Vladimir and Suzdal
Vladimir is a major city in Russian history and part of the Golden Ring. Once capital of Kiev Rus for almost two centuries like Suzdal and Ryazan it suffered by the hands of the Tatars. Founded in either the late 10th or 12th centuries it has some outstanding sites, three of if which (the Golden Gates, the Assumption Cathedral and St. Dmitry Cathedral) are world heritage sites.
Originally the city was not on my schedule but I exchanged Voronezh for it. I took the bus from Ryazan which was kindly purchased by Sveta and took the bus ride which was in the region of 5 hours.
I was still recovering from illness and so had done no planning. I had found a host from couchsurfing but delayed conformation until that day as I wasn’t sure I would be well enough. in the case of not being I would have stayed in a hotel.
Fortunately my condition was considerable better. My kind host Irina was at work and busy until evening. So I left my luggage in the left luggage office and set to explore the city.
One thing about Vladimir, it may be an industrial city but it is still beautiful and green.
Some of the parks, and the nature I passed through were very nice. A view over the countryside beyond the station from behind some churches and the Kremlin. In the good weather, I enjoyed it was beautiful to walk.
I passed through churches both active and abandoned or perhaps in need of repair. A statue of Alexander Nevsky. The grand prince, later monk and saint stood by a church and behind it lovely views of the countryside and a monastery walls. The Kremlin itself is equally if not more impressive. Again in beautiful surroundings which couples, and locals and perhaps tourists liked to stroll or to relax. The Cathedral of St Dmitry is particularly beautiful and includes carvings of King David.
Beyond the Kremlin it is possible to see views of the Golden Gate. The symbol of Vladimir. The gates once outside now in the center or thereabouts of the city are the symbol of Vladimir. They survived the Mongol invasions and also near to that area there were more beautiful churches I visited. A number of which are probably not famous.
The city was founded in either 990 or 1108, depending on which historians you consult. For the better part of two centuries (from 1157 to the mid 1300s) it was the capital of ancient Rus. Vladimir is now considered one of the major members of the Golden Ring of communities which have played a significant role in Russian history.
Among many other attractions, the City boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are the Golden Gates, Vladimir’s unofficial symbol, and the Assumption and St. Dmitry Cathedrals. The Golden Gates were constructed to emulate other holy cities at the time Jerusalem, Constantinople and Kiev.
In Vladimir, English was not widely spoken (compared to Moscow for example. You can always find someone who could speak it but I was asked for directions in Russian, and even greeted in so, even though I could not speak it. Something I hope to change in future.
Not speaking Russian made ordering food an adventure. Sometimes..
In the evening I stayed by my host Irina. On the 2nd evening I walked back from the centre (having got lost on my first attempt as a result of using an inadequate map, my 2nd was successful). The walk gave me some beautiful views over the river towards the Kremlin and through a small pine forest.
It was a joy talking with Irina and my great experience made me decide to cancel my accommodation in Tallinn and also use couchsurfing there.
I took a bus from Vladimir to Suzdal on a day trip.
One thing which Wikitravel point out is that you are dropped ‘far’ (I don’t think it is far) from the station and foreigners may take an overpriced taxi or try to change bus. If you stay on the bus a person will come to sell you tickets to the city centre (13 roubles, June 2012) and the bus will drop you near the resurrection church. Why they don’t include it in the main ticket is beyond logic in my opinion unless I am missing something.
Suzdal is one of the prettiest places I have been to. It can be described as a somewhat sleepy village, well it is actually a city ) of churches and photogenic scenery. Apparently no buildings were allowed to be more than two stories high except cathedrals in Soviet times. The churches and monasteries did not escape Soviet oppression but despite that there are so many for a town of around 10,000 people (and the population has been dwindling – a shame as it is so beautiful). It no tackiness to the city at all. Way to Russia say it is a city to get lost in. I agree perhaps permanently, it is that beautiful and reminds me of the also beautiful Chernihiv, although there are many more churches here in Suzdal and it is smaller.
Arriving in a pretty market square with shops and plenty of beautiful churches nearby I made my way to one of the nearby churches where I could climb the bell tower for a beautiful view of the city.
Each church has beautiful murals inside and I also visited one closed church in a decrepit state but been restored. I was allowed to walk through on my way to the Kremlin and seeing the Patriarch’s Palace and the Cathedral of the Nativity (for which there is a fee).
Plenty of places to eat and churches, monasteries (far more than the commonly mentioned ones) and beautiful scenery Suzdal makes a great day trip but it would have made an even better weekend.