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  1. The Golden Ring is the name of a chain of very old towns northeast of Moscow that formed the political and cultural heart of Russia and are now the most popular tourist route in the Russian provinces. Depending on the amount of time one has, it is possible to organize one- or two-day excursions to Vladimir and Suzdal, the main points on the route. If one wishes to see the towns that comprise the Golden Ring more closely, two weeks should be set aside for a longer visit. Russian towns of the Golden Ring are renowned for their architectural masterpieces, unique landscapes and unspoiled beauty that gives one an idea of the peaceful country life enjoyed by the Russians before urbanization. Even today, none of the townspeople are surprised if a herd of cattle appears on a main street, causing a traffic jam.
Suzdal. This city is an open-air museum. Because the city??s rules prohibit building structures taller than two-stories, visually the city has changed very little in the past two centuries

  1. Suzdal is the city with an amazing history. Founded in 1024, the town has experienced many changes in fortune, but has managed to maintain its exceptional appearance right up to the present day. Over the centuries, Suzdal was the capital of a princedom and a calm provincial town all in one. For the last 250 years even the town??s borders have remained virtually unchanged.

    The town has almost 200 architectural monuments of the last millennium. Thousands of tourists come to see Suzdal every year. The town is overflowing with craft shops of traditional handiwork, as well as the famous medovukha (mead), a mildly alcoholic Russian drink often mentioned in fairy tales and poetic stories.
The Monastery of Intercession (founded in 1364)

  1. At the close of one??s journey through the Golden Ring, one comes to Vladimir, the capital of old Russia during the 12??14th centuries. Today Vladimir is a large industrial city, but it is definitely worth visiting if only to see the majestic Golden Gate and the frescoes of the Cathedral of the Assumption which were painted by the renowned Andrey Rublyov (end of the 15th century), a genius icon painter.

    The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother on the Nerl (1165) is situated in Bogolyubovo, about 14 kilometers (9 miles) away from Vladimir. It stands on a 6-meter (20-foot) manmade hill at the confluence of the Klyazma and Nerl rivers. The road does not go near the church, so one must walk about 2 kilometers (about a mile) to get to it ?? it is a very pleasant and enjoyable walk. According to the local legend, in the 18th century, due to a lack of congregates, there was an attempt to take the church apart, but a sunbeam reflected by one of the golden domes so bedazzled the workers that they assumed this was a sign from the Mother of God not to ruin the church. And so it stands untouched and preserved to this day.
Vladimir. Cathedral of the Assumption (1185??1189)
The Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother on the Nerl (1165)

  1. The Golden Ring tours usually start in Moscow and follow in a northerly direction along the old Yaroslavl road. The first stop is Serghiyev Posad, situated about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the capital; it is famous for the Trinity Monastery (Lavra) of St. Sergius. The word lavra is of Greek origin and means ???the main and most exalted monastery.??? The lavra in Serghiyev Posad was founded by St. Sergius of Radonezh (1322??1392). For a long time, Serghiyev Posad was considered the country??s spiritual centre, or ???the Russian Vatican.??? One may visit the friary, the seminary, and the art museum recounting the history of Russian Orthodoxy in the monastery complex.
Trinity Monastery (Laura) of St. Sergius ?? one of the most important sacred places in Russia

  1. One may get the impression that there are more old churches in the city of Pereslavl-Zalessky (Yaroslavl Region) than there are caf?s and shops. The city overlooks the quiet Pleshcheyevo Lake, considered to be the cradle of the Russian fleet: three centuries ago young emperor Peter the Great studied elements of navigation here. Miraculously, his small sailing boat has been preserved and can now be viewed at the local museum. Pleshcheyevo Lake is also famous for its ryapushka, a unique salmon-like herring which would normally be found in ocean waters but was probably driven into this lake by movements of glaciers during the Ice Age. This fish, a favorite delicacy of the Russian tsars (it used to be called ???tsar herring???), is now emblazoned on the Pereslavl-Zalessky??s coat of arms.
Peter the Great??s Small Boat in the oldest museum of the Russian provinces

