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Winter Impressions from Suzdal, Russia

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If you look in any guidebook or website about tourism in Russia, Suzdal will always be mentioned as one of the top attractions. It's a cozy little place, but I can't understand the appeal. There is nothing to see here except churches and a lot of colorful wooden houses, which you can view in almost any other city in Russia. Of all the churches, the wooden ones in Suzdal are my favorite, probably because they remind me of secluded, wilderness cabins from a distance. What is the lure for tourists? Perhaps it's just the easy accessibility from Moscow, the central starting point for most large, organized tours for foreigners. The city was my first stop during the last Russian trip, and after awaking at the crack of dawn, we ventured off to see one of the most well-known cities along the Golden Ring.

1. Along the way, we made a quick sunrise stop to view a church off the beaten path. At least, that was the original plan. I began the deep trek through the forest to find the mysterious Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, but gave up half way down the path. Just a complete sheet of ice the entire way, and I couldn't walk it. I fell three times, and on the last fall, I saw that Alexander was far ahead of me, almost at the destination, so I just gave up. The effort did not seem worth it to me, when I knew I would view dozens of other churches during the journey. Instead of stressing over falling every two seconds, I simply stood and admired the glowing pink sunset through the forest trees.

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2. When you enter the main part of Suzdal, there's a sign directing you to all the holy places. One good thing - the points are duplicated in English! I don't remember the name of this church, but it sits by its lonesome in a secluded part of the town.

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3. In this city, I walked alone. At first, I was optimistic when I saw English on the map, yet despite the huge influx of tourists to the town each summer, the language assistance ended there. Almost nothing else is written or duplicated in English, so you're on your own to decipher the meaning of places and directions. Emphasizes my point that it's absolutely necessary for any foreigner traveling solo in Russia to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. It helps so much, as lot of basic words are the same in Russian and English.

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4. Of all the traditional Orthodox churches in the area, the Nativity Cathedral is my favorite. It sits right by the old Kremlin.

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5. I give Suzdal credit because it at least tries to build some type of comfy atmosphere for tourists, like this small area right in city center filled with shops and cafes. The stores are all colorful and inviting for visitors. However, as almost everywhere in Russia, the paths are completely uncared for and covered in thick layers of ice and snow making navigation difficult. I can't understand why shop owners don't clear their areas, or make pathways for store entrances easier.

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6. Babushka ready to sew you some clothes on her machine. Also, I now notice the shoes we discussed in the other post - valenki - sitting on the top shelf!

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7. I became hungry and stopped in one of the cafes for a pancake snack. It was nice, clean and the layout was in my favorite color - orange! Very basic cafe, serving only pancakes, breads and sweets on paper plates. The menu was duplicated in English, and the service was good, maybe because I was the only person in the cafe. The waitress was friendly and seemed happy to have a guest in her restaurant.

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8. One problem - the cafe had no proper coffee or espresso, only the instant variety, so I went to another place to have a hot drink. It was much fancier, with wooden baskets decorating the main counter and most tables, all filled with my favorite Soviet Alena chocolate. :) I still don't know if this image is based on a real baby, or it's simply an imaginary depiction? Readers have told me different stories about the creation of this chocolate.

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9. Outside of the cafe, classic nesting dolls greet visitors!

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10. Off topic, but during a recent visit to an antique store in Virginia, I came across this big matryoshka doll. Guess the price? $275 USD!! It's so cheap to buy these at any Russian tourist stand, so next time I will stock up and try to fund my future travels. :)

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11. I began to walk around the neighborhood, and found some great houses and business areas, with the iconic colorful window frames. Seems odd that half of the building has windows painted in light colors, while the others are bright blue. In the USA, we have many restrictions governed by "home associations", which require uniformity when it comes to houses in certain neighborhoods. For example, you can't have a bright orange door if you desire it. I don't like this, and believe people should be free to decorate their houses as they wish, even if it's considered ugly by others. The reasoning for the restrictions is that tacky decor brings down property values for others in the event they wish to sell their home.

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12. For those who are too lazy to paint or maintain nice windows, they simply put up a pretend version. This house had some artificial, cloth wall covering thrown over it to mimic the traditional appearance of the other homes in the area. Even a fake cat on the drawing! :) Maybe you would have thought the windows were real if I had not told you otherwise?

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13. Along the fences in the neighborhood, there were various portraits of children and families hanging. I don't know the purpose or what they symbolized? These sisters appear to be cute twins. I liked it, because I'm always fascinated by family photos, and the different appearance and shape the human face can take.

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14. Again, two-tone house color. The front plain wood, the back, light blue. Maybe repairs and painting are ongoing, or the dual design is intentional?

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15. Nice statue of someone named "Alexey," I can't read the last name because it's covered in snow. If you know the person or his significance, please tell me in the comments.

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16. I turned down another road, and here I discovered the life of the city! The local market, filled with pensioners buying all kinds of products. I guess it's their version of the local shopping mall. All products are sold here - food, clothing, shoes, hats, electronics...

