Visiting Vladimir and Suzdal
It takes some energy from you. In order to get started it's necessary that you prepare your backpack with whatever you find indispensable and you have to make sure you're willing to carry that weight behind your back. You could be sitting home just relaxing and providing yourself a deserved rest this weekend, secured in your own space and privacy. However, you wanted to break up with the evenness of your days so you took on the mission of getting your ass off the sofa and engaging in something to make this time special.
That's how I concluded I'd go somewhere but home last Friday evening. Summer is about to end and this realization acted on me like a sign, telling me I should find a proper way to enjoy it. Thus, last Friday, straight from work I headed to the bus terminal and embarked on a coach bound to the city of Vladimir, about 4 hours driving. Traditionally I'm a budget traveler, I find that travelling in buses can bring a bit of stress considering what drivers, passengers and all the people involved in this situation might mean. Even though, being a foreigner in this country and sincerely interested in getting in touch with Russia really is in its broad face, these opportunities can bring lots of knowledge on that.
So, to tell you more about what really matters here, you should know that Vladimir and Suzdal, which I also visited, are extremely old cities that had vital importance in the formation of what would become later the country known as Russia. Their foundation dates back to the 9th century and in modern days there's an immense wealth in architecture and attractions that survived all these centuries. Besides, it is important to mention that Vladimirskaya Oblast, the region where these cities are located, is quite rural. Be the evidence of that, the quantity of small villages spread across the plains and slopes, composed of few wooden houses and featuring plantations of varied area sizes.
I arrived in Vladimir a little past 00h. I got off the bus not far from the entrance of the city and from there by taxi, straight to the small hotel, which by the way was close to the railway station, from where two days later I took my train back to Moscow. The cab driver that delivered me at the hotel was very friendly and provided a short tour following the main street of the town and pointing out some main places and attractions.
I spent the following morning and part of the afternoon exploring the area around my hotel, which contained several historical buildings of different periods. The streets had nearly no traffic lights but also weren't any chaotic. They're often steep leading from one end to the other and sided with abundance of trees and green, specifically the most narrow ones. As example, the path along the wall of one of the monasteries, besides being peaceful, also allows you to have a good panoramic view of the city, with sight reaching a long distance all the way to the uninhabited parts of the territory. At a slow pace, you take less than one hour to walk by a few monasteries, churches, gardens and viewpoints. After all, that's the kind of thing I expected to find when I decided to go for a trip.
Next part of the day I walked down to the bus terminal, which is in front of the railway station. From there, after paying about 100 roubles (1,20 U$ ~), I got on a small bus where among passengers I could make out locals and tourists. The vehicle was extremely old and the service itself hasn't got any bit of sophistication. However I was delighted to be there, even though I had to stand. There were several middle-aged to old women, with flowered fabric covering their heads, visibly frequenters of the church. By the way, a priest was also sitting in the bus, next to the front door, reading a small bible, which later on while the bus on the road made him fall asleep.
After a 50 minutes ride and a lovely sightseeing of vast fields and picturesque villages, we arrived at the center of Suzdal. More tranquil even than Vladimir, Suzdal had narrower streets and seemed to have a bigger concentration of tourists. The day had started cloudy and actually some raindrops fell, but by the time I started walking in Suzdal it was pretty warm.
First building I entered shortly after my arrival was a small church, a sort of young building considering the town's age. The silence inside together with the expressiveness of the architecture and religious decoration was hypnotizing. I sat on a bench in the corner of the mess room, and looked carefully at the art painted all over the ceiling, so rich in detail, as in all churches in Russia that I saw.
Afterwards I explored the streets a bit more, impressed with the beautiful fruit trees spread all over, giving adorable shades on the sidewalks. It is simply fascinating to walk those ways, have vibrantly multicolored countryside houses facing the street and perceive, farther and higher, the steeples of monasteries and bell towers creating fairytale silhouettes against the bright sky. Keeping on with my tour, I reached the bell tower of the town, the highest construction to be found there and, after noticing that people were up on the top floor, I couldn't want less than getting there myself. I walked past the gates of the monastery where the tower is located. After paying 100 roubles at the entrance, I made my way up. I lost count of how many spirals I had to do, the view of the height being at least warning. Fortunately, I finally opened the door leading to the open floor that had four view balconies and provided a fantastic sight of the town and the land around. Surely one of my best experiences this summer. I hope modernity will not dare to erase that graceful town for the sake of massive, inhuman urban centers.
At last, shortly before leaving that town, I went to a riverbank, from where one can see the waterway full of turns swaying across the town. Sun was not so high then already, a gentle wind was blowing, people cheerfully walking in random directions and appreciating that atmosphere while I just admired the landscape, sitting on the bank and eating a snack I got in a restaurant nearby. To finish my adventure in Suzdal I decided to rent a SUP board, in a small dacha just by the water. I stood up on the board and paddled down the river. I did nothing but just delighted seeing the so lovely lifestyle exhibited on the banks, featured by real nature, old architecture and overwhelming silence. The day ended in a flaring way. Once I was done with rowing, I walked all the way to the bus terminal from where in a coach I got safely back to Vladimir.
I arrived back at the hotel, had a quick shower and went to see the nightlife of the place. And as one should expect on a Saturday night, streets were reasonably busy at 21h00. I entered a cool pub in an underground space, and there was a great bar. I had a white Russian, a typical cocktail in Russia, only added the fact that the barman, surprised knowing that I was from Brazil, let me have it with cachaça instead of vodka, which is the original distilled for such a cocktail. I took a seat by another counter of the pub, near a TV monitor which was broadcasting a beach football match between Paraguay and Russia. On my right side, sitting close to me, there was a very beautiful woman, with whom I decided to talk. She got curious about how I ended up in that city, among many other discussions. A friend of hers later joined us and after that, we altogether went to a club where we shared a table and had an amazing evening.