  1. Rostov Veliky is the oldest town in the Russian Northeast: the earliest mention of it in the manuscripts is in the year 862. The city is situated by the Nero Lake, whose name means ???muddy??? or ???swampy.??? The bed of the lake is covered with a 20-meter (66-foot) layer of mud which is used as field fertilizer. The towers of the Rostov kremlin, with their spectacular white-stone architecture, are reflected in the waters of the Nero.
Rostov??s kremlin stands on the shore of the picturesque Nero Lake

  1. Another beautiful town on the Volga that is included in the Golden Ring tour is Myshkin in the Yaroslavl Region. Legend has it that once, after going hunting, Prince Ukhotsky lay down for a nap on the river bank. He was awakened by a mouse running across his face. The prince opened his eyes and saw a viper coming straight toward him. In order to honour the mouse that warned him and saved his life, the prince ordered a chapel to be built on that very spot. Myshka means ???little mouse??? in Russian, so the name of the town literally is ???Little Mouse??s Town.??? The town of Myshkin has several unique museums, including the world??s only Mouse Museum, the Valenki Museum (traditional Russian felt boots), and the Vodka Museum created as a tribute to Peter Smirnoff, a native of Myshkin, the inventor of the world famous brand of vodka.
The one and only ???Mouse Museum??? in the world (city of Myshkin, Yaroslavl Region)

  1. Ouglich, a fascinating old town situated on the right bank of the Volga in the Yaroslavl Region, is historically connected with a mysterious event of the 16th century ?? the death of prince Dmitri, son of Ivan the Terrible, and the youngest member of the Ryurik dynasty that ruled over Russia since the end of the 9th century. The people of Ouglich, suspecting that Dmitri had been murdered, staged a rebellion which was mercilessly quashed. The alarm bell which called the people to arms was punished as though it were a human being: it was lashed, its ringer was torn out and the bell was exiled to Siberia. Years later, the bell was acquitted and is now on display in the Ouglich kremlin.
The Church of Dimitri on the Blood in Uglich. The bell

  1. Since the Middle Ages Kostroma was called ???the flax capital of the North??? ?? for centuries excellent linen was produced here. It is not a coincidence that the Kostroma coat of arms depicts a golden ship with its sails billowed by the wind: foreign merchants came to this centre of Russian trade to buy goods. To this day, Kostroma has preserved the charm that makes it one of the gems along the Volga.
The Burse in Kostroma

  1. Yaroslavl is an ancient city that has retained much of its original architecture: the kremlin, a great number of beautiful churches, and several 16th century monasteries. It was founded by prince Yaroslav the Wise in 1010 AD. Yaroslavl was the first Christian city on the Volga River. In the early 17th century it was the de facto capital of the Russian State. The Council of All Russia gathered its armies here, the state coffer and mint were located in the city. From this stronghold the armies of Kozma Minin and prince Dmitri Pozharsky took off on their march to free Moscow from Polish and Swedish occupation.
    In the early 20th century Yaroslavl was called ???the city of barrooms and churches??? ?? it had the highest number of both types of these establishments per capita in Russia.

    In July 2005 the city??s historical center was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Tourists who visit the city enjoy taking strolls along the Volga Embankment constructed in the 19th century and rightfully considered the most beautiful on the Great Russian River.

    Yaroslavl is one of the most prominent museum centers of Russia. The church of St. Elias, the pearl of Russian architecture of the 17th century, has retained its unique frescoes and icons created by the best artists of the period. From here the tours of the city continue to the place of confluence of the Volga and Korostel rivers, called Strelka (Russian for ???arrow???). According to the legend, the city??s foundations were laid here. The Transfiguration of the Savior monastery in Yaroslavl has carefully preserved the precious artifact of Russian literature ?? the only surviving manuscript of the 12th century epic The Lay of Igor??s Campaign. Now this monastery is also a museum: tourists can enjoy the view of the city from the top of the bell tower, 40 meters (130 feet) tall. The entire historic center of the city, adorned with its twenty 17th century churches, can be seen from here. Russia??s second largest denomination bill, 1000 rubles, features Yaroslavl??s historic sites.
Yaroslavl will celebrate its 1000??s anniversary in 2010
Church of St. Elias (1650), one of the most significant monuments of the Yaroslavl school of architecture
Volga Embankment ?? a favorite place to hang out for foreign tourists and locals alike
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