Mednoye, Russia: Agritourism Gains Momentum
By Galina Iskakova
It is difficult to surprise an experienced traveler. Travel agencies prepare the way for attracting and retaining customers. One struggle for the buyer is to expand the portfolio of tourist destinations and types of tourism.
A good example is agritourism, which involves any agriculturally-based activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.
Agritourism in Russia
Agritourism came to Russia from abroad and has not gained wide distribution and popularity in our country yet. But gradually it is gaining momentum and is now the fastest growth of tourism is in Karelia, Altai, Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions.
Not so long ago I was able to become an agritourist – I visited Pietro Mazza’s farm, which produces Italian cheeses. The farm is located on the vast territory of the former marmalade factory in the village called Mednoye.
Just imagine, it covers an area of 16 hectares [40 acres]! All the farm’s economy consists of more than a hundred cows that give milk for the production of cheese.
It should be clear that on the farm they are producing only soft and hard Italian cheese. It turns out that the blue cheeses with mold do not tolerate the proximity of other types of cheese, and because of that the farm does not produce them.
A Kind Welcome
You probably think that once a farm specializes in cheese, there is nothing more here but cheese. However, it is not true! For example, during the tasting, you can order an Italian wine.Here in Mednoye, guests are kindly met by a guide who acts as cicerone [guide]. After a brief speech the cicerone took us into a large room with long wooden tables and chairs spaced around the perimeter; it is a tasting room, which accepts visitors in strictly reserved hours.
Next to the cheese plate you will find a piece of paper – it’s a hint with the cheeses’ names. The cicerone tells you about the production, expiration date and other characteristics of every kind of cheese on your plate.
After the tasting you will be offered the Italian dishes: lasagna alla Bolognese and crepe with spinach and ricotta cheese.
After the pasta you are treated to polpetta, an Italian meatball, which seems to me a little hard. The reason for this lies in the little creative rules, which you can learn when visiting a farm.
In addition, here food lovers can discover many subtleties of culinary art.
Although I am a small fan of sweets, I still appreciated the Tiramisu of ricotta and the French profiteroles with whipped cream. Here’s what’s amazing: what are the French profiteroles doing at the Italian kitchen? I’m not far advanced in solving this riddle. Maybe they wanted to surprise us with their culinary delights? Well, they did!
After a delicious dinner we headed out for a walk on the farm. It is worth going here by your own car so you can look at all the animals which are living here. You can stay on the farm or in nearby towns, Torzhok or Tver.
And as agritourism also means rural work, here you will enjoy it in full! If you wish you can even take part in the cheese fermentation process. But keep in mind that you have to wake up before dawn!
The milking of cows happens here at four o’clock in the morning, and cheese fermentation starts at six.
On the farm you can also ride horses, either independently or with the instructor.
It was time to assemble for the return journey, but I could not stop looking at the animals.
There are two ostriches, a domesticated female wild swine named Masha, and lots of horses, cows, bulls, goats and ponies.
And how amusing it was to observe when ostriches with wild eyes swooped down on a carrot, which was served on the palms and wild swine plunks herself into the ditch with a great relish, which she carefully dug by her snout.
Have you ever been to a real country farm? No? Then it is such a place where you can come with friends, family or alone, to relax in nature, breathe fresh air and realize that life is beautiful!
Galina Iskakova lives in Moscow. She graduated from the Russian State Social University as manager in the hotel and tourist business. She likes to travel, take pictures and ski. She has also been published in Russian magazines and web portals.
She writes, “In life, I follow the principle marked by the words of the writer John Fowles: ‘His giving us freedom to move and choose, as a ship upon the vast ocean of time, could not mean that we had always best stay moored in that port where we were first built and launched.'”
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