July 31. For many, that date marks one month until school starts. For me, it was the day I finally got to move on from Moscow. Yes, I was making my way to a couple of the Golden Ring cities known as Vladimir and Suzdal. Suzdal was up first.
Days had gone by and recommendations came my way about the best way to get to Suzdal. Should I take a bus all the way there? Would taking the train to Vladimir and then catching a bus to Suzdal be a better option? There was so much back & forth. Well, after being unable to make a decision, I asked the reception at the hostel, and they told me simply to take a bus all the way there. Naturally, I settled on taking a train to Vladimir and then taking a bus to Suzdal.
Well, among the things that are difficult about navigating Russia, transit is one of them. My travel day began by going to the wrong train station in Moscow and asking a series of policemen where I’m supposed to go like a lost child. After, eventually, finding the right departure station approximately one hour before takeoff, I settled in quite nicely and fell asleep in my 2nd class sleeper cabin only to awake 20 minutes before having to de-board in Vladimir. Lucky for me, I met a woman who spoke English to verify that I was getting off at the right stop.
From the train station, I took a 45 minute ride in a small, non air conditioned bus into Suzdal where it felt 10 degrees hotter than Moscow, and if it weren’t for the woman sitting next to me, I would’ve never gotten off the bus because I didn’t have a clue where I was going. What an angel. Met some English speaking girls at the bus station that gave me directions to the hostel, and en route, I cried in fear, gratitude and because of the overwhelming sun/heat.
After taking a minute to pull myself together, I made my way to the hostel down a quaint cobblestone path in the middle of nowhere. It is a house turned hostel run by the friendliest couple who don’t speak much English, but they were so accommodating. The interior is so beautiful, quiet, and extraordinarily clean. There is a TV room in the front of the house along with a desk and a computer. Towards the back are life size, comfy bean bag chairs next to a double door leading out to a huge backyard. The whole place was well decorated and included free wifi, a small kitchen, and a garden running alongside the house. It sure felt homey, and I can’t say enough about it.
I had a 4-bed room to myself the first night which is just what I needed. It was like having a hotel room for a dirt cheap price, and it came with its own bathroom and entrance to the 2nd floor balcony. At night, you could sit outside, and I swear I’ve never seen the stars shine brighter than in Suzdal. So breathtaking and majestic.
Suzdal is one of Russia’s Golden Ring cities and makes for a great day trip from Vladimir (another Golden Ring city). This little town is so quiet and safe. If you’re a foreigner, people still stare, but it’s such a nice change of pace from Moscow. It’s really out in the middle of nowhere, and the bus station where you are dropped off is about a 15 minute walk from the city center. All of the buildings, churches, and monasteries are reflective of Russian architecture and are quite marvelous sites. Again, not much English is spoken, but the people are friendlier, and more restaurants have menus with English translations. Everything is much cheaper than the major cities, there are chickens and cats roaming around in the road, and it’s real back country for sure.
It’s easy to walk or bike around the entire town in one day because it’s so small, and it’s also possible to enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride as well. If you stay somewhere off the main road (Ulitsa Lenina), it’s likely you’ll have a live rooster serving as your 8am wake up call. By the second day, it can get annoying, but it’s so cool because of how uncommon it is to come across in areas with heavy tourist traffic.
The only inconvenience was not having electricity and access to wifi during the day because the town was doing some re-wiring. It made it difficult to get work done, but at the same time, it was nice to be disconnected for a bit. Managed to take a long bike ride, swim in the river, and eat chicken filet & ”pancakes” [aka crepes] with honey. This life, it ain’t half bad.
With each new place I visit, I can feel my once materialistic ideals and skewed views of the world starting to crumble and unveiling a more free and resilient soul. It’s terrifying to surrender to change, but so refreshing.