Updated: Aug 22, 2020
If you go as a tourist to Russia and ask what is the most beautiful thing to see there, you will get a common advice to go see "The Golden Ring of Russia". Where do you go to see it? Where did Russians hide it? Who wore it to make it the most beautiful thing to see?
The truth is, it is the ring that nobody wore or placed under glass. "The Golden Ring of Russia" is a common name for eight ancient Russian cities that are located in a circle on the map. According to the story of the journalist who first coined the term, he was on a week-long car trip to write about Vladimir, one of the oldest Russian cities, when through the drizzle he saw a golden dome of an old church. As if an electric shock, a thought flashed in his mind: "Golden... Golden ring!".
These cities keep artifacts (historically important objects) and secrets of old times. A lot of stories can be heard from locals, and a good local tour guide will take you to places where Peter The Great built his first boat that gave birth to the Imperial fleet, or where Ivan The Terrible stopped to take rest. Of course, in every city there is a myriad of churches: with golden domes, with silver domes, and even green ones!
When we talk about the Golden Ring of Russia, it is only eight cities located not far from Moscow. Sometimes tourist companies suggest including up to ten, or even more old cities of Russia on this list, but historians remind us that the original list for The Golden Ring of Russia included:
One of the oldest and most influential cities is Vladimir. It served as a capital of North-Eastern Rus, and to distinguish it from other cities of its time, in the 12th century knyaz (prince) Andrey Bogolubsky built The Golden Gates that became part of its fortress and stood against the Mongol invasion.
The Golden Gate in Vladimir:
Rostov was mentioned in archives in 862! This ancient city is known for its multiple cathedrals, sonorous bells, and local cuisine. According to legends, it is the home town of one of the Russian giants from folk tales - Bogatyr Alesha Popovich.
Alesha is talking in front of the villagers in "Alesha Popovich and Tugarin Zmey":
Kostroma lies on the river benches of the Volga river and is a river port connecting trade routes in the past. Local people like to tell stories about Ivan Susanin, a local hero of the 17th century who volunteered to show the way to Polish invaders and led them right into swamps. Ivan Susanin was prosecuted for giving wrong directions, but enemies never found their way back out of the swamps without him. Thus, he saved the young Russian tsar (king) from the Poles.
A view on the Volga river in Kostroma:
Sergiev Posad is the city of huge cultural importance and is the pilgrimage destination. Some sources claim Sergiev Posad to be the birthplace of matryoshka dolls, Russian stacking dolls.
The museum of Matryoska dolls in Sergiev Posad:
The city of Suzdal is remarkable for its wooden architecture. These wooden constructions withstand the test of time, giving us an insight into amazing construction techniques. No single nail was used to build this church.
Sunset on the Kamenka river in Suzdal:
Ivanovo is the city of amazing textiles and designs. Have you ever dreamed to live in the boat house? It is possible if you were in Ivanovo, even thought there is no sea around. In 1930, architect Daniil Fridman built his own vision of the Boat House. And it accommodates almost as many people as Titanic did but you can bet, this one is built to last!
The "Boat House" in Ivanovo
Pereslavl-Zalessky is a long name for a small city, literally meaning "in the woods", that is located on the banks of Pleshheyevo lake. This is where young Peter The Great built his first little boat, and this is where he got an ambitious idea to create the Imperial fleet.
At the museum "The boat of Peter The Great" in Pereslavl-Zalessky
In Yaroslavl, history is well-preserved: this is where you can read old Slavic and Greek parchment papers. The population of singing birds is also well-documented here: for the purposes of the annual Nightingale festival, government takes a census of nightingale birds: around 2000 of them lives in this city.
One of the many street festivals in Yaroslavl:
The Golden Ring of Russia is a destination for those who would like to learn more about Russian traditions, talk to local people, and visit places from folk stories. The history of these cities encompasses Slavic customs, folk tales, and real events, and sometimes visiting the setting for these stories is one surefire way to get a good understanding of it.
What city of the Golden Ring of Russia seems like the most interesting travel destination to you?