I knew Joe wanted to master the horse riding skills he picked up in Kazakhstan, and i suspected he also wanted to get naked in a banya and slap himself with birch twigs – and before I knew it, he had found a man called Uncle Pasha on that wonderful internet thing and booked three nights to stay at his private Dasha, 200km west of Moscow.

We once again left way too late in the day and spent the first 2½ hours getting OUT of Moscow. BUT, using the extremely helpful Cyrillic road atlas I picked up in Orenberg (at times holding it upside down, in fact), we found our way off the M9 and headed towards Tver. A series of vague word of mouth directions led us straight to the Volga river, with just a minor argument and one final direction; ‘our village is the one across the stream’.

Of course, there was no word about the lack of bridge. As neither of us were that excited about wading into the icy water to judge whether it was ok for Bob to cross, we did what any responsible abto tourist would do and just gunned across at full pelt. Nothing got wet, except the tyres and Bob's mucky underbelly.

We finally found the Dasha, a simple traditional wooden home with ornate windows, painted red and white with the look of being freezing from the outside, but comfortably snug and homely inside (with just a hint that an electrical fire could happen at any moment). I loved the way you switched the kettle on to boil and all the lights went out....and even the dog slowed down when we switched on the heater.

We met Eda and Dima, who look after the place when Uncle Pasha’s not around, the dog Finn, horses, chickens and two cats, hilariously named Bruce and Willis. They stoked up a woodfire in our bedroom over the stable, and we settled in for 3 nights of homely goodness.

That's it really. We spent 2 and a half days darting from sauna like rooms where Eda fed us slabs of cheese, pelmeni and vegetable soup, clambering down the field to the outdoor toilet, attempting to ride horses that were much smarter than us and roaming along the banks of the volga dressed up in full ski gear, clutching a thermos. It was the perfect anedote to the moscow crowds, and we drove away today, feeling uber relaxed, like we were leaving our family (russian) holiday home... i want to go back...