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17. And pigs! Ah, after seeing animal carcasses strewn about I feel bad about being a meat eater.

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18. These two women had a loud verbal argument. I couldn't understand the Russian well enough to know what the dispute was about, but I assumed based on the hand gestures that the older woman was trying to negotiate a lower price for her sliced sausages, and the seller didn't want to cooperate. But, maybe they were just having a normal conversation. I've told you before that Russian speech always sounds very loud and aggressive to me.

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19. Local street. There are no words - the image speaks for itself. Here, old people maneuver through ice, craters and pot holes, carry big bags of food, while cars drive and weave in between them. Russia - only for the strong! It isn't a random image, or a "pig searching for dirt", as many often accuse when such images are shown. This is the condition of most of the streets I walked in Suzdal.

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20. The main road through the city was in good condition, and even workers with their ice picks were trying to clear the sidewalks. Bravo!

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21. Last stop was the ancient monastery. Another old church on the grounds, but the purpose was to climb to a secret bell tower we read about online.

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22. I've found that accessibility to tourist places in Russia is often unpredictable. There's no set schedule, sometimes places are closed in the middle of the day, and even gaining entrance is sometimes a chore. The same thing here. We had to speak to several people in the monastery to find the person who had the key to the church in which the bell tower was located. The gentleman was friendly, and after paying a small fee for entrance and being handed a pamphlet, we entered.

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23. The inside is very decrepit and not properly maintained, with unstable wooden planks and exposed nails. I think in the USA, such a place would be closed due to safety hazards, but it's always pleasant to view any city from above, so I climbed the several hundred steps to the top.

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24. Passed many pigeons on the journey up, it appears the church is one of their safe havens, and their droppings greet you around every corner, even on the rails to which you hold onto when walking up the steps.

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25. There are several different vantage points, if you peek through various windows on the climb up.

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26. The view from the top is magnificent and worth the effort. You really see how bright and colorful the city is, with all the vibrant domes and rooftops.

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27. For whom the bell tolls...

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28. Local houses, clean yards, in general the area is nice when compared to other cities I visited along the Golden Ring.

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29. Part of the monastery, which appears abandoned.

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30. In this city, I saw almost no young people.

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31. Standard Russian facial expression. :)

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32. Different angle of the church on the monastery grounds.

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33. My favorite church in Suzal - St. Nicholas Wooden Church.

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34. In one of the cafes, I discovered this delicious drink - medovuha! I would describe it is a honey beer. So tasty! I drank it in the car on the way to our next destination - Ivanovo, which I'll tell you about in a separate post.

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My final impression is that Suzdal is a nice place for standard tourists interested in churches and a more formal, structured and cozy tourist environment. However, it's not really to my liking. I prefer more unique attractions, which are focused on people, rather than places and architectural wonders.


Comments

( 128 comments — Leave a comment )
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pin_gwin
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:22 pm (UTC)
Did you try mead? Is it different from medovuha?
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I tried it after I got back from the trip. You can find mead in a lot of stores here, and it tastes the same to me.
(no subject) - pin_gwin - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pin_gwin - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmitiry_s - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmitiry_s - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
d_20_veld
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:30 pm (UTC)
Ага,медовуху попробовали...Правильно,веселит сердце и поднимает дух.
Памятник-Алексей Лебедев,поэт-маринист.

Двухцветные дома и у нас встречаются....в доме две разные семьи,вот и красят как им нравиться.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:37 pm (UTC)
Алексей Лебедев - спасибо!
(no subject) - d_20_veld - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - d_20_veld - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
dorli87
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:42 pm (UTC)
"31. Standard Russian facial expression."
Yes)) post-Soviet Union facial expression, I have to say.
It is very difficult to get rid of this expression.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:43 pm (UTC)
During Soviet times, you think people smiled more?
(no subject) - dorli87 - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorli87 - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorli87 - Apr. 29th, 2015 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - Aleksi Udovichenko - Apr. 29th, 2015 07:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 07:29 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dorli87 - Apr. 29th, 2015 07:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 08:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tim_mcilrath - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Apr. 29th, 2015 12:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 29th, 2015 01:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 09:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 29th, 2015 01:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 01:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tim_mcilrath - Apr. 29th, 2015 02:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tim_mcilrath - Apr. 29th, 2015 06:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - creaze - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - creaze - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - creaze - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - creaze - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
zaznaika13
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:53 pm (UTC)
Most wooden houses in Russian villages have two parts - main structure that is made from logs and the second part is an addition to the main house that is used as an entrance hall plus it can house a barn or a summer room/kitchen. Second two-toned house is one of the examples. Back side was added to the main house and is made of the different wood that was painted different than the front part.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:00 pm (UTC)
Usually one family lives in a house like that, or multiple families?
(no subject) - zaznaika13 - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sergechel - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmitiry_s - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
justadreamer
Apr. 28th, 2015 05:57 pm (UTC)
Это да — какие local street такие и facial expression, фиглиж. Иэээхххх... Расея матушка!
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:01 pm (UTC)
Do you live in Russia, or somewhere else?
(no subject) - justadreamer - Apr. 28th, 2015 06:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
theodorexxx
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:05 pm (UTC)
I don't understand it too. All these churches look the same and are boring
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:32 pm (UTC)
Well, many people love all these churches, but not me. To each their own. :) Even in Vologda, I saw huge buses of people coming to visit the local churches, and they appeared to be mostly Russians, not visitors from other countries.
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Apr. 29th, 2015 12:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 29th, 2015 01:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Apr. 29th, 2015 03:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
juan
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
I think the reason for the popularity of Suzdal is the fact that it wasn't destroyed by the Soviet architecture. You can see wooden old houses and churches in many other cities, but if you walk further, you'll always see gray commieblocks with dirty courtyards anywhere but in Suzdal.
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:30 pm (UTC)
"gray commieblocks"... :))) Yes, Suzdal is very nice, colorful and clean. So, it's good that tourists visit this place. Leaves a favorable impression of Russia.
yarowind
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
>> I discovered this delicious drink - medovuha! I would describe it is a honey beer. So tasty!

