Suzdal: Small Town of Grandeur


My parents decided to put my little sister in a convent for the summer, a sort of (free) rehab after too much partying all year. If you know my sister – always gregarious, often rebellious, a real fun person – that is probably the last place where you would imagine her.  Basically, she has the exact opposite type of personality suitable for a nun.  We were all slightly apprehensive of how she was going to fit in…

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Actually, the first part is not true. My sister decided to dedicate a few weeks of her summer to anthropological fieldwork required for her final year dissertation at university. After much deliberation and consideration of various countries in Africa, she decided to return to her home country in order to spend some time in a convent, living together with the nuns, observing a deeply religious and closed community from within.  My father picked a well-known, historical convent, Svyato-Pokrovsky Convent, in a small historical town called Suzdal, located 220km east of Moscow. And to celebrate the sending off of my little sister, the whole family went on an overnight trip to this charming place. And I was absolutely seduced by its never-ending captivating beauty, no matter which way I looked, no matter which corner I turned. And the convent, with its extensive grounds, vividly coloured flowers, and quaint wooden houses, was so much more beautiful and peaceful that any one of us could have ever imagined. In a nutshell, almost like a retreat, with plenty of meditation (praying) and some manual labour (nothing is free in this world).

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Suzdal, a medieval town with dozens of colourful churches, imposing monasteries and ancient wooden houses, is more than picturesque.  It has a certain timeless aura, only possible in places untouched by recent historical events. Visiting this town feels like being transported back in time, a stark contrast to many Russian cities and towns, which have been thoroughly modernised over the last couple of decades.  The town dates back to 1024;
however, major urban growth occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Suzdal became an important religious and cultural centre. The town survived both industrialisation and the communist revolution; it also avoided spiraling into decline following the construction of the nearby world famous Trans-Siberian railway in 1916.  Recently the local government and residents have been taking great care to preserve Suzdal as it was, without modernising it, so that visitors can appreciate the town’s historical significance and its captivating beauty. I explored this small town with its narrow quiet streets on foot, admiring beautiful bright domes of countless churches, occasionally popping in to appreciate their ornate interior. I quenched my thirst with a drink of delicious homemade mead (honey beer), which was available around every corner.

For more information on travelling to Suzdal, click here. Big thank you to my sister for doing some last minute modelling.

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