The town of Suzdal is rightly called the Pearl of the Russia’s “Golden Ring”. There are more than 300 monuments of culture and architecture in the town and some of them are designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites (not only single attractions but, for example, the whole Suzdal Kremlin). EcoTourism Expert made a tour of the museum-town by sightseeing carriage pulled by horses and found out if there were really crowds of tourist in the town.
Those who are going to travel to Suzdal from Moscow should know that the road normally used to enter this town will be closed till September 30 due to the repair of the bridge over the Mzhara River. Therefore, if the GPS navigator would offer you to detour, you should believe it.
Moreover, in this case, you will most likely park your car in some place along Vasilyevskaya Street. And, for sure, it is good because it is on the outskirts of the town, the town’s authentic and very cozy suburbs, where local cats walk along the streets, and almost every private house is a monument of wooden architecture decorated with very beautiful window trimmers. By the way, it is forbidden to build houses in Suzdal higher than three stories!
After taking a 15-minute leisurely walk along this street, you are in the very centre of the town, in the Torgovaya (Trading) Square where most travellers start their tour of Suzdal. By the millennium of the town, the Square will be restored, but the local authorities promise that only a small part of the historical cobbled square will be replaced (but this pavement will be never removed) - today’s high-heeled fashion-mongers do not like to walk along such roads and in such squares.
This square is still a trading place with a lot of souvenir shops and cafes in the shade of the malls, and you can buy traditional Suzdal drinks, including mead, the honeywine infused with various berries, as well as khrenovukha, the horseradish vodka. This white drink - harsh to the taste - is made using vodka, and it is popular because horseradish - as the sellers conspiratorially explain - is an aphrodisiac and has been used in Russia since ancient times to improve “virile strength”. However, the drink is acrid, so people suffering from gastrointestinal diseases should taste it with great care.
By the way, at the Suzdal’s restaurants, this drink is made using cucumbers, and the cucumber is a gastronomic symbol of the town, it is grown here in every yard. Those who like this vegetable should return to Suzdal on the third Saturday of July when the Cucumber Day is traditionally celebrated here.
However, it is time to speak about spiritual food. Suzdal is a town of churches. In ancient times, there were more than one hundred churches in Suzdal, but there are quite a few churches in the town even today. There are 57 churches in total, which is a huge number for a town with an area of 15 sq. km only. It’s impossible to visit them all during a short visit, but it is worth knowing that 41 churches are functional.
The filmmakers like Suzdal for its cultural identity and a lot of architectural monuments. The first movie - “The Ballad of a Soldier” - was filmed in Suzdal in 1958, in addition, recognizable landscapes and buildings can be seen in the films “Andrey Rublev” and “On the Murom Road”.
But the most popular film where Suzdal is shown in all its beauty is the “The Marriage of Balzaminov”. And indeed, the scenes are recognizable and Torgovaya Square with its merchants’ rows where Mishenka Balzaminov danced his lovely dance, and the Saint Bell Tower of the Monastery of the Deposition of the Robe, and even Balzaminov’s house at 13, Staraya (Old) Street where the main scenes were filmed.
We could not get into the house (it is a residential house), in the courtyard of which the film was shot, but we visited the bank of fortress where the episode of tea drinking with Nona Mordyukova playing the woman-merchant Belotelova was filmed. It is interesting that more modern movies were filmed in Suzdal, so the Suzdal hotel complex located on Korovniki Street was used as the ‘NUINU’ Institute (fictional “Scientific Universal Institute of Extraordinary Services”) in the musical film “The Magicians”.
Another iconic feature of Suzdal is its numerous carriages pulled by horses taking tourists around the town. There are so many sightseeing carriages in the town that they, and not cars, bottleneck traffic sometimes. And their parking lot along Kremlevskaya Street may remind you of some royal function in the 19th century with several dozens of richly decorated carriages along the street!
I would like to mention that the price for the tour by a sightseeing carriage is quite high and amounts to 3,000 roubles, but you can easily feel like a person of a “noble family”, especially when at the end of the tour, the coachman takes you around the Kremlin. Well, if there are no nobles in your genealogic tree, you can look at the town from the coachman’s seat and, if you’re lucky, even drive the carriage!
The Suzdal Kremlin where the tour by a sightseeing carriage ends is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, not many people know that the Suzdal Kremlin is a small part surrounded by a single wall, behind which is the Bishop’s Court, the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the bell tower and the wooden Church of St. Nicholas from the village of Glotovo. The Cathedral was built in 1222 through 1225 and was conceived as the main temple of the town, and the prince’s tomb at the same time. The Church of St. Nicholas, in turn, is a magnificent example of a “klet” type of temple, the forerunner of which was a generic Slavic hut surrounded by a gallery on three sides called a promenade.
And finally, after a walk around the Suzdal Kremlin, you should definitely walk up the remains of the fortress bank, which offers a stunning view of the town and the Kamenka (Stone) River. By the way, it was called the Glubinka (Deep) River earlier for its depth. But when stone construction expanded widely in the town and ships loaded with stone began to arrive one by one, the name of the river was changed because these ships with stone turned over too often and the river’s depth reduced. And these changes are a vivid confirmation that in Suzdal, even the names can change, but the strong Russian spirit of this beautiful town still remains unchanged.