A WEEKEND TRIP – Vladimir and Suzdal

By: Vincent Weightman

We all love a holiday but we’re not all blessed with the money and time to enjoy them as often as we would like. Moscow is surrounded by affordable and interesting places to go to on day trips or weekends that will have you returning to work feeling like you have been away for a week. These places are easy to access (regardless of your level of Russian), culturally rewarding and an incredibly relaxing way to spend a day or two away from the hectic, hustle and bustle of real life in Russia.

Vladimir and Suzdal

1. Get there early and drop off your luggage
These two centres are close to each other; the easiest way to get there is by train to Vladimir, from there you get to Suzdal easily. The early morning trains tend to be quite quiet with the 9:30 train from Kurskaya station getting you into Vladimir at a respectable 11:15. When you arrive, the train and bus station are opposite each other and if you are travelling with luggage, it’s well worth venturing to the top floor of the bus station to dump your bags for a bargain 100 roubles per item. That leaves you free to explore Vladimir baggage free, and is especially useful before embarking on the short but steep, uphill walk towards Bolshaya Moskovskaya (the main and only real street) in Vladimir.

2. View of the Valley in the sunshine
Go straight to the dominant and commanding Cathedral of the Assumption and walk straight past it (don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere!) to the ‘smatrovaya ploshchadka’ / observation deck overlooking the valley below. A manmade beach, pokes out of the dark green forest that covers as far as the eye can see, while the shimmering, light blue water of the Klyazma snakes its way towards and through the horizon. The air is clean, the sky is clear and if it was raining, you could easily be confused into thinking you were looking over the glorious and picturesque west coast of Scotland or Ireland (famous for similar scenes).

3. Walk part of the Gulag route and enjoy an ice cream
Following the walk, the sights and the postcard photography session of the outside and inside of the mightily impressive Cathedral of the Assumption, it’s time to relax and refuel. Whether you stop for lunch, beer or just a coffee, it is imperative that you make the walk up towards the Golden Gates of Vladimir (a 1795 reconstruction of the 1164 original) armed with an ice cream. Russian ice cream is creamier than Western ice cream and a delicious indulgence that locals can’t get enough of – you’re doing lots of walking and on holiday so treat yourself!

4. Taxi to Suzdal and Kremlin visit
Head back to the bus station, grab your bag and jump in a taxi to the idyllic oasis that is super Suzdal. Say or show any taxi driver your desired address (a variety of accommodation can be booked easily online ranging from the very respectable Godzillas Hostel to the beautiful Svetliy Terem Guesthouse), then sit back and relax. 600 roubles will see you the 25km’s to your door and taxi is an intimate way to view the rolling, green countryside and classical farming methods as an eclectic range of traditional izba’s, community factories and other landmarks of the past are pointed out by your tour guide come taxi driver along the way.

Suzdal’s Kremlin is a relaxed and sprawling green, grassy area with an impressive range of photo worthy onion domes, bell towers and a reasonably priced refectory restaurant named Trapeznaya for when hunger strikes. Regardless of when you visit, give yourself a good hour and a half to wander aimlessly around and at least ten minutes to admire the incredible blue and gold peaks which the Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral has to offer as the clock tower bells chime happily.

5. Relax by the river with a Medovukha
Do as the locals do! Whether you’re floating about on a rubber ring in the sunshine, jumping in from the bridge joining the Museum of Wooden Architecture and glorious Kremlin or simply dipping a toe in from one of the many, manmade platforms dotted along the moat like Kamenka river that wraps itself around this diamond of the Golden Ring – no trip is complete without feeling the cold, refreshing water of the river lazily ease the worries from your head, body and mind! To reach peak relaxation, grab a Medovukha (honey beer) and sit in the sun whilst watching old dedushkas and babushkas scything grass for hay as their well-fed, big cow stands patiently, waiting to carry a load off to market, and busy little chickens root around freely looking for bugs. It’s like you’ve been taken into a whole new era, never mind place.

Return to Moscow at a reasonable hour on Sunday, get home and have a good night’s sleep. When you wake up on Monday, and head to work – take a second to reflect and try to remember a better (or longer) weekend.