Yes, I also like it:))
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 06:30 pm (UTC)
When you visit the USA, do you drink a lot of beer? We have so many breweries and local pubs making their own beer. If not, you should try on your next trip here. As long as you're not driving afterward. :)
(no subject) - qi_tronic - Apr. 29th, 2015 12:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 29th, 2015 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarowind - May. 1st, 2015 06:26 am (UTC) - Expand
andrey_kaminsky
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:34 pm (UTC)
Что за жизнь...
I wanted to write something funny, with humor, but another fascist comment above ruined my mood by blunt statement that i don't have a culture :(
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Что за жизнь...
That reader is also entitled to his opinion, even if you disagree.
Re: Что за жизнь... - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - tim_mcilrath - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - andrey_kaminsky - Apr. 29th, 2015 05:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Что за жизнь... - tim_mcilrath - Apr. 29th, 2015 08:28 am (UTC) - Expand
ruslanviktorov
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
Суздаль прекрасен в любом случае, в музей деревянного зодчества ходили?
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:38 pm (UTC)
No, I don't really like museums and wooden architecture is not of interest to me. I strongly dislike these fake peasant/cultural villages for tourists. Better to see the real thing, with people actually living in the environment. However, to do this, it's often necessary to venture out of main cities and into the villages. :) That's why I like solo road trips, not organized tours, because you can go off the beaten path.
(no subject) - ruslanviktorov - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - peacetraveler22 - Apr. 28th, 2015 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
ruslanviktorov
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:36 pm (UTC)
Огурцы и местный самогон пробовали?
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:39 pm (UTC)
Да!
rise_man
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:41 pm (UTC)
nice photo! :-)

it seems to me you fell in love Russia )
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 07:43 pm (UTC)
I definitely love the snowy, winter landscapes as depicted in the photos of the wooden churches. However, life there is too difficult for me. I don't want to be burdened with so many hassles in every day life. I see no reason for it, esp. the poorly maintained sidewalks and walking areas. Very easy to correct such issues, and make life more pleasant for locals, yet it's never done. This mentality is totally foreign to me.
polis_2
Apr. 28th, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC)
foto № 15
Alexey Alekseevich Lebedev was born on August 1, 1912 in Suzdal. The naval officer, the poet-marine painter, the member of the Union of the Soviet writers, the author of two poetic collections singing of everyday life and romanticism of the sea. Tragicly I was lost in November, 1941. The monument to Alexey Lebedev was solemnly октрыт on August 9, 2008 in the City Day of Suzdal. The bronze sculpture was made on sponsor's means on the project of the Moscow and Vladimir sculptors. The monument on crossing, called in honor of the Suzdal poet, Lebedev Street and Kremlevskaya Street settles down.
http://www.photosuzdal.ru/photos/suzdal_111003.htm
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
Re: foto № 15
It's nice, I like such statues in cities! For me, mountains are more romantic than the sea. :)
elena_88888
Apr. 28th, 2015 08:05 pm (UTC)
I can understand your point of view.))
To my opinion Suzdal is a cozy small town filled with some kind of spirit meantime when a lot of other towns breast with hopeless eternity... But its my impression:))
peacetraveler22
Apr. 28th, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, esp. Vologda! This is the most depressing city I visited on the last trip. I don't even know if I'll write a report about it. There were no favorable impressions.
(no subject) - elena_88888 - Apr. 28th, 2015 08:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
dmitiry_s
Apr. 28th, 2015 08:08 pm (UTC)
Really? I've never seen it in US. It may be different. I dont like kvass from supermarkets, you're right - it's too sweety. But if you taste them on markets in historical centers or in monasteries it may be very delicious!
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