Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Moscow Day Trips: Vladimir

While my intent this month is to focus on Moscow and all its marvels, I have to say that it's a big city. And sometimes the best part about living in a big city? The ability to leave it! Moscow is the heart of Russia---maybe not from a "warm fuzzy feelings" standpoint, but definitely when it comes to transportation. So, Monday morning I took in a Moscow sunrise at 5:45 am and headed to the train station. First stop, Vladimir!
Despite having slept only 45 minutes the night before and awoken plenty early for departure preparation, we unfortunately missed our early-morning high-speed train. Which resulted in us taking an elektrichka...the local and extremely slow train. But even elektrichkas have a plus. They're seriously inexpensive AND they're adventurous. Check out the killer time this lady across from me was having!

I wish in photographing our sleeping babushka I had managed to capture the man to her right, as he came to play a critical part in our journey. The first couple hours were spent covering all kinds of random topics in English (everyone needs a language vacation now and again!) until eventually our neighbor asked us what language we were speaking in. This struck up Russian conversation and for the next hour and a bit we were given detailed instructions on sightseeing in Vladimir and Suzdal, with history, literature and philosophy lessons scattered in the mix! Another babushka joined us along the route and chimed in as well. Train travel in Russia isn't beautiful, but moments like these make it worth the while. Engaging with some of the older Russian crowd in conversations about their land and lives was fascinating and I felt like I had found two new friends by the end of the ride.

Vladimir is a good-sized city, but all the sites we wanted to visit were concentrated in the Old Town area. We arrived around 11 and spent about 4 hours in town before heading off to our next destination, but honestly? We felt like that was sufficient! Granted we had to forego museums, concerts, and other types of events that Vladimir might have to offer, but when it comes to the sights everything is compact and easily reached on foot from the train station. Here's my list of "don't miss":

Built in 1158, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site ("White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal") and simply stunning. Vladimir was the center of 13th and 14th century Medieval Russia and this cathedral survived several tragedies, including the burning of the cathedral with a prince and his family locked inside, but also the crowning of all Russian princes during that time period. Unfortunately the church itself was closed on our visit, so we had to content ourselves with the exterior. Not difficult to do!

Behind the cathedral you find one of my personal Vladimir favorites...a fantastic view of both the valley, Assumption Cathedral and the neighboring monastery.

You can't see it well from these pictures, but the stone walls are carved with all kinds of images. If you get a chance, it's worth seeing close up.
In case you can't tell, we experienced some rather sporadic weather during our time in Vladimir. Wind and occasionally rain contrasted with blue skies and sunshine. The overall affect? Cold. And difficult photography lighting! But beautiful enough to make up for it!

Last but not least, the Golden Gates. No, not the golden arches of Макдоналдс, which can be found even in Vladimir. But the former main entrance to the fortressed city. There's a small but interesting museum housed inside (free for students of higher education!) that's worth checking out. 


So, if you only have a day but want to get away, Vladimir is a great option. Especially if you make your high-speed train which cuts travel from just over 3 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes. Luckily, we had two days so our adventure continued. More to come!


  1. Wow, what beautiful architecture! Russia has seriously never been one the places I'd like to travel to, but now it climbing the list thanks to your posts!

  2. I would have been pissed if I got up at 5:45 and still missed the fast train! But I guess chatting with a babushka would have helped to cheer me up :)

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