(#wanderlusttips #Russia) The Golden Ring refers to a cluster of several cities and smaller towns northeast of Moscow. It’s the perfect travel route if you want to enjoy the quiet and peaceful life of rural Russia, surrounded by beautiful countryside and filled with ancient architecture. The classic way of doing this is starting from Moscow, going through Vladimir, Suzdal, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Velikiy, Pereslavl-Zalesskiy and ending in Sergiev Posad. Each of these cities has withstood the force of time and witnessed the course of the country’s history. They are all in close proximity to one another forming a circle known as the Golden Ring, which makes them an easy travel circuit.
The past meets the present in Vladimir
Vladimir is the first stop on the Golden Ring. It was the capital of ancient Russia and is located 180 kilometres northeast of Moscow on the bank of the Klyazma river. It is a major attraction on the Golden Ring, having played a significant role in Russian history.
Today Vladimir is a big modern city, where old and new are intricately intertwined, ancient temples adjoin high-rise buildings made of glass and concrete and the reflection of golden church domes can be seen in the windows of modern shops and cafes. The city attracts millions of tourists who take the city as their starting point for their journey along the Golden Ring of Russia.
Among many other attractions, the city boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Vladimir’s unofficial symbol the Golden Gates and the Assumption and St. Demetrius Cathedrals. The city is also home to several award-winning museums, art galleries and theatres.
Built in 1163, the Golden Gates are one of Vladimir’s most prominent landmarks. They are an integral part of the city’s heritage, having witnessed its history over many centuries. The Gates were built as an impregnable fortress sporting massive oak doors bound with gilded copper.
The magnificent Assumption Cathedral welcomes you when you first enter Cathedral Square, when approaching the city from the east. The original cathedral, with paintings on the exterior walls, gilded decorative friezes, and carved reliefs, was destroyed in the tragic fire of 1185. That fire changed the face of the cathedral, but the restored version is as wonderful a masterpiece. In addition to admiring the beauty of this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, attending a religious service held here is an experience you will not forget
Another not-to-be-missed attraction in Vladimir is the Cathedral of St. Demetrius, built by Prince Vsevolod III. This is one of the most elegant and beautiful churches in Vladimir. Beauty and mystery are inseparably united, making the Cathedral of St. Demetrius unique among Vladimir’s churches.
Rostov Velikiy, a museum of medieval architecture
The most exciting walk along the route of the Golden Ring awaits you in Rostov. The ancient city has preserved the unique atmosphere of medieval Russia thanks to its many monuments, ancient castles, churches, and monasteries. The heritage that is still visible here is a testimony to the rich and long history of the city. Rostov is one of the oldest Russian cities, having been mentioned in chronicles dating back to 862. Today the city is home to 326 cultural monuments, more than 100 of which are of federal significance.
Around the white Kremlin walls, the whole town is made out of old stones. The streets are large, the walls imposing, and the ruins of ancient trading arcades exemplify the great and powerful Rostov Veliky.
The Kremlin in Rostov was named a UNESCO World Heritage back in 1998. Inside the Kremlin, there’s an archaeological museum, where you can see the components of the earth on which you are standing, as well as artefacts from the stone age to the last century. Stone knives, relics of a drakkar as well as the first stone of a convent are on display here.
The heart of the Rostov Kremlin is the Assumption Cathedral, which was constructed in the 16th century. This 60-meter tall cathedral looks similar to the one in Moscow’s Kremlin. This monumental five-domed construction was built with brick and white stone. Various decorative elements lend expressiveness to the temple. In the 17th century, a four-domed belfry was built southeast of the Assumption Cathedral. Each of its 13 bells, from the biggest one that weighs 32 tons to the smallest one, has its own special sound, adding its character to the unique vibe of Rostov.
It would be a crime to visit Rostov without having a taste of the local cuisine. The Rostov onion used to be equivalent to gold in the heyday of local merchants and has been part of the basic diet of the city’s residents for several hundred years. The culinary inventiveness of the locals would impress even the French: onion broth, cream of onion soup, baked stuffed onions, onion jam and sunny gold onion buns, for which onions form the base of the dough, rather than the stuffing.
