Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day Trip From Moscow-- Suzdal, Golden Ring, Russia

       From Moscow, we embarked on a day trip to the Golden Ring, located a few hours outside the city. I had always wanted to visit the towns dotted along the Golden Ring Road. After much deliberations, I decided that Taxi is the best way to go (in the thick of winter).
       Our trip was organized by Angel Taxi Moscow (天使计程车), who took us to 3 towns within 2 days: Suzdal- Vladimir- Sergiev Posad. The journey to Suzdal was surprisingly smooth, not much traffic despite the fact that it was a long weekend in conjunction with Men’s Day. Along the way, our guide Alexander told us some stories and facts about Suzdal with fluent English. As we moved further away from Moscow, I noticed a lot of vendors on both sides of the road selling stuffed animals and our guide explained that the toys serve as “last minute gift options” for Moscovites who forgot to buy some souvenirs home.

       On the internet, there are people describing Suzdal as a sleepy little town where one can enjoy a walk in the golden meadows, observing artists sketching in peace. But with the -20c temperature shown on my iPhone weather app, my expectations deflated, I guess all picturesque charm is reserved for Summer. But no, that day turned out to be the highlight of our trip, exceeding our expectation in every possible way!

       We were lucky as we were just in time for the annual Maslenitsa celebration, as well as a chance to watch Geese fight, an odd tradition only found in Suzdal! As soon as we arrived, we made our way to the Museum of Wooden Architecture first, passing the ancient timber houses, a Yamarka (market) and some snowmen dressed in Russian traditional costumes. Walking the town, I immediately realized what made Suzdal special: such a peach of a town with a magical touch of ancient Rusland, featuring gorgeous wooden lace architecture! It is a relief that the Russian Government had banned any construction project of buildings over two stories high to preserve the postcard-like setting of this place.

       The Museum of Wooden Architecture displayed ancient wooden structures from nearby villages. Looking at these incredible contractions made me wonder how would they look like in their original settings… it is a shame that those villages had lost what might have been the most beautiful building at that time, but at the same time, I have no complain as they fit incredibly well in picturesque Suzdal.
Suzdal Church
Suzdal wooden building

       Visiting Suzdal during Maslenitsa is an awesome idea. It is such a rare opportunity to mingle with the locals, play some traditional games, devour traditional Russian pancakes, sip Glinvent and people-watch… plus the opportunity to do all that in an “Old Russian village”? What could we possibly ask more?

       We visited several buildings, including a house, windmill, barn and churches inside the open-air museum and it was the Wooden Church of St. Nicholas that caught my attention. My tour guide led us carefully pass a low door, explaining that the door was purposely made this low so that people bow when entering the church. Too bad being 5’16”, I did not even need to lower my head when passing the door.  Another thing that interested me was the fact that churches are easily caught on fire following lighting strikes (explained by their height among tiny buildings).

       There were a lot of stalls selling local cuisines like Piroshki, Blinni, Pickles, Marmalade and a lot more. It was entertaining to see a Santa Clause in the midst of the vendors promoting his pancakes and medovuka ( a traditional alcoholic honey drink). Glinvent (hot red wine with spices) is another popular Russian drink that can be found here, served out of Samovars (highly decorated Russian tea urns).
Russian sweet

       And finally, despite the crowd, we managed to watch the Geese fight. Well, what can I say, it was such a unique experience and boy, Geese sure are fierce creatures!

     During the festival, I managed to take on 2 traditional games although I had zero ideas about them. Anyhow, it was quite fun to take part in cultural activities unfamiliar to us foreigners, in order to soak up the Russian-Festive vibes.

       To get to the Kremlin, we passed through an idyllic bridge build over the Kamenka river that wanders through the town. I must say that I am not a princessy girl, normally not impressed with horse carriages, but the sight of horse sleds traveling on snow-covered frozen Kamenka river was amazing. Our guide pointed us to a hill on the river bank where everyone seemed to have fun sliding, sleighing, skiing and rolling down… guess what, that hill with a mesmerizing backdrop of the Church of the Nativity turned out to be Suzdal’s defense structure.

       We did not stay long at the Kremlin, but our guide managed to turn our attention to every single seemingly insignificant details which turned out to be important elements in the Russian history, for example, the odd numbering on the clocks. Due to that, I am especially pleased with my decision of hiring a knowledgeable guide instead of blindly following a crowd of tourists on a mission to snap photos, check in on Facebook and leave.
Suzdal Kremlin

       and oh did I mentioned all the Ladies Maslenitsa I've met during the festival? Made out of straw and clad in brightly colored garments, Lady Maslenitsa is an effigy that will eventually get burned at the end of the week-long Maslenitsa celebration. and only then, Spring officially starts.
lady maslenitna

      Although it was not included in the itinerary, our tour guide let us check out several less-known cathedral that caught our eyes. Just look at the architecture, they sure are pretty!
A post shared by Vivian Dominique Lee (@littlemisshappyfeet) on

       We made our final stop at the Yevfimievsky Monastery, home to a Cathedral, (a lot of) museums and Belfry. We were so lucky to arrive on time for the hourly bell ringing and were impressed by the beautiful melody that lasted for several minutes, at the same time baffled by the fact that it was all a one-man show (there was only 1 bell ringer!).

       Another great experience we had was enjoying a choir’s performance in the church after some neck-muscle-straining time marveling at enchanting frescoes. Upon exiting the Monastery, we headed to the observatory point at the edge of the wall where we were rewarded with a sweeping vista of the convent below.

        After visiting Suzdal, our guide let us listen to some songs about the prison life in Central Vladimir as we made our way through a scenic route towards Vladimir. Unfortunately, winter means shorter day time, hence we did not have time for all sights. Following a quick tour around Vladimir, it was time to bid adieu to the city.


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Thank You for Reading! Miss Happy Feet was a guest of Angel-Taxi Moscow. However, all photos and opinion are strictly my own. 
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