Postcard from the Golden Ring – Suzdal



Please enjoy an article from one of our inspired clients:

For most visitors to Russia, like ourselves, the first experience of the country is through her two great metropolises: Moscow and St Petersburg. And yet we often forget that beyond these two fierce but sisterly rivals, lies an almost incomprehensibly vast nation.

Russia is the sum of her many parts. If Moscow is the nation’s beating Slavic heart then St Petersburg is the sophisticated cradle of the Russian Enlightenment. And what holds all this together is the provinces; keeper of Russia’s Byzantine soul.

For our third visit to this most alluring of travel destinations we wanted to catch a glimpse of this other world, a world elevated by Tolstoy in Anna Karenina and endearingly satirised by Gogol in Dead Souls. And so we decided to take a trip with Visit Russia to the Golden Ring.

In the 1960s, several towns located in a ring just a few hours from Moscow, having escaped early 20th century modernisation, the railways as well as the abject horrors of the German invasion, were rediscovered. And so there set about a restoration and preservation of what are some of Russia’s most important historical sites, many dating back to the nation’s formative years. And so the concept of the Golden Ring was born.

Suzdal, with its kremlin and monasteries, lies nestled by the quiet flowing Kamenka River. Filled with historical buildings, many dating back from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries and with architectural examples stretching right up to the 19th, Suzdal is an open air museum.


The town’s inhabitants mingle together with film makers, historians, and tourists drinking tea or sampling locally produced honey beer, shopping in the colourful market, taking a stroll through the lanes or climbing aboard a horse drawn carriage.

With high rises strictly forbidden, hotels designed to mimic country estates and dachas, and the residents shunning the hard sell that often accompanies mass tourism, the Suzdal authorities have ensured that the town retains its unique atmosphere and setting.

On that gloriously sunny day an elderly accordionist played Katyusha while we gazed up and over at the domes and spires which dot the town’s skyline. Why did they build churches in pairs, one small and one large? Why the different number of domes, shapes, colours, and varying heights which make the town such a picture postcard? Of course the mystery was solved before we left for Vladimir but I shan’t tell you the answers.

Because as the poet Fyodor Tyutchev once wrote: “Russia can’t be understood with the mind alone…… In Russia, one can only believe”, or even better, be seen for yourself.

A.C. D’Arcy