Sunday, October 14, 2012

в деревне

We saw the sunrise over the Russian countryside this morning.  Our bus departed for Suzdal and Vladimir, two towns roughly three hours outside of Moscow, at 7:00AM.
Suzdal and Vladimir are part of the Golden Ring, a circle of historic towns to the northeast of Moscow that preserve and commemorate some of the most important structures and events in Russian history.

Though the route from Moscow to Vladimir and Suzdal is well traveled and scattered with pay-to-use toilets for voyaging tourists, the Russian countryside is very different from Moscow.  There are long stretches of land with nothing but thick forests, farmland, and the intermittent abandoned construction site.  When one comes upon a small town, the homes are clustered around the salient domes of the Russian Orthodox church, a reminder of the strong religious tradition in Russian society.
When we arrived at our first stop, Suzdal, we went to the Museum of Wooden-Architecture, an open air museum that showcases a collection of wooden buildings from all over Russia.
Many of the structures are made entirely of wood, without any nails.

Then, we walked across the Kamenka River to The Kremlin and the Cathedral of the Nativity.  The Kremlin was built by Yuriy Dolgorukiy, who was also the founder of Moscow.
 The first records of Suzdal date from 1024.

Annie and I saw the 13th century frescoes inside of the Cathedral of the Nativity.

We continued our stroll into town.

Along the main street, babushkas sold pickled vegetables, berries, fruits, candy, wood and woolen products, and typical Russian souvenirs.

Naturally, we stopped for lunch at a cafe / bar before continuing to The Monastery of St. Eurhymius.

The Monastery of St. Euthymius was once the richest in the area with more than 10,000 serfs.

We met the bus outside of the Monastery.  But, Annie and I desperately needed a bathroom, so we asked the busdriver to stop at the Convent of the Intercession, another famous site in Suzdal.  We successfully killed to birds with one stone, then were on our way to Vladimir.

We didn't have much time, but we asked the bus driver to stop at the Golden Gates to the town of Vladimir.

Inside the gates we watched an unintentionally humorous tribute to Vladimir's "victory" during the Mongol invasion.
Though the Mongols razed the entire city, the museum optimistically informed us that the Russians were actually triumphant over the Mongol Horde because the Russian people rebuilt the city of Vladimir years later.  If you say so ...

We power walked to the Cathedral of the Assumption down the street, snapped some photographs, and returned to the bus fifteen minutes late, but content.
 The Cathedral of the Assumption is one of Vladimir's most famous sites, dating from 1185.  Ivan III modeled Moscow's Cathedral of the Assumption after this one in Vladimir.

For anyone considering a trip to Vladimir and Suzdal, I would highly recommend budgeting two days.  Drive to Suzdal on the first day, tour it, then either stay in Suzdal or go to Vladimir for the evening.  See the sites in Vladimir the next morning and return to Moscow in the afternoon.  We managed to see everything, but at a brisk pace.  To truly enjoy the countryside, allow enough time for a leisurely adventure.    

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