Beam me down: This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are: 55 23' N 40 28' E

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The Independent Travel
FIRST REACTION

I've got the textile industry to the north and the wooded apiary-infested swamps to the south. Oh, for a cherry orchard...

COUNTRY AND REGION

This is the border of the Ryazan and Vladimir oblasts (regions) some 150km south-east of Moscow. To the north-north-west are the traditional towns and low forests of Moscow's historic Golden Ring, while to the south are the oil refineries of the city of Ryazan.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

The north-east edge of the Meshchera, a swampy watershed that extends to the east of Moscow. Even to get as far as Ryazan you will have to traverse swamps and defy bees. To make things worse, this marsh is bounded by the Oka river which empties into the Volga to the east and by its tributary, the Pra, to the west and south.

ALTITUDE

50m

NEAREST SETTLEMENT

The village of Spas-Klepiki is a short 5km trek to the south, but connections to the outside world are limited and the terrain, as we have already seen, not helpful. Your best bet is surely to head north to the nearest train station at Cherusti, some 10km to the north.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Up to your neck in swamps, lost in the woods, angry bees, oil spillage - and you haven't even thought about rapidly deteriorating weather.

USEFUL LANGUAGES

Russian, unsurprisingly, which, like Belarusian and Ukranian, uses the rather perplexing Cyrillic alphabet. Good luck.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

President Boris Yeltsin, though I wouldn't buy him a Christmas present yet.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

Certainly an improvement on Siberia, though these are undeniably swamps, not tropical rainforests. Temperatures are likely to drop to near-zero conditions by night but might soar as high as 6-8C on a good day. Lots of cold rain.

REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND

Despite all that has been said, the cities and villages of the Golden Ring area to the north are well worth a visit. Decisive in the rise of Moscow to national domination in the 14th to 16th centuries, many of these towns have conserved their traditional town-plans, including inner fortresses (kremlin), walls and outlying artisan districts. One such "time-warp" town is Suzdal, which claims to have the highest number of churches per capita in Russia, while the region's capital, Vladimir, boasts an array of well-preserved 12th-century architecture including its Golden Gates and Ascension and Demetrius Cathedrals. For those not bent on immediately heading west to Moscow and the next ticket out of here, trains can be taken from Ryazan to the Volga where river cruises are available for around $150.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF THERE

If bee-keeping is not really your thing then overnight trains to Moscow depart frequently from Cherusti, Vladimir and Ryazan. Aeroflot, British Airways and Lufthansa provide regular connections with Europe and America. Cut-price flights to London can cost as little as pounds 150, much less than the pounds 300 the 52-hour train journey will set you back.

Compiled by Dan Whitcombe

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