Sunday 23/07 – Departure from Moscow / Vladimir / Suzdal
We woke up at 5am for our great departure eastwards.
So far we’ve “just” had a (very) nice long city trip. Now we have the impression that our adventure really begins. Train departs at 7am from Kursky train station. First stop is Vladimir (from where we’ll go and visit Suzdal, one of the wonders of the Golden Ring). It seems weird to stop after 1h45 on a 8,000 km / 5.5-day train journey (crossing 8 time zones) between Moscow and Beijing…
Not that easy to carry all our luggage from the Airbnb to the station, by metro. There we realize that we should have travelled (much) lighter…
We were at the station 1 hour before the departure of our train. Very smooth “check-in”: your passports are sufficient; the train attendant then indicates you your seat number. At the station and in the train, all announcements are in Russian and English. Train is very modern; also indicating speed of the train.
In Vladimir, a driver was waiting for us outside the station, in an old orange minibus. Not the friendliest driver we’ve met but the journey is rather short today. The programme of today is quite simple: visit of 3 churches in 3 different towns.
We started with a quick visit of the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir, where the service was taking place.
We then drove 11 km to go to Bogolyubovo to see the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, where the service had just finished, so we could see the nuns going out, all dressed in black.
We then drove 45’ to Suzdal where our driver dropped us at our ‘isba’, a traditional wooden house where the babouchka, owner of the house where she still lives, was waiting for us. She only speaks Russian. Communication is therefore rather limited… She showed us our 3 spacious rooms, rather basic but perfect for one night. You have to like wood tough…
We went directly to town to find a restaurant. We were indeed starving (no time for breakfast this morning). We first walked around the market where we couldn’t resist to wild strawberries, blueberries and (small pot of) excellent honey, the most popular product in the stalls. In the (nice) restaurant, we eventually started trying the Russian food. We started today with the pelmeni, kind of ravioli, these ones stuffed with beef and pork. We also took skewers of pork and chicken. It was good.
We then walked a bit around the Kremlin, which we’ll visit tomorrow. The weather, as often these last days, was “bipolar” (as Ludivine says), with sun, cold wind and sometimes quick rain. You have to be quick to capture nice shots of the churches.
We then walked until the Monastery of the Saviour & St Euthimius. Nice and quiet place, with the lovely Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour.
After the visit, the kids were exhausted and we took a taxi back to our accommodation where we unwound (nap for us and iPad/iPhone/book for the kids). The Wi-Fi is surprisingly good in the house.
In the evening, we went back to town (hardly 1 km from our isba) to have dinner. Again we tried local food, in a Russian restaurant (but with an English menu). We tried the borsch (actually quite good), fish soup and (boiled and fried) salmon. And lovely honey pancakes for dessert. Honey is indeed a local specialty. Kids had a honey lollipop earlier on in the afternoon and they loved it.
Monday 24/07 – Suzdal / Train to Perm
Our babouchka prepared a pile of great pancakes for breakfast with very good homemade jam.
We started the day by visiting the Kremlin (surrounded by an earthen rampart). The Cathedral of the Birth of the Mother of God is very nice with its blue onion domes with golden stars.
We then did a nice bucolic walk along the Kamenka river (we missed the boat for the ‘cruise’ on the river).
We went to the same place as yesterday for lunch and ordered nearly the same food.
We then went back to our isba, to unwind. I did 2 posts for our blog.
We left Suzdal around 6:30pm to go to Vladimir station to catch our 8:25pm train to Suzdal. The first “real” journey of our Trans-Mongolian adventure: a 17-hour trip! The kids are excited!
It’s a bit difficult to carry all our luggage, especially that the Russian train stations don’t seem to have escalators… and we have to go up and down the stairs to reach the platforms…
We had plenty of time to organize ourselves in the train. We met the woman in charge of our coach, the ‘provodnista’. She serves the drinks and food, cleans the coach, sells souvenirs, informs you about your arrival… In each coach, there is a samovar with hot water, available at any time. Everything is very clean; we even have nice bedsheets (and also sleepers and a toothbrush + toothpaste!). Unfortunately, compartments in 2nd class only accommodate 4 people. So I have to sleep in the compartment beside. I hope I’ll have nice roommates…
The train departs right on time. We all ate one of our soups and went to bed.