21) Suzdal: My Russian Soul

Pastoral scene- Suzdal

I boarded a day train in Moscow headed east bound, intended destination: Suzdal. Technically, this was the 1st leg of my Trans Siberian Railroad adventure, although it was a really short leg since Suzdal is only 220 kilometers east of Moscow.

Stopping in Suzdal was important to me though, because it was a return visit, having spent several days here in 1999. That was before Suzdal was a significant stop on the tourist circuit.  Most of the roads were still unpaved and there were few cars, and no tourists buses.  With the quiet old Monasteries and the beautiful Convent of the Intercession, Suzdal looked like “Old Russia”, a village from a previous century, which was why I had sought it out.

Here’s what Lonely Planet says:    “With rolling green fields carpeted with dandelions, a gentle river curling lazily through a historic town centre, sunlight bouncing off golden church domes and the sound of horse clops and church bells carrying softly through the air, you may feel like you’ve stumbled into a storybook Russia.”

That was pretty much the way Suzdal was in 1999.  To make that first visit even more perfect, I was actually able to book an Izba (cabin) inside the walls of the Convent of the Intercession. I was in search of my “Russian Soul”, and Suzdal was where I found it.

The train doesn’t actually go through Suzdal, you have to get off in Vladimir and take a local bus for the 1 hour ride to Suzdal. That was part of the allure- off of the beaten path.

So what did I find on my return visit?  Well, Suzdal is much more of a destination now, with plenty of tourists and several tour buses making their way to the town center.  Most of the roads are paved, and there are a lot more cars on them.  You can still feel like you are off of the beaten path here, especially when compared to the big cities, but you’ll have to share Suzdal with more folks than just the locals. My biggest disappointment was that the increase in tourism has caused the Convent of the Intercession to take measures to protect the privacy of the sisters and of the convent grounds.  Back in 1999 you could stroll the beautiful grounds, but today much of the area of the convent is roped off, restricting visitors to only a small area.  The greatest disappointment was that convent doesn’t book the izbas to travelers anymore. I had to stay in an Airbnb apartment out on the edge of town.

Never the less, I’m glad I came back to Suzdal.  It’s still a beautiful town, but it is no longer that little 19th century Russian village that I remember.

Convent of the Intercession. Seen from the monastery across the river.  It’s been an active convent for several centuries.  Several tzars sent unruly wives & daughters here to chill for a few decades.
Entry gates into the Convent of the Intercession
Main chapel. It has a phenomenal interior, but no photos allowed. Also- no photos of the sisters allowed.
Itzba #4, inside the convent, where I stayed during my previous visit to Suzdal. They don’t rent it out to travelers any more.
Dacha- a country house. People come out to the country from Moscow in the summer months.
Fishing on a summer day.

Reminds me of a certain cat back in Texas.
A “Lada” was a Russian made car from the Soviet era. We didn’t see any of them in Moscow, but you can still find them out in the countryside.
Some of my roads were NOT on Google Maps. I walked this dirt path back to the bus station, passing a giant beehive. Beekeeping is common here.

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