A month after our trip to Vladimir and Suzdal (see part 1) we ventured off to a couple more towns on the Golden Ring. First up was Sergiev Posad, home to the Trinity monastery of St Sergius, founded in 1340, which is today one of the most important spiritual sites in Russia and an active working monastery. Within the monastery walls there are 2 Cathedrals and 8 churches and with their blue and gold cupolas. It is a very photogenic place.
The Trinity Cathedral is the heart of the monastery, as well as its oldest surviving building. It contains the tomb of St Sergius where a memorial service for him goes on all day, every day. The star-spangled Cathedral of the Assumption was finished in 1585 with money left by Ivan the Terrible in a fit of remorse for killing his son. It contains the tomb of Boris Godunov, the only Tsar not buried in the Moscow Kremlin or St Petersburg.
Apart from the monastery there is very little else to see in Sergiev Posad but, in a brutal juxtaposition next to the beautiful medieval monastery, is the less beautiful Soviet-era town hall with the hammer and sickle still in pride of place!
Back on the road we headed north to the ancient, lakeside, town of Pereslavl-Zalessky. Founded in 1152 by none other than our old half-English friend Yuri Dolgoruky (see previous post), it is also famous as the unlikely cradle of the Russian navy! There are several sights to see in Pereslavl but let’s start at the beginning. In the centre of the town are some grassy earthen embankments which are the remains of the ancient Kremlin walls and within them is the beautifully simple Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. It is one of the oldest buildings in Russia having been built in 1157 for Yuri Dolgoruky though sadly the 12th Century frescoes have not survived.
The town is the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky a 13th century prince of Kyivan Rus and later a Russian Saint. He was the grandson of Vsevolod the Big Nest (remember him?) His claim to fame and his name come from supposedly winning a great victory over the Swedes on the banks of the River Neva when he was 19. However there are no other reports of this battle except by the Russians!
On a hilltop overlooking the town is the Goritsky Monastery founded in the 14th century though the oldest surviving buildings are 17th century. Within the monastery walls are several churches and other buildings and from the top of the Church of the Epiphany’s belfry there are some fabulous views over the town and Lake Pleshcheyevo. The centre piece of the monastery is the Assumption Cathedral built in 1744. It is empty and unrestored but contains a magnificent iconostasis.
Pereslal-Zalessky sits beside Lake Pleshcheyevo and it was here, whilst on holiday, that the young Peter the Great developed his obsession with the sea. By the age of 20 Peter had built a ‘toy flotilla’ of more than 100 small ships which he would take out on to the lake for naval manoeuvres. There is a small museum overlooking the lake where you can see his sailboat Fortuna, one of only 2 of these 17th century vessels to survive a fire. The grounds are also a pleasant place to stroll.
Both the town and the lake provide some lovely strolls. We wandered along the old walls and back along the picturesque river; in the warmer months the lake is a popular place for water sports. I also really wanted to go to see the Railway museum outside the town but my husband wouldn’t take me!
We stayed on the southern edge of the town just below the monastery in the Hotel PETROV Avenue which had film themed rooms and a very small restaurant/bar call Vino and Kino! We had the Beatles room which was quite fun though having a giant blue meany staring at me in the dark was a little disconcerting! It was a nice place to stay – friendly, clean though fairly basic. I liked it!
The town is not really a place to go to without a car but definitely worth a visit if you have one. Another place to stay is a few kms west. In the woods beside the lake is SFERA ecocamp. They have cabins, yurts and Geo-domes that you can stay in. We spied a few of them as we enjoyed a walk in the woods.
Keep your eyes open for the ‘not-to-be-missed’ Part 3! Oh yes – there’s more!