Small Towns in Russia: Our Journey to the Countryside
We live in Moscow and are in love with travelling. Should I say, that we have visited every interesting place in nearby 300 km from Moscow?
But, only few of them still live in our memory as the most attractive. And only few of them are so magnetic that make us return again and again. And only one is so perfect that we even chose it for own wedding party. It is a Staritsa town, 700-years old small town in Russia with its beautiful surroundings. It's the place where time stopped.
Staritsa location: the Upper Volga hills, Tver region, 250 km north-west from Moscow, about 1/3 of way to St. Petersburg
Car: Soviet UAZ van, 2010 year
The starting point: Moscow city
Tour duration: 2,5 days
How to travel only 200 km from Moscow and find The Real Russia?
We love Staritsa town so much that we travel there several times every year. As usual, our May journey to Staritsa began from packing our bags into CrazyBu (UAZ-452 "Bukhanka" or "Loaf of Bread" minivan). After only 4 hours of merry chatting inside the van with Georgian wine and a fast highway and we are almost there!
There are some guesthouses and hotels in Staritsa, but we usually prefer camping on the high bank of the Volga River with amazing river view from the "windows" of our tents. The rays of the sun, chill wind from the river and intense smell of evergreen fill our morning.
This was the first time when we visited "Chukavino" eco-land, nice place especially for children and animal lovers! There were many types of horses as well as camel, reindeer and numerous ducks, chickens and turkeys. And surely, husky - VERY active and VERY sociable animals that lick us from head to toe! Should I say that everyone was thrilled?
The weather was quite cloudy – a standard situation for Russian spring. Our next stop was a nearby church and the old beautiful mansion. The story of this place is typical for Russian cultural objects: they were nationalized by USSR and transmitted to the local factory.
Then "Perestroika" and chaos of 1990-s, attempt to restore the mansion, then strange complicated story resulted in many property disputes. Now the area doesn't belong to anyone and remains in constant disrepair.
However, the place still looks impressive despite or even because of the creepy atmosphere. Just look at the photos - someone dries out old floorboard just in front of the gates of 17th century church. The latter is abandoned, too - wild flowers and young trees started to grow through ancient gravestones...
There were also a very old and branchy tree without leaves (the spring...) and there was a self-made bench with table beneath with a strange-looking old woman. Further we found a very old car, several tumbledown buildings and... are you ready? An Ostrich farm! Ostrich shared the place with a flock of sheep standing knee-deep in the mud. From the dusty May sun her looming shadow grows... True Detective (C) What a place!!!
Small towns of Russia has a very interesting feature... They could look nice and picturesque when it gets some sunshine or depressed and creepy when the weather is cloudy, especially in the rainy springs when everything is grey. This time the weather was cloudy so we enjoyed the atmosphere of desertion and nostalgia for the greatness of the past epochs.
Staritsa town was grey but impressive, too. All these beautiful churches of several hundred years old, ancient monastery, the high bank of Volga River, authentic 19th century manors and almost no tourists - that's why we like this small Russian town so much!
We also met a professional historian working as a guide (because he earns about 150 USD at the "main" job). He was slim, had bushy red hair and bright blue eyes. We thought that many years later he could be the Professor in the next "Back to the Future" movie!
Our next stop was Torzhok, another small town in Russia that is located 70 km from Staritsa by (typical for Russia) a very bad road full of potholes and ghost towns. But the weather was great! Just feel the difference! What a beauty!
Moreover, we were extremely lucky because it was the main day of a medieval festival! We saw a large tent city and a lot of re-constructors wearing beautiful medieval clothes. Then there was much sparring between warriors in armor of different types. And finally we enjoyed the battle between two armies of about 50 people each! It was really impressive...
It was long day and long journey. We spent two days there but it felt like a week at least! Nice company + nice place + luck => amazing journey. Thanks, guys!
Waiting for our next journey to explore small towns of Russia.
Do you want to travel the small towns in the Russian countryside?
Golden Ring of Russia for 4-7 days
During first days we will visit all must-see place in Moscow. Whether you're looking to visit medieval monasteries, historic houses, stunning cathedrals, soviet monumental skyscrapers, wonderful parks and more, there are plenty of landmark destinations to visit when you're in Moscow.
The next 2-3 days we will see life in the typical Russian provinces visiting small towns of the famous Golden ring of Russia. It is a ring of ancient towns, which also played a significant role in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church. They still preserve the memory of the most important and significant events in Russian history.
The towns are one of the best places to visit in Russia! They have been called "open-air museums" and feature unique monuments of Russian architecture of the 12th–18th centuries, including kremlins, monasteries, cathedrals, and churches. You will also see a lot of rural Russia with its old wooden houses and traditional villages.
There is a great difference between Moscow, St. Petersburg, and all other Russia... The concept of this tour is to show you the real Russia with numerous small towns, pristine nature, abandoned churches and the life of people.
This tour does not include Golden Ring towns! Instead, you will see Staritsa town and Novgorod the Great, beautiful places to visit in Russia!
We will also visit an elderly couple living in a traditional Russia village. We will help them with their daily work - plowing the land (not by tractors, but by horses), caring for the livestock and cooking food in a traditional Russian oven… And surely we will taste some real fresh milk and eggs while they will be telling us about their common life, their habits, and the households.
The itinerary is perfect for those who are going to St. Petersburg. It takes only 4 hours to get there from Novgorod by a cheap local train.