In Izborsk, Russia, there is a legend that six springs near the Pskov fortress from the 14th century can bring health, youth, love, wealth, good fortune and courage, while a seventh brings bad luck to the poor soul who drinks from it. How do you know which is which? You have to feel it with your heart. While the accuracy of the legend can be questioned, one thing these springs can bring you is a load of essential vitamins and minerals.
The springs run through a small mountain and into a narrow lake. While running through this mountain, they become highly mineralized and healthy to drink. Having lived in Moscow for the past four months and periodically visting St. Petersburg (two cities whose tap water I should not be drinking on a regular basis), the adventure to the more provincial city of Izborsk, where fresh, highly mineralized water is easy to find, was a welcome excursion. Moscow is so polluted that the city is two degrees centigrade warmer than the region surrounding it at all times during the year, but twelve hours away by train, the Pskovian region remains clean and secluded, comparatively. In the major cities in Russia, people can walk through parks on the outskirts of the city and find lone springs, but none like the falls outside the fortress in Izborsk, which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was used as a water mill. Only the ruins of a wall remain.
Exploring Izborsk's springs
After walking amongst the springs, a path brings you down to an old, rickety wooden bridge which stretches into the center of a lake, the body of which is surrounded by birch trees -- the official tree of Russia -- and can only be seen from the highest point
on the fortress towers. Here, at the end of the bridge, a pairs of swans and their goslings swim in an angular pattern around the lake until they make a decision about the people on the bridge, and whether or not it's safe to investigate.
With the streams in the beackround, the lake and seemingly never-ending birch trees in front, and swans gliding smoothly right up to the bridge, the whole experience was extremely peaceful and relaxing. The highly-mineralized water tasted great and felt even better.
Perhaps a particularly mineralized spring could be considered to give the drinker "health," as the legend notes, but I think the real legend of the springs is that each one brings relaxation and rejuvenation.
The Izborsk springs may be peaceful and secluded, but they are not the only springs with this type of exceptional water. Several cities in the United States, including Saratoga Springs, are, or at one time were, known for such healing water. If city life gets tiring, take a trip to a more secluded area -- easy to find in the northeast. If you're living in Hartford or New Haven, Conn., Waterville Valley, N.H., is a wonderful, mountainous town, filled with great hikes and ski areas, lakes and streams.
Photos: Kara Elder