Suzdal - Buying a Stairway to Heaven! Posted on Wed 20th Oct 2010
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So you want to see churches hey? Well you have come to the right place. Suzdal is a small village on the ‘Golden Circle’ route which is taken as a package tour by most of the people I have spoken to. Well since I am allergic to package tours and enjoy both the pain and pleasure of self flagellation and independent travel, the long suffering partner (LSP) and I headed out on the bus from Vladimir to yet again step back in time to 16th century Russia. An hour or so later we turned up in the dilapidated concrete bus shelter that is about a mile and a half out of Suzdal.... why anyone ever does this in a town planning sense I don’t know. But is does give the man with the mini bus and the 10 roubles fare a job I guess...
Anyway, on a cold rainy October day we had the pleasure to wander around what is basically a monument to the madness of traders with too much money and a deep religious superstition. You will wander from church to church to church to church to... monastery.... all either a little run down or looking like they were built yesterday due to the ‘ we can make it look better than new’ Russian restoration ethic... There are fields which contained a perfectly usable church, so what shall we build next door? Another church. Turn the corner and what will you see, a church... look into the distance and what’s been built... a McDonalds...No just kidding.... a church.
I like seeing old buildings and architecture, but when it’s all the same type of building and none of them are what you might call extraordinary, you get to suffer from a condition which I once heard a travelling friend say they had caught in Europe. ABC.... Another Bloody Church. (My favourite is Arr!!.. Ancient Roman Ruin.... as you can make that as a very silly noise and only you and your accomplice will know what you are on about.. Especially if you do it like Tim the Toolman.. arr arr arr in a deep husky voice... yes easily amused.. but sometimes when you’re an atheist in a village of over 30 churches you gotta do something! (and no there weren’t any Roman ruins!)) So we continued our trek around the village, looking at churches, popping in occasionally to the ones that were open, politely declining the joys of The Museum of Wooden Architecture and generally just getting rained on.
Yet there is a charm to Suzdal. It was off season, but you can see it’s geared to a summer influx of tour buses. Enough signs are in English and there is enough evidence to show it rocks to a different beat when the sun is high in the sky. But here in the rain of late autumn it felt like a genuine Russian village.
Our time was punctuated by a couple of stops in local establishments to get the blood running again (nothing helps more than a cold beer on a freezing cold wet day), but the locals seemed glad to see us and without all the other tourists we got to see how this microcosm of 16th century Russia is on normal day. Kids coming home from school, Babushkas picking up the little ones, just normal Russians going about their normal lives, and I guess that’s was the highlight of this town... Not that trader after trader made their fortune and then built a church to get them into heaven, but that it gave a rare glimpse into a rural tranquillity that you rarely, if ever, see from your air conditioned tourist box.
The many not-so varied churches of Suzdal, Russia.
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