My British friend Yve arrived in Moscow during February 2011 to join me for work in Russia!!!
For her first official weekend here we went on an excursion to Suzdal for “Maslenitsa”the Butter Festival. Suzdal is one of the oldest towns in Russia and the landscape has changed little in centuries. It has a couple of impressive sights all within a short walking distance from each other.
It was cold and the whole landscape was covered in snow. Unfortunately it looked like the whole of Moscow was on their way to Suzdal so the 3 hour bus journey turned into 6 hours. Although such a long bus journey is definitely not the best thing to do in -20 degrees weather, we still had a lovely day in the snow!
We stopped right next to the Kamenka River, not far from the Suzdal Kremlin where there’s a museum of Russian wooden architecture and the peasant’s way of life. Wooden churches, peasant’s houses (izbas), mills and a barn were brought here in the 1960s from all over Vladimir region’s villages. There were stalls set up between these wooden buildings and we went for a walk between them. The snow along the path as we walked through the market actually reached my shoulders.
Sorry to all the animal lovers out there but when in Russia you do what the Russians do and one of the activities of the day was watching a goose fight. I expected it to be really cruel, but from what I could see it was just loads of feathers flying and geese biting at each other. There were loads of people standing around betting on the geese and shouting while they fought. The fight was actually over surprisingly quickly. We only watched one fight and then moved on to get something warm to drink.
I also tried the goose pâté that was on sale and had plenty of hot chocolate to help me warm up. It started snowing just before lunch and only stopped late that afternoon. For lunch we had Russian borscht soup and pancakes with berries and honey. When we left the restaurant there was a band standing outside playing some music and people were dancing all over. We joined them in the dancing and actually felt like we were taking part in the festival and not just watching.
Our first sight after lunch was the must see 14th century Saviour Monastery of St Euphemius which contains numerous museums and churches. One can spend an entire day touring the museums and churches here.
The stone wall around the monastery, which were built at the end of the 17th century is 1160 meters long, 9 meters high, and 6 meters thick.
The towers of the monastery were used to observe the surrounding landscape and to protect the town.
We bought some honey mead at the entrance of the monastery; this is an alcoholic beverage, made from honey. They had honey mead on sale everywhere in the small town so obviously we ended up going home with a couple of bottles. Unfortunately we only found out the next morning that mead gives you a hell of a hang over.
The core of the Euphemius monastery is Spaso-Preobrazhensky cathedral, which was built in 1594. While we were standing inside this church there was a choir singing which gave it a very dreamy feeling. We stood there listening to the choir and warming up from our walk outside in the snow. The interior of the cathedral has no paintings or stained glass; it is just plain white stone walls all around. The church was and still is one of the richest convents in Russia so there being no decorations was a bit unexpected.
Connected to the white stone wall cathedral is an art museum you can browse through. There were many beautiful paintings in this museum but none in the actual cathedral itself. The museum is filled with beautiful arches and art created in the 16th and 17th century, making you wonder why the Cathedral is so bland.
After our visit to the monastery, we walked around the stone walls and enjoyed Suzdal’s countryside: there are low wooden houses, grazing goats and sheep, and an amazing view of Suzdal and of Pokrovsky convent across the river Kamenka. We stood there watching the sun set through the falling snow.
A great day spent in the Russian countryside!!