Suzdal, Russia…a Gem in the Golden Ring

The Golden Ring

          The Golden Ring is a collection of picturesque ancient towns northeast of Moscow, noted for their history, culture and architectural splendor. Each town typically has a Kremlin or fortress with watch towers and, because the villages in this region played a significant role in the development of the Russian Orthodox Church, each one is replete with churches, monasteries and onion domed cathedrals. Your first stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway going east from Moscow should be the town of Vladimir. On the three hour train ride you’ll have an opportunity to really mingle with the locals before arriving at your destination. On arrival in Vladimir, the four items on your agenda will be to walk up the hill and get a room at the Hotel Vladimir, return to the train station and book your train reservation for the next town of Nizhny Novgorod for the following day, take the one hour bus ride to Suzdal where you will spend a wonderful day, then return to Vladimir and take a walking tour of this charming medieval town during the early evening.

Suzdal, Russia

Suzdal, Russia

Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, Suzdal

Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, Suzdal

Suzdal

          This onetime capital before power was consolidated in Moscow is actually fortunate that the Trans-Siberian Railway bypassed it and instead went through Vladimir 22 miles away. As a result, this sleepy hamlet has remained essentially unchanged over the years and is now considered one of the most beautiful spots in all of Russia. Straddling the quietly flowing Kamenka River, Suzdal is everything you envisioned about Russia. The old wooden houses, cathedrals, shops and the kremlin are nestled among gently rolling hills, making it easily walkable for most visitors. The walled kremlin dates back to the 11th century and includes a bell tower and the blue domed Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral. The Savior Monastery of St. Euthymius is located on the river and altogether there are more than 30 cathedrals, churches and monasteries studding the countryside around Suzdal. Be sure to also visit the Trading Arcades in the downtown market square and the Museum of Wooden Architecture and Peasant Life. You’ll have plenty of time to relax and enjoy this bucolic setting before catching the bus back to Vladimir.

The Suzdal Kremlin with the Cathedral of the Nativity

The Suzdal Kremlin with the Cathedral of the Nativity

Suzdal Kremlin

Suzdal Kremlin

Vladimir

          By the time you get back to Vladimir, it will be late afternoon, but after freshening up at the Hotel Vladimir, you’ll still have time for a walking tour of the town. This ancient city is perched high on a bluff overlooking the Oka Valley and the Oka River, a tributary of the Volga River, affording a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Most of the important sites in Vladimir are on the same street as the Hotel Vladimir and during a leisurely, slightly uphill walk, you will first come to the Nativity Monastery, then the square shaped Cathedral of St. Demetrius of Salonica, the Assumption Cathedral and finally the Golden Gate. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to attend mass in the resplendent Assumption Cathedral with its gold domes and 15th century frescoes where many of the princes of ancient Russia were crowned. Perhaps one of the most famous sites in Vladimir is the Golden Gate at the end of the boulevard, which is the only remaining part of the original kremlin walls. It was early to bed for me this night, as I had an 8:30 AM train to catch the next morning, which would take me to Nizhny Novgorod, the next stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Assumption Cathedral, Vladimir, Russia

Assumption Cathedral, Vladimir, Russia

Golden Gate, Vladimir, Russia

Golden Gate, Vladimir, Russia

Hotel Vladimir

          The Hotel Vladimir was a great place to stay while visiting Vladimir and Suzdal. It was just a short walk up the hill from the Vladimir Train Station and was located right in the heart of town. I paid about $55 for a nice room with private bath, but breakfast was not included. The front desk staff members were friendly, welcoming and helpful and the entire facility was clean and safe. There were a number of nice shops and restaurants nearby. For all these reasons I can recommend the Hotel Vladimir and consider it a Blue Orb Travel Awesome Accommodation.

Hotel Vladimir in Vladimir, Russia

Hotel Vladimir in Vladimir, Russia

Wooden House, Suzdal, Russia

Wooden House, Suzdal, Russia

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1 comment to Suzdal, Russia…a Gem in the Golden Ring

  • Charming and picturesque. The lush countryside – if it weren’t for the distinctive architecture – reminds me a bit of the French countryside or the British Isles.