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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Suzdal, Russia
TRANS SIBERIAN RAILWAY Ulan Ude Aug 6-7 Irkutsk Aug 4 Aug 5-8 Yekaterinburg Aug 8-10 Aug 11-12 Kazan Aug 13 Nizhny Novgorod Aug 14 Golden Ring Aug 15 Aug 16-17

MOSCOW Aug 17-19 Aug 20-21 Aug 22-23

Suzdal, Russia, August 16, 2003

Russian Flag GOLDEN RING

August 15. GOLDEN RING: VLADIMIR/SUZDAL To make our 7:00 am train we were up and checked out of our hotel by 6:00.  We didn't have any trouble buying our ticket but didn't know why we each were given two separate ticket slips.  The ticket lady couldn't explain to us so we just watched the other passengers enter the wicked to figure out which ticket to us.  A train pulled up at the platform and we boarded with the other people who had been waiting.  It was an old model train with wood seats and steep metal steps up from the platform.  We were relieve to get a seat until we realized that everyone was getting off the train again.  Rob had asked one of the fellow passengers if we were on the train to Vladimir and he confirmed that we were but a few minutes later the same man passed us by pointing to the exit.  We got off the train to see everyone running down to the far end of the platform to get on another train that had pulled up directly behind the one we were on!  We lugged our bags all of the way to the last car and got found a free bench.

It was a five hour ride from Nizhny Novgorod to Vladimir but the time passed pretty quickly.  The crowds waxed and waned from stop to stop but never got really crowded.  It felt like we had stepped back in time as we passed through the countryside, watching many passengers carrying baskets or buckets of fruit.  Of course even at 7:20 in the morning there were people drinking beer, it was inescapable.  A few industrious folks came through the train trying to sell various items.  We occasional had seen some on board the long distance trains.   They sold everything from berries to jewelry to kitchen towels.  There were a few beggars as well.  They continually came through and checked our tickets.  Each time it was a different ticket person.  The only time our carriage seemed really full was when the ticket people were making the rounds.  In order to avoid paying the fare people were moving in a cluster down the train.  As soon as the train stopped the jumped off and ran back up to the front of the train again.  With so many of them the ticket takers could only catch so many and give them fines and they didn't seem too eager to catch anyone anyway. 

We arrived in Vladimir around noon.  There were a few sights in the city, Russia's old capital, that we wanted to see before heading on to Suzdal.  We expected there to be a baggage check room but we initially couldn't find one.  A woman selling ice cream pointed us to an office in the corner of the station so we waited there until a woman showed up. We pointed to our bags but she just said something, looked like she was telling us to stay there, and then left again.  We waited for 20 minutes and she didn't return so we finally just went to get something to eat.  As we snacked on pastries and coffee we sat and watched people peruse the nearby stand.  Our bags were leaned up against the outside of the stall so we were keeping an eye on anyone who lingered too long.  It was amazing how interested people were in the brillo pads and kitchen appliances displayed in the stall window.   After years of not having access to many goods there were probably still some things that we take for granted but are still relatively new in Russia.   When I went to find the bathroom I had to venture down to the basement and across from the pay toilet I saw a baggage check room.  The women we met earlier was sitting at the table. I ran back up to get Rob and we dragged our bags back down to check them.  We weren't sure what miscommunication had happened earlier so Rob tried to make sure she would be there later for us to collect the bags and she nodded.

Free from our bags we made a quick trip to visit the nearby Assumption Cathedral, started in 1158, and the Cathedral of Dmitry, built between 1193 and 1197.  They were touted as some of Russia's more exceptional architectural structures.  The detailed images on the exterior of the Cathedral of Dmitry were unique and beautiful and the glistening gold domes and ornate interior of the Assumption Cathedral were worth the trip.  The buildings had survived Russia's attacks by the Mongol Tatars (the Golden Horde) in the 12th century and their mere existence was something of a miracle.  It was the season of weddings and two couples were taking photos around the cathedrals, their cars decorated with three strips down the hood of the cars in the colors of the Russian flag.  

The bus station was directly across from the train station, which was convenient.  The baggage check lady wasn't at the room when we arrived but Rob quickly retrieved her from her office upstairs.  It was only a 45 minute bus ride to the charming village of Suzdal.  Along with Vladimir and a hand full of other villages, Suzdal was part of Russia Golden Ring.  Together they were the political and cultural center of Russia before Moscow and today are popular weekend destinations for mostly well-to-do Russians from Moscow.  As we approached the village we could see small spires and domes peeking up here and there across the green fields and scattered trees.  Suzdal is the highlight of the Golden Ring towns and has been kept protected against industrial development so the bus station was on the outer edge of town.  A taxi took us the rest of the way to our hotel, the simple Hotel Rizopolozhenskaya inside the dilapidated Monastery of the Deposition.   Our helpful front desk woman in N.Novgorod had helped us by locating the right phone number for the hotel and booking us a room.  The first place she tried for us in the guidebook was now charging 4 times price LP quoted (about $80/night) so we were relieved to get a room in the monastery for about $25.  It wasn't anything fancy but it was clean enough and in a good location.

The weather had been oscillating between sun and gray all day long.  With a window of nice weather we headed out in search of a place to eat dinner.  Our walk took us to the Convent of the Intersession but their highly recommended restaurant was booked out for the night.   Across the river we investigated the horrible monstrosity called the Glavny Turistsky Komplex, a concrete eyesore of Soviet charm that was luckily obscured by trees.  We waited for someone to seat us at the restaurant but after several people passed us without as much as a glance we left and headed back across the river.  We settled on the restaurant inside a small hotel.  The food was quite good but they put something mysterious on our bill and then never brought us our change.  We chalked it up to a tip and decided never to return.  They would have gotten a better tip if they had brought us our change but the presumptuousness was really too much.