Suzdal, Russia

  • Date
  • 25 August 1999
  • Lodging
  • Suzdal Tourist Center
  • Distance
  • 280 KM
  • Total
  • 37475 KM

In the Golden Ring, a loop of ancient towns that were the political and cultural center of Russia long before Moscow, located about 10 kilometers outside of Vladimir, we found the 12th century Church of the Intercession on the Nerl, after walking another one kilometer through a cow pasture. The Church sits beside the narrow Nerl River and the simple structure of white stone is exquisite in its uncomplicated splendor.

Inside the church, a babushka sold souvenirs and charged 30 rubles for camera use. I asked if we could take photographs from upstairs and she said, yes, for another 25 rubles. Upstairs, I photographed pairs of lions that solely graced the tall columns supporting the church. Small narrow windows allowed little light inside, but the white stone brightened the potential damp and darkness. Downstairs were a couple of icons, a chandelier with blue glass globes surrounding white candles and a tiny altar. A box for contributions stood front and center. Two buses of tourists arrived while we were there.

Thirty-five kilometers from the Church of the Intercession on the Nerl is Suzdal, a restored, picture-perfect village that somehow escaped the razing of the Communist years. We drove into Suzdal noticing the small Kremlin, many izbas, a long promenade of stores and stalls and dozens of old restored churches. Everywhere I turned domes and crosses filled the sky.

We visited the Intercession Convent booking a table for dinner. While walking through the grounds, I noticed almost no young nuns, but the grounds were in perfect order, with flowers of purple, red and yellow surrounding old cathedrals with enormous locks on the doors. Dinner in the refurbished refectory was quite good, but the nuns have nothing to do with this. Instead they have a contract with a management company that operates the restaurant and the few izbas, wooden small houses, on the grounds, rented out to tourists. For dinner we ate Intercession salad of beef, egg, cheese, mayonnaise and onion. Then beef a la Russian style – potatoes, carrots, onions and beef baked in an earthenware pot with a lid of bread on top. For dessert, we splurged and devoured succulent blinis topped with honey.