Visiting Russian tourists are usually limited to Moscow and St. Petersburg. But I want to tell you about the Golden Ring – a necklace of ancient Russian cities around Moscow.
And I want to start with the city of Suzdal – the most interesting in my opinion the city in a necklace.
The town is tiny, about 10 000 people, but there are located several ancient Russian monasteries, some cultural and architectural monuments included in 1992 in the UNESCO World Heritage List. All the ancient part of the city are well preserved to our days. Suzdal – one of the few cities that have retained the original layout.
We were travelling along the Golden Ring in June 2015. We were 6 friends in two cars. We live in the South of Russia and our journey took 20 days and 5000 kilometres in total.
There are four options:
- Buy a tour
- By car (we travelled by car in June 2015)
- By the bus from Moscow from Shchelkovo bus station (210 km., travel time about 4 hours)
- By the train from Moscow to Vladimir (take train from Kursk Station, Gorky direction, it takes 3 hours), then by bus Vladimir-Suzdal (it needs 50 minutes)
A brief history of the city
Suzdal (Russian: Суздаль) – one of the oldest Russian cities. The first mention in the chronicle appears in 1024.
At the turn of the XI-XII centuries was built fortress city (the Kremlin, a fortified place). It was built in the bend of the Kamenka River, where the west side of the river is a natural barrier, and on the east, open, hand-dug an artificial moat along which constructed earth wall and installed wooden walls and towers. Kremlin fortress wall and moat are preserved to the present time, being the oldest landmark in the city.
Here, in the Kremlin, the masters of the Kiev Prince Vladimir Monomakh built the oldest Cathedral dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. It dates from the XI-XII centuries.
To the east of the Kremlin’s growing Posad – an area where artisans and merchants lived. Posad was also fortified by ramparts.
But at the beginning of the XIII century heydey of the city was interrupted by the Mongol-Tatar invasion. In winter 1238, the city was captured and burned by the Tatars.
At the end of the XV century, Suzdal loses its independence and is part of the Moscow state.
From the middle of the 14th century to the end of the 18th century, Suzdal is the centre of the diocese. The residence of the bishop is located on the territory of the Kremlin. Here the Suzdal bishops build in the XVI-XVIII centuries the stone Bishops’ Chambers, a monument of civil architecture with a rare for its time the ceremonial Crusade Chamber.
Suzdal monasteries owned numerous patrimonies, quickly grew rich due to the use of peasant labour, as well as from the contributions of wealthy people. Contributions reflected their time and are now of interest as examples of ancient Russian art.
Suzdal was severely damaged during the fire of 1719. On the site of the burned wooden churches, stone ones are being built, many of which are preserved to the present day.
Since the end of the XVIII century, church life in the city has died down. The bishop moves to Vladimir. Suzdal becomes an ordinary city of Vladimir province.
The city is still interesting with its ancient history and monuments, which makes Suzdal invariably attractive for tourists.
Working hours: The museum is open daily from 10.00 to 18.00, except Tuesday and last Friday of each month.
This is the oldest part of the city and from here it is best to start a walk around the city. The centre of the Kremlin is the Cathedral of the Birth of the Virgin, whose history began in the early 12th century. The interior of the cathedral was painted with frescoes, and the floors are terracotta tiles.
In the year 1445 during the raid of the Kazan khan, the cathedral burned, and its vaults collapsed. The recovery had to wait a long time. Only in 1530 on the order of Tsar Vasily III, it was rebuilt. Instead of three chapters now made five, with high brick light drums with narrow slits-windows. In this form, with some reconstructions in the XVII-XVIII centuries, the cathedral has survived to the present day.
Inside the cathedral is no less glorious than outside. In August 2005 The cathedral, which had been on restoration for a long time, opened again.
The monastery of our Saviour and St. Euthimius
Working hours: from 10.00 to 18.00 every day, except Monday and the last Thursday of each month
Timetable of bell ringing: 10.30, 12.30, 13.30, 15.00, 16.30.
The monastery was founded in 1352 by Prince Suzdal and Nizhny Novgorod Constantine Vasilievich. The place he occupies was very profitable strategically: the high steep bank of the Kamenka itself was an additional protection. Initially, like all Suzdal monasteries, it was wooden, and therefore from its first buildings there was nothing left – they were burned in the XVII century during the Polish-Lithuanian invasion.
In the XVII century, the monastery is built up with new fortress walls, with huge and powerful defensive towers, visible from far over the high bank of the river.
The central building of the monastery is the massive Transfiguration Cathedral (XVI-XIX centuries). It was repeatedly completed and expanded during the entire time of its existence.
The museum of wooden architecture and peasants’ life
Working hours: daily from 09.00 to 16.00 (winter), from 09.00 to 19.00 (summer) except Wednesday.
The museum is located on the bank of the Kamenka on the outskirts of Suzdal, on the site of the non-preserved Dimitrievsky monastery, one of the earliest in Suzdal – the 11th century. From the different villages of Suzdal district, the surviving wooden structures were brought here: churches, dwellings, farm buildings.
This is a kind of village in which everything that has come down to us from the XVIII-XIX centuries is concentrated, it was not burned out in the fires, it was not dismantled for firewood and so on.
In Suzdal, there are several places from which almost the whole city can be seen at a glance. And at the same time from different angles, it looks quite differently.
I recommend that you visit at least two of them.
- The highest point – the Rizpolozhenskii monastery bell tower from where made so many beautiful photos of ancient Suzdal. For a long time, it was closed but since mid-2014 re-opened access to the observation deck.
- And do not miss the viewpoint at the St. Euthymius Monastery, on the high bank of the river Kamenka. It offers a beautiful view of the Pokrovskii The picture, which opens here, easily recognisable in the famous movie “Andrei Rublev” Tarkovsky.
Some useful and interesting information
From the pier at the Museum of Wooden Architecture goes waterbus, from the board you will see the best views of the Kremlin and the Churches of Suzdal.
For dinner, I recommend the restaurant Kharchevnya ((Russian: Харчевня), Lenina str., 73. Home Russian cuisine, cosy atmosphere in the old Russian style.
In the city, you will see many beautiful houses with wooden carved platbands.
The museum of wooden architecture in the summer becomes a place for various holidays. One of the most famous and original is the Cucumber Festival, taking place on the third Saturday of July, during the harvesting of cucumbers. On this day you can try cucumbers for every taste: fresh, salted, lightly salted, fried-steamed, baked in pies, cooked in soup and exotic jam … Various contests and competitions are held: the biggest cucumber, the best cucumber dish, the best cucumber costume, “cucumber glutton”, “light-salted dances” – there is no limit to the imagination!
Come to Suzdal and you will remember this trip for the rest of your life!