The Golden Ring, a region of rolling hills, quaint towns, onion domed cathedrals and gingerbread painted houses, a few hours drive northeast of Moscow, makes an excellent destination for exploring rural Russia.
The ring includes 8 principal small cities and towns – Vladimir, Suzdal, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Rostov Veliky, Pereslavl-Zalessky and Sergiev Posad. To do them all would take a good 4-5 days of intense driving and sightseeing resulting in cathedral fatigue for all but the hardiest of enthusiasts. I would suggest picking a few and slowing down the pace to fit your time frame.
The route we chose included Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, Rostov Veliky, a quick drive through Sergiev Posad and a half day drive up the Volga river out of Yaroslavl. We spent one night in Suzdal and two in Yaroslavl. For those who want to cover more towns I would suggest spending a night in Kostroma rather than 2 nights Yaroslavl. Again this makes for a hectic itinerary. For a more enjoyable journey consider adding a second night in Suzdal.
Day 1 – Moscow to Vladimir
Slept in Suzdal
Drive time – Moscow to Vladimir – 3.5 hours (187K), Vladimir to Suzdal – 40 minutes (35K)
Drive from Moscow to Vladimir
Out of Moscow the first 2 of the 3.5 hour drive to Vladimir were tedious with frequent slowdowns for construction. This is the least scenic section of the Golden Ring with not much scenery until you’re on the other side of Vladimir towards Suzdal.
The sights of Vladimir, a couple of beautiful churches, including my favorite of the entire trip, can be done on a short stop en route to Suzdal. Add extra time for the 20 – 30 minute drive out to Church of the Intercession on the Nerl and the 1K walk to reach the church.
For our visit the weather in Vladimir was cold and drizzly, with the great views overlooking the valley on the backside of the cathedral obscured. We parked in a lot marked on google maps off of Spasskaya Street, a short walk to the churches, and grabbed lunch at one of the eateries on the main drag, Bolshaya Moscovskaya Street. Here a little Russian goes a long way as the server did not speak English nor was there an English menu.
The well-proportioned 12th century Assumption Cathedral is worth a peek inside for its highly decorated interior including 12th century murals. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside.
Cathedral of St Dmitry
The 12th century Cathedral of St Dmitry was the highlight of our trip to the Golden Ring. The upper tiers of the small structure boast exquisite limestone carvings in great condition.
Church of the Intercession on the Nerl
The Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, 20 to 30 minutes outside of Vladimir, is famed for its idyllic riverside setting at the end of a grassy field. Similar in design to the Cathedral of St Dmitry in Vladimir, the limestone carvings on this example are neither as extensive nor intricate as those of the Cathedral. While both churches are small, simple exquisite structures, the Cathedral of St Dmitry is more highly decorated with the stone carvings covering the top portion of the church. That said, there is no doubt that in the right conditions the setting of the Church of the Intercession would make for a stunning photo. The Nerl River below the church offers reflection opportunities.
Driving to Church of the Intercession on the Nerl
Note that Google Maps led us astray on this one.
To reach the church, as you are heading northeast on M7 out of Vladimir there is a turn off to the right just past the Bogolyubsky Monastery. It’s marked with a sign in English to the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl. A short distance past the turnoff the road ends at a small parking lot where there is a pedestrian overpass over the train tracks to a stone walkway through a grassy field. You can see the church in the distance, an easy 1k walk.
October 9, 2019
For links to all the posts in this series see the Russia page.