and which hangs, confined round the waist by a leather belt, over a pair of loose trousers, of blue linen or calico, which are tucked into a pair of boots reaching half way up the leg. Over this dress the Russian seldom thinks it too hot to wear his coat of sheep-skin, with the wool inside ; this, however, he throws off when he enters his house. The hat is low crowned, with a large buckle to the band, and the crown projecting all round: many of the istvostchiks adorned their hats with a peacock's feather twisted round them. The use of a razor is unknown among the peasants, and the rough untrimmed beards, in the colour of which red certainly preponderates, give the people a wild uncivilized appearance. The men wear the hair divided on the top of the head, and cut all round the neck like the edge of a bowl: they generally, when working, wear a band round the head to prevent the hair from falling into their eyes.
The women as well as the men wear