Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



Di tells me that there aspects of Moscow that she likes, such as some of the buildings, and some aspects that she does not like, such as the widespread smoking, the noise and the litter.  So today I wanted to show Di a different side of Russia – something quieter, cleaner, slower, more traditional.

Our destination was Suzdal, a town established in 1024 which has a population today of just 10,000 people.  The town is located 227 east of Moscow, but getting there and back is not an easy task.  I had visited Suzdal once before when the Geographical Society study tour I was leading at the time (August 1991) included an overnight stop there.  That was back in the days when all foreign travel in the USSR was organized by the government monopoly Intourist, which despite its faults, had the advantage of making sure groups got to their destinations – eventually, and without unnecessary comfort.

The most common way to get to Suzdal from Moscow is by train to Vladimir, and then transferring to a connecting bus.  However, the trains are slow and the schedules are extremely inconvenient.  I was wanting to take Di to Suzdal and back in a day, which would have been impossible by train unless we had taken the 1:06 am train from Moscow to Suzdal.

In the end, after looking at various options, I decided to splurge and arrange a car with a driver.  According to Google Maps, the driving time from Moscow to Suzdal is 3 hours and 23 minutes, so we arranged to leave the hotel at 7:30 am to avoid the build up of traffic later in the day.

Unfortunately, the trip took somewhat longer than we had anticipated – five and a half hours to be precise (just a little less time than a flight from Singapore to Sydney).  There were long queues of traffic at multiple places on the highway from Moscow, usually due to roadworks and bridgeworks, so we didn’t arrive until 1 pm., by which time the rain was starting to fall.

Fortunately, the rain was not too heavy, but we did our walk around Suzdal in what was continuous light rain except for one break in the rain of about 15 minutes.  So, the lighting wasn’t great, and today’s photos have suffered in quality as a result – please be understanding.

We began our walk at the Suzdal Kremlin.  The word ‘kremlin’ means ‘fortress’, and most old Russian cities had a kremlin.  Suzdal was no exception, and its kremlin was built in the late 11th or early 12th century on a hill in a bend of the Kamenka River, overlooking the plain below.  The Kremlin includes several structures within its walls, notably the Cathedral of the Nativity, easily identified by its distinctive blue cupolas with gold stars.

Just outside the Kremlin there is a series of raised banks with great views across the river towards other monasteries and houses, so Di and I went for a stroll along one of these, past the wooden church of St Nicholas (which dates back to 1766) before returning to the Kremlin and heading into the main part of the town.

Suzdal is a town that seems to be made for walking, at least on a sunny day.  There seems to be something to see at every turn, and as a result we zig-zagged a little as we made our way.  For example, one small church that caught our eye behind the old commercial line of shops was under renovation, but featured a most unusual giant mosaic egg in its courtyard showing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Another great sight was the Resurrection Cathedral in the middle of the cobble-stoned market square, standing proudly despite its foundations that have visibly shifted over the centuries into some quite odd angles.

We made our way on foot through the vast grounds of the Rizopolozhensky convent before returning to the Kremlin so we could take the car for the longer journey to one of Suzdal’s outstanding sights, the Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery.  One of the largest and best preserved monasteries in Russia, the Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery was built over a long period of time; it was founded in 1352 although mush of today’s structure dates from the period 1600 to 1640. 

Having entered the monastery through the gate in the high external walls, we found ourselves walking through an expansive mini city.  Highlights were the Transfiguration Cathedral, the Holy Assumption church, various monastic and residential buildings, the extensive garden and a high bell-tower. The bell-tower was especially impressive, partly because we were fortunate enough to be there (by accident) at the time of its daily bell recital (3 pm).  I wish I could have recorded the magnificent sound of the bells as they echoed through the grounds of the monastery.

Although we would have liked to stayed longer and explored more extensively, we had to leave at about 3:15 pm to start the return trip to Moscow.  As we did so, the rain started more heavily, and it continued raining steadily until we reached the outskirts of Moscow.  Although there were several traffic jams on the return trip, largely due to the aftermath of three quite horrific car/truck crashes, the delays were not as severe as the ones we encountered on the way to Suzdal.  We arrived at our hotel at 7:45 pm, the return drive having taken “just” four and a half hours.

Day 41 - Suzdal


15 August 2013