Stories

Michurinsk apples

by Jorge Sanchez - 4 years, 9 months ago

Before reaching the Tambov by bus (coming from Lipetsk), I saw an advertisement promoting the city with a heraldry consisting on a drawing of three bees flying over a honeycomb. I asked the passengers of the bus for the history of that symbol, but nobody knew it, only the driver told me that it is the Coat of Arms of Tambov Oblast since the XVIII century, granted by the Tsarina Catherine II. I then figured out that Tambov was a place where a good honey is produced, like the honey of the Altai Mountains, very much appreciated by the Russians. But much later I learnt through a pleasant Russian lady, that bees represent work. Tambov is a very productive city. The bus station was far away from the centre. I knew that Tambov, with a population of about 300.000 souls, was much smaller than Lipetsk, consequently I decided to walk to the downtown, as I use to do to get to know the cities more properly, but in the bus station I was advised to board a bus because on foot it would have taken me over an hour. It was already 3 PM, no much light to visit the city, so finally I caught a bus that dropped me off near the cathedral, called Spaso Preobrajenskii Sobor. Tambov, a city founded during the XVII century, was much more attractive and interesting that Lipetsk. Apart from the cathedral, churches and several monasteries that I visited, I descended to the River Tsena, where I discovered more tourist attractions, symbols of the three bees and honeycomb, plus signs congratulating Tambov for its 350 years of its foundation. By the River Tsena I noticed a metallic statue. I went closer and found out that it was devoted to Sergei Rakhmaninov, the famous compositor. He was born in another Oblast (Novgorod), but since every summer (since 1890 to 1917, when he migrated to USA) he used to rest in Ivanovka, a village near Tambov and belonging to this Oblast, to compose his marvellous musical works, the local Government resolved to erect that statue in his honour. Where to travel next? I still had 15 more days of Russian visa and about ten more oblast to visit, at a rate of one oblast per day. I was exciting, every Russian Oblast supplied me with a lot of knowledge and making friends with interesting and lovely people. I was saving time (and money) travelling in night trains and visiting the cities during day time. When I needed a shower I paid about 50 rubles in a railway station bathroom, or in a Banya House, although from time to time I would also sleep in the cheap dormitories of the railway stations. But it was already dark in Tambov and had visited without interruption the most important places. The oblasts that I wanted to visit where at only a few hours from Tambov and taking a train or bus would drop me to those Oblasts in 2 or 3 hours time, reaching my destination around midnight, very bad time, so I decided to travel as far as possible in an 8 hours journey. Besides, an 8 hours train journey in third class wagon costs only about 10 euro, much cheaper than sleeping in a hostel. I consulted the administrator in the railway station (a very nice lady) and according to her information I chose Smolensk for my next destination, close to the border with Belarus. Therefore I caught the express train originating in Saratov with final destination Minsk. During the journey from Tambov to Smolesnsk the train made a stop in the village of Michurinsk (the second most important city in Tambov Oblast) and many passengers descended to the platform to buy a special kind of apple, called мичуринские яблоки, or “Michurinsk apples”, to the women carrying fruits in baskets. According to one of the passenger with whom I made friendship (a Russian man living in Cuenca, Spain, married with a Spanish woman), Ivan Michurin was a horticulturist that experimented with all kind of fruits and vegetables creating hybrids. One of the most famous hybrids was the Michurinsky apple. He died in that village during soviet times, and the Government, in his honour, decided to change the old name of the city Kozlov for its present Michurinsk. Following the recommendation of my Russian/Spanish friend, I bought a whole kilo of those tasty Michurinsk apples that I would eat for my dinner, except three apples, the greatest ones, that I kept for my breakfast. The next day, early in the morning, I arrived to Smolensk.


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