I have just returned from a visit to Togliatti, so I thought I would make a few notes about the changes I see in this lesser visited part of Russia as an occasional visitor.
Readers may wish to comment, disagree, discuss, ask questions or whatever.
First impressions after a three year absence.
Usually when you get on the road, you get the gargling paraffin taste in your throat that is the pollution. It is normally so bad that I need some antibiotics after a few days to quell my swollen throat.
I wont say the air smelled like an English meadow in spring, but the paraffin taste has gone. This air tastes somewhat cleaner than it has always done in the past.
And the road. What is different there?
Ahh yes, the ruts are fewer, the potholes not as big and while not the M1 or a Floridian boulevard, the road surface is somewhat better than I remember.
The drive from Samara to Togliatti used to take about an hour. Now it is 40 minutes as the roads are better.
Repairing the roads in Samara and Togliatti will take decades. But it is well under way and the main routes are all in the midst of being resurfaced.
They haven’t yet started on the pavements; they are still the death trap they have always been. But roads matter more IMO. Anyway, fewer people are using the pavements as more seem to be driving.
I can only guess what has caused the pollution to lessen and that is more newer cars and vans on the road. Many of the old crappy vans and trucks are now gone, as are many of the 70’s and 80’s Ladas. In their place is American imported SUV’s and modern Ladas.
What is that American Ford SUV by the way? Not a bad looking piece of kit. Same size as a Range Rover Sport (many of those around too).
Dont get me wrong, there is still some old crap on the road, but much, much less of it.
Cleaner air and better roads – that’s a good start!