You will bring home thousands of pictures of yellow and red forests, clear blue skies and reflections of the clouds in rain puddles. You will also bring back mead and shawls lovingly knitted by the local old ladies.
And, of course, you can visit some craft classes and learn how to make pottery, horseshoes, soap or lace. We selected ten towns in Central Russia that are definitely worth a visit on a fall weekend.
Suzdal is a true jewel of Russia’s Golden Ring. It is one of the oldest towns in Russia. It was first mentioned in 1024, over a 100 years before Moscow was founded. Five hundred years later, Suzdal became Russia’s religious centre. More than ten monasteries and convents were built in the town. Later, the town’s economy plummeted, and by the beginning of the 12th century, Suzdal became known as a sleepy provincial town. Today, it is a tourist centre beloved both by Russian and international travellers. For Russians, a trip to Suzdal is an opportunity to learn more about their own traditions, architecture and history, while for foreigners it is simply Russian exotica.
In Suzdal, you can forget all about your usual fizzy drinks. Traditional Russian mead, including its non-alcoholic variant, can be bought all over town. From Sept. 16-17, the town will host a mead fest, where you will have a chance to taste the honey-based drink from a range of different brands and pick the one you like the most. The festival program also includes quests, cooking classes, sporting events and concerts.
All Russians remember the important role the town of Uglich has played throughout Russian history. It was here where the younger son of Ivan the Terrible, Dimitry, accidentally died (or was killed, no one knows for sure) while playing with a knife. His death brought about the end of the Rurik dynasty. The chambers of the unfortunate young prince are now the oldest surviving parts of the Uglich Kremlin. Another reminder of Prince Dimitry’s death is the red and white coloured Church of St. Demetrius-on-the-Blood.
There are also many more places to see in the town of Uglich. There are two convents and a monastery, as well as several ancient churches and cathedrals. In addition to the old Russian architectural forms and Christian relics, there are some very interesting museums: the cosy Museum of 19th Century Town Life, the small Legends of Uglich exhibit and the surprisingly modern Hydroelectric Engineering Museum. You should definitely take a walk along the banks of the Volga and try the local cheese, which is some of the most delicious in Russia.
Tutayev was established as a result of the unification of the towns of Romanov and Borisoglebsk. The left bank is still called the Romanov Bank, while the right bank still goes by the name of Borisoglebsk Bank. A bridge connecting the banks does not exist, so residents cross the river by boats or ferry. The town is often called an open-air museum or the Volga Pearl. It is part of Russia’s Golden Ring and also serves as a port for cruise ships. Most visitors stop here only for a day, which is quite a shame. This small town, with a population of 41,000 people, has a surprisingly wide variety of sights, which includes churches, old mansions, and museums, e. g. the Provincial Bank with the Manager’s Private Rooms.
Nizhny Novgorod, or, simply, Nizhny, is an old merchant town that only recently has caught up with modern life. It is often called Russia’s “Pocket” or the “Capital of the Volga,” and for a long time it was recognized as Russia’s third capital city, having given up the title to the town of Kazan a short time ago. This is the place to go if you want to see some ancient architecture and have a breath of fresh air on the banks of the Volga.
The town is famous for its fortress, writer Maxim Gorky, its automobile factory and Minin and Pozharsky, the patriots who helped liberate Moscow from the Polish invasion. Maxim Gorky, aka Alexey Peshkov, was a well-known proletarian author. He was born here, and the town diligently preserves his memory. He lived and read his works in many different places throughout the town. The famous author remains a reason why many town residents still have trouble telling others where they are from, because in 1932, the town was renamed Gorky in his honour. The name remained until 1990.
One of the oldest towns in Central Russia, Yuryevets survived the construction of the Gorkovskoe Water Reserve. Unlike dozens of Russian towns and all of the villages nearby, it did not sink during the construction of the reserve. Two well-known Russian film directors were born and raised here: Alexander Rowe, famous for his fairy-tale movies, and Andrei Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky has even had a street named after him, and the house where his family lived has been turned into a museum. If you find yourself in Yuryevets, you must visit the museum of education, the local arts and history museum, as well as the museum of stuffed toys located nearby in the village of Kostyaevo. A visit to Yuryevets is best supplemented with a relaxing stay on the water reserve at the Gorkovskoe Sea.
The cute and cosy town of Kostroma truly does touch one’s soul, especially if you go for a walk through its streets on a weekend morning. The locals are still at home, busy with household chores, while everything else is enveloped in silence: the carved window frames, street water taps, golden church domes that are visible from behind the trees and the market rows by Milk Hill. It seems that at any given moment the hill can be filled with noisy dairy farmers from the other bank of the Volga who come to sell their fresh milk and cheese. It is incredible that the town has managed to preserve this 19th-century atmosphere that can seemingly only be found in history books.
Yaroslavl is another old Russian town with ancient monasteries and churches, as well as broad streets and modern office buildings. Yaroslavl has never let its rich history get in the way of catching up with the times, but used it as a foundation on which to build an industrial and cultural centre.
The city has many theatres, such as the Volkov Drama Theatre, the Strannik Theatre Studio and the Vorontsov Chamber Theatre. Therefore, it makes sense to plan your visit carefully, so that you do not miss a chance to attend some of the most exciting theatrical performances. Those who aren’t interested in theatre can find lots of film-related sites to visit, such as the locations where Doctor Zhivago and War and Peace were shot. Make sure to visit the museum estate of Nekrasov, a famous 19th-century Russian poet, and venture out to the old town of Myshkin located nearby.
Myshkin, located a hundred kilometres from Yaroslavl, is often referred to as the town of ten museums. This tiny town, with a population of under 6,000 people, undoubtedly has enough museum life to entertain a settlement of a much larger size. There is a museum of felt boots, a pilot museum (they were rightfully considered to be the best on the Volga and were famous throughout all of Russia), a museum of vodka (Pyotr Smirnov, the founder of the Smirnoff brand, came from Myshkin), a museum of retro technology, an open-air ethnographic museum, and, of course, the Mouse Museum. The small town of Myshkin is in itself, in a way, one big museum. The town’s residents are proud of their typical yet timeless provincial town. Newer developments are located on the outskirts, while the town center looks just the same, as if the old Russian merchants still lived here and enjoyed tea from their samovars every night.
Rostov the Great
One of Russia’s oldest towns, which was first mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years, Rostov is not only famous for its fortress, but also for the many churches and monasteries located on the shores of Lake Nero. Travelers come here to listen to the bells of the Dormition Cathedral, to look at the frescoes in the Church of the Conception of St. Anna, to enjoy the craftsmen’s skill in the enamel museum, to savor some honey-flavored herb tea in the Old Gardener Museum and to take a walk on the mounds and old streets lined with two-storied mansions. Rostov the Great is an inalienable part of every trip around Russia’s Golden Ring. Keep in mind that the best views can be observed from the lake. Take a boat tour and do not forget to bring your camera.
In Plyos, you can’t help feeling that you’ve lived here at some point in your life and have simply returned home. This notion may arise due to the fact that many Russian films have been shot in the town of Plyos. It is an ideal backdrop for film-makers who want to present a screen-shot of a perfect, clean, quiet, cosy and happy provincial town. The town contains a number of small museums, which include the Museum of Old Russian Family, the Wedding Museum, the Museum of Primal Hunting and Fishing and the Public Place Museum. They are of interest to both children and adults, because, instead of bombarding you with dates and facts, they bring back scenes of life from the old days. For a dose of art, visit the Levitan Museum. The artist spent some of the best years of his career in the town of Plyos, and his paintings are currently on display in the rooms where he had stayed.