A recent piece about Moscow’s ritzy Ritz Carlton hotel in Intelligent Travel went a long way to showing that not all of Russia is vacuously obsessed with consuming as much glitz as possible. The general manager showed his intelligence by extolling the virtues of getting out of the city, and one of the places he mentioned is my favorite little Russian village, Suzdal.
I’ve written before about Suzdal (not here), but the place is worth mentioning. It’s part of Russia’s 300-kilometer-long Golden Ring of villages, but is by far the most picturesque. It takes about two hours to walk around, without touring the 30-odd monasteries and churches, and throughout the entire walk you could kid yourself that the Soviet Union had never existed.
Although most tourist guides describe the place in summer, I went in the dead of winter. Even then, in true Russian style, the market vendors were out hawking carved wooden boxes in -10 degrees Farenheit (-23 Centigrade).
Suzdal is full of tiny, brightly colored houses, and windows with curlicued frames. Given the blockiness of most drab, concrete Soviet architecture, you might not guess the Russians are this whimsical, but this is the traditional architecture of Russia — the classic dacha, overheated by one wooden stove and bravely painted against the harsh weather.
I recommend seeing the Russian countryside in winter. The bleak landscape wipes your mind clean, and a village like Suzdal leaves plenty of room for contemplation. Either way, if you can brave the train journey and jostling bus ride out of Moscow, take a trip out to the Golden Ring on your own. Walk around. See something new.
(All photos copyright 2005 Antonia Malchik)