Russia’s Golden Ring
the Charm of Old Places
Every day, many tourists start their fascinating journey around the Golden Ring, a famous tourist itinerary that encompasses the oldest cities of the central part of European Russia, its historic and cultural heritage sites. A brief glance at a map will tell you why they call it this way. The matter is that all these cities are located around Moscow and the road connecting them looks like a large circle. Traditionally, the Golden Ring includes 8 cities, i.e. Sergiyev Posad, Pereslavl-Zalessky, Rostov Veliky, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Ivanovo, Suzdal, and Vladimir. However, recently there is a trend to expand this list.
This is here that the Russian history began. And this is why a trip around the Golden Ring is one of the best ways to learn about Russia and to understand the country’s mentality.
Making a wish under the Golden Gate
Many tourist attractions of the Golden Ring are included the UNESCO World Heritage List. The historic center of Yaroslavl, a city with centuries-long history, is particularly worth seeing. One of its main attractions is called Strelka (a split cape at the rivers junction), a place where the Kotorosl River meets the Volga. This is here that Yaroslavl was founded, and to mark this, there is a monument of the city’s Millennium.
Strelka is a great outing place that offers breathtaking views from the high river bank. Volzhskaya (Arsenalnaya) Tower is another place worth seeing. This is a remaining part of an old citadel that was used as an arsenal. One more place to see is an ensemble of churches along the Volga riverside. Metropolitan’s Chambers is also a place to visit. These Chambers were constructed in the 17th century as a grand residence for Metropolitan Jonah (Iona) Sysoevich, the Orthodox Church leader of Yaroslavl. Today these Chambers host a rich exhibition of icons. Having visited Strelka, the tourists usually proceed to the six-column rotunda at the Volzhskaya Embankment, another symbol of Yarolsavl, where they can enjoy the beautiful city sights.
The Yaroslavl Strelka is a great outing place
Other places protected by UNESCO include the white stone landmarks of Vladimir and Suzdal. The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl in Vladimir is surrounded by the river loop, so to protect it from being flooded by high water in spring, they have built the church on an artificial stone-and-clay hill. The walls of this church are slightly inclined inwards which makes it visually higher. Its graceful shape makes you think of a swan or a sail of a ship making its way through the waters.
Another site is the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiyev Posad, a symbol of Russian Orthodoxy and a major spiritual and cultural center. This monastery was founded in the 14th century by Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most venerated Russian saints. The Lavra is not far away from Moscow. Many pilgrims take the road there to draw some holy water from the springs inside the Monastery walls.
The white-stone Church of the Intercession on the Nerl in Vladimir makes you think of a swan or a ship’s sail.
Having visited dozens of churches that form the Lavra complex, you may taste the authentic monastery food in a budget-friendly eating place.
Back in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Golden Gate of Vladimir was the city’s front gate created to welcome special guests. Clad with gilded copper, its oak tree wings glittered brightly in the sun giving the Golden Gate its poetic name.
A 14-meter (46 ft) high white-stone triumphal arch contributed to the majestic look of this edifice. This was a symbol of prosperity and the princely power. Even today, many believe that a wish made while passing through the Golden Gate will come true. Many fires and enemy raids have significantly changed the initial shape of the Golden Gate. Today the edifice hosts an exposition on war and history exhibiting arrow heads and spear heads, hauberks, shell guns, banners, and military decorations.
A kitchen apron and a pair of felt boots are definitely a must-have!
The Golden Ring is a wealth of unmatched cathedrals and churches. These are attractive even for those who are far from being expert in Orthodox culture. Ipatievsky Monastery is one of the best known monasteries in Russia.
This was a family shrine of the Romanov Dynasty that ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917. Inside the Monastery there are unique wall-paintings telling many different stories. This Monastery is located in Kostroma. The exact date of the city foundation is still not known, but it is generally believed that its history goes back almost nine hundred years.
Kostroma is a major jewellery center of Russia. For centuries, craftsmen from Kostroma and the nearby ancient village of Krasnoe-na-Volge were famous for their workmanship. Visiting the jewelry factory, you will see with your own eyes the whole cycle of making jewelry: from the design sketch to the shop counter.
In Kostroma you will see how they make earrings and rings and in Ivanovo you will have a chance to learn more about textiles. For several centuries, Ivanovo was one of major textile industry centers of Russia. By the way, kitchen aprons and tea towels decorated with traditional Russian motifs as well as painted pinafores are great souvenirs. Schudrovskaya Palatka, the city’s eldest all-brick building, is another place of interest in Ivanovo. In the old days, craftsmen painted their fabrics there.
Ivanovo is one of major textile industry centers of Russia
The Golden Ring is also famous for a variety of museums. Here you will find museums of smoothing irons, samovars, advertising signboards, vases, pitchers, tea-pots, spoons, and coins.
Many towns have museums exhibiting old arts and crafts, like woodcarving, bone carving, lace, miniature lacquer painting, painted enamel and many others. Shchurovo Gorodishche Museum in the city of Suzdal makes you dive in the everyday life and traditions of the Ancient Rus. The most daring of the visitors can even have a whack in farm work. Here you have a real smith’s shop, an armorer shop, live goats, pigs, and a vegetable garden. Just like the peasants used to have it in the 10th century. It looks like a village of that period has come to life. Lukova Sloboda Museum in Rostov Veliky is a wooden building that looks like a traditional izba. Here you will taste the onion-based dishes and learn about the history of onion-growing in the region. A provincial town of Myshkin attracts tourists with its Mouse Museum, Vodka Museum, and Retro Cars Museum. And in the Felt Boots Museum you will see the whole process of making the Russian traditional winter sheep wool footwear.
Shchurovo Gorodishche Museum has a real smith’s shop, an armorer shop, live goats, pigs, and a vegetable garden. Just like the peasants used to have it in the 10th century.
People residing in the cities of the Golden Ring have a passion for public festivities. One more must-see is festival of the famous Romanov Sheep held in the town of Tutaev. The Romanov sheep is a breed developed in the Yaroslavl Region and considered to be one of the region’s crown jewels. It is hard to recognize the town during this festival. It becomes brightly decorated and bustling, everywhere lamb-shaped spice cakes and savories are sold, hot samovars are puffing smoke, people dress up as sheep, play accordions and according to the ancient Russian hospitality tradition, they welcome guests with bread and salt. And the star attraction of the day is the a competition of shearers, people who shear wool.
Amazing is the splendid nature of the Golden Ring. Lake Pleshcheyevo near the town of Pereslavl-Zalessky is a wonderfully romantic place. This is a major isolated water body joined by dozens of rivers and streams. The lake is at least 30,000 years old. It is inhabited by many fish species, including the famous ryapushka that was served to the Tsar’s table in the old days.
They call Lake Pleshcheyevo the birthplace of the Russian Navy. In the late 17thcentury it won over the young Emperor Peter I. He was fascinated by the beauty and the size of the lake and it occurred to him to set up his poteshnaya (toy) flotilla, a navy of tiny ships, the forefather of the Russian Navy. Peter I personally took part in constructing the yachts and boats. Now, this place hosts the Botik of Peter the Greatestate museum, a must-see for the curious tourists.
Every city of the Golden Ring has a charm of its own worth of discovering by all the visitors attracted by the long-standing Russian culture and history as well as the splendor of the country’s nature.