In addition to onions pike from Rostov’s Lake Nero is famed, as according to Russian fairy tales, it is believed to have magic powers, making dreams come true. It is served as a local delicacy. The unusual combination of pike cutlet with onion jam of a delicate consistency can surprise diners. The taste of the jam accentuates the flavour of any meat or fish it is served with, making it the perfect condiment for homemade burgers. Onion jam makes for a perfect edible souvenir to bring back home at a price of only 400 Rubles ($6).
Rostov is also known for ‘finift’ – enamel paintings popular with tourists looking for souvenirs in Rostov. Finift originated in the 12th century, when it was one of the most expensive and beautiful materials, manufactured with techniques borrowed from Byzantium (ancient Greece).
A Rostov finift, bright paint on white enamel plate depicts biblical paintings and Russian history, intertwining culture and the beauty of nature. Each generation of artists, continues the local picturesque tradition, but gives Rostov’s finift a new attitude and an updated understanding of beauty.
Yaroslavl, a journey through time
The great city of Yaroslavl is known for its ancient monuments and picturesque landscape. The city is situated on the high bank of the Volga. Far beyond the city limits, you can make out the tall slender bell towers and elegant domes of its churches and architecture that adds to the wealth of Yaroslavl and is evidence of its unique history.
The 17th century was the golden age for Yaroslavl. Back then it was the second largest city in Russia after Moscow. The vibrant layers of history and culture make Yaroslavl a great destination for a journey through time. Yaroslavl’s centre is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and the birthplace of the first Russian theatre.
The most ancient structure in the city is the Transfiguration Monastery, which was erected on a13th-century foundations. It was one of Ivan the Terrible’s favourite monasteries and became a museum 150 years ago. Numerous ancient Russian icons and the very first printed edition of “The Song of Igor’s Campaign”, Russia’s most famous literary achievement of the Middle Ages, are on display here.
Stop by the Yaroslavl Museum-Preserve to enjoy a breath-taking panoramic view of the city from its belfry. Enjoy a view of the Church of St. John the Baptist, built in the style of ancient architecture familiar to every Russian as it is depicted on the 1,000 Ruble banknote.
UNESCO encourages tourists to take a closer look at this church. Its exterior is a fantastic silhouette of a huge Orthodox Church with 15 domes. Constructed in the 17th century, the interior is peerless in the world of art with tiles, patterns and paintings depicting an encyclopaedia of biblical scenes.
A journey across the heritage cities on the Golden Ring is filled with memorable moments, making tourists want to return time and time again to travel to ancient Russia.
Visa: You need to apply for a visa at the Russian embassy in Vietnam, which allows you to stay in the country for up to 30 days. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your intended departure date from Russia. You will need a confirmed itinerary and hotel arrangement, along with a completed visa application form, and photos. A single-entry visa fee is 42 EUR. For more information, visit: russianembassy.ru/en/pages/tourist_visas
Flying from Vietnam: Vietnam Airlines offers direct flights from Hanoi to Moscow, available twice per week, with prices starting from 200 USD/person (one way). Alternatively, you can search for cheap flights on booking websites such as skyscanner.com or traveloka.com.
Currency: All prices are generally quoted in Rubles. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels or kiosks. Alternatively, credit cards are accepted in most places that cater to with foreign tourists.
Getting around: In Russia, taxi fees are usually negotiated with the driver ahead of the journey. Do not use unregistered cabs or accept rides in cabs that already have a passenger. Alternatively, trains and buses are available.
How to get to the Golden Ring: The first city on the Golden Ring, Vladimir, is located 180 kilometres from Moscow. You can take a train from Yaroslavsky Station or Kurskaya Railway Station to Vladimir, which takes about 2.5 hours, and leaves every hour.
Accommodation: You can book hotels with online booking service. Alternatively, serviced apartments are cheaper and more common than in Europe. You can find accommodation on apartmentres.com or euroflats.ru. You can stay in Moscow and travel to the Golden Ring from there or find accommodation in a Golden Ring city and base yourself there.
Tours: Travel companies such as Sen Vang, Vietran Tour or Golden Tour provide Golden Ring Tours priced from USD1,800/person for 7 days, starting from Hanoi or HCMC. Alternatively, you can search for cheap tours on tripi.vn.
Liza Elizaveta | Wanderlust Tips | Cinet