Once in a while you come across villages that look like they’re frozen in time. Like the last few centuries didn’t affect them at all. There are no skyscrapers, expensive cars or televisions and computers. Nothing of that. Such a village is Suzdal. A small town with little more than 10.000 residents, who either are a farmer or a priest. Okay, I’m just joking, but it kind of gives you an image. Coming to Suzdal feels like stepping into a golden time warp. You close your eyes and all of the sudden you travelled one century back in time. Fields full with flowers, little wooden cabins and colorful skirts of the babushkas. A typical old Russian image of time.
This image kind of makes sense when you know that Suzdal hasn’t changed for the last 1.000 years. At one point local merchants had plans for a Trans-Siberian Railway station, but that plan (luckily) failed. As a result the whole twentieth century bypassed Suzdal. Moreover, it’s forbidden to build houses over two stories. An old soviet law that is still in power today. This is how Suzdal has kept its old charm. Are you ready for the time warp?
The white Kremlin
Many people think that Russia only has one Kremlin – the one on Red Square in Moscow. Wrong! Almost every Russian city with a significant medieval history has a Kremlin, which in itself means fortress. Also Suzdal has its own Kremlin with a different look than the one in Moscow. Instead of the red brick, the Kremlin in Suzdal has a clean white look. Also the location is quite different. Not a busy square, but along the riverbanks of the Kamenka.
A horizon of onion-shaped domes
Suzdal is small village. A walk from the centre to the outskirts shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Still, this place is filled with dozens of churches and monasteries. It’s crazy how many churches this small town has! And ever single one blows you way. Insanely beautiful. My personal favourite is the Cathedral of Nativity. The navy-blue domes really stand out against a background of green grass fields and light blue skies. It’s not until you come closer you’ll see that the domes are actually star-sprinkled. It instantly reminded me of one of those glow in the dark bedroom decorations.
Beside its many churches, Suzdal is also known for its vegetables. Or actually only one vegetable: the cucumber. The forte of this region. They’re so fond of it, they even organize an annually event for it: the cucumber festival of Suzdal. Modern times didn’t change this. What also didn’t change, is the way of living. Up until this day the city still consists of brightly colored wooden cabins, just like it did a century ago. The Russians call these cabins ‘izbas’. The people of Suzdal are proud of this traditional way of living and even opened a museum to show their wooden architecture. I found it really insightful. For example I learnt that they used to build these houses without any nails.
The open-air museum of Suzdal. I truly recommend you visiting it when you’re staying in Moscow and are also interested in the countryside.
Would you go to Suzdal?