Suzdal in Russia is timeless and the reason is the lack of train connectivity. In 1824 when the local merchants failed to convince the government to build a Trans Siberian Railway through their home town, they had no idea how much their failure would benefit Suzdal. As a result, the picturesque town got avoided not only by the railway but time also froze there. Located on the banks of Kamenka River and only 26 kilometers away from the administrative capital of Vladimir, Suzdal is one of Russia’s oldest settlements. Founded by Prince Yury Dolgoruky, Suzdal had been the capital at the time, when Moscow was just a “cluster of cowsheds” and the historic town dates back to early 11th century. Today it is the crown jewel of Russia’s Golden Ring and makes a great destination for day trips from Moscow. A serene and charming place, it had been online photos of Suzdal’s postcard pretty latticework of unpaved paths winding by churches with candy-colored domes, rustic wooden structures and flower filled meadows that had caught my attention and and I had set off for it on one fine autumn morning.
It had been a Sunday, when an early morning bus from Vladimir had rattled down Russian country roads towards Suzdal and by the time I had reached the town center by taxi, the beautiful churches had been humming with activity. Famous for being one of the main orthodox church religious seats in Russia, many stunning monasteries dot Suzdal’s rolling meadows and two of them are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. With tourism being its only industry, Suzdal had protected its historic monuments with utmost care and a great number of stunning examples of the Russian architecture of the XIII-XIX century have been preserved there. Thus, the town had evolved into an open air museum and there are a staggering 305 monuments and listed buildings in Suzdal.
The oldest part of the town had been Kremlin and it had dated back to the 10th century. It is said that Moscow’s namesake landmark had been inspired from it and the fortified sanctuary had once upon a time housed the royal family, the archbishop, and the high clergy. A beautifully preserved park, Kremlin’s 1.4-kilometer long terracotta rampart had contained a number of houses and churches, including the UNESCO Heritage Site of Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral. A gorgeous snow white monument, with blue onion domes spangled with gold, the Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral is one of my most poignant memories of Suzdal and I can never forget the sight of its golden stars twinkling against a sunny cloudless sky.
In fact, my Suzdal experience is one big jumble of beautiful memories and it is one of the most picturesque places I have ever visited. The saying, “First impression is the last impression”, stands true for Suzdal and my first sight of the historic town had shocked me. For those of you, who have ever fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole to some timeless wonderland, will understand what I am trying to say and it is one of those “see to believe” pretty places. Autumn with its changing foliage and honey soft sun is as such a lovely season and then Suzdal had glimmered like a beautiful mirage. I vividly remember hearing its sweet tolling church bells, people’s joyous laughter and rustling of autumn breeze even before I had reached the town square and then suddenly Suzdal’s vintage patina had glowed all around me.
Life had laughed and giggled there, in forms of blushing brides in billowing gowns, old wrinkled babushkas selling preserves from baby chairs and children who had queued for rides on ponies with flowers tucked behind their ears. Undoubtedly, the lifeline of Suzdal’s tourism, the town square had been the nerve center of all things nice and everything had revolved around the Trading arcades on Torgovaya ploshchad and the Red Square. Beyond, the picturesque green town had spread in idyllic pastoral peace and goats, chicken and cows had grazed among the grassy meadows. Church spires and fairy tale convent domes had peeped out from nearly every knoll and Kamenka had sparkled like a sheet of molten diamond.
It had been just too beautiful to leave and so I had walked around the little village, ambling along ancient streams where old women had washed clothes and looked around until the Godzila Hostel had stood in front of me. An old cozy traditional Russian home, Godzila Hostel had provided everything that I had needed and thus had begun my long weekend at Suzdal. Ibn Batuta had quoted many centuries ago that, “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” and Suzdal had done that to me. Till today, I sometimes question myself if a beautiful random dream like Suzdal had really happened and then, promise myself to go back there to pinch myself to reality. Some places are unforgettable, but only a handful become a part of you and on that autumn weekend, I had given a part of me to Suzdal.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE