In which the monks and nuns dig tunnels under the river to get at one another
And starring a deceased bee
We got our first overnight train from St Petesburg to Vladimir. The trip to the station was all a bit stressful as everyone had to be taken to the supermarket in batches to buy there dinner and snacks. I managed to procure a brilliant tin mug with a lid (!) for making tea on the train.
The train itself was as brilliantly Russian as you could hope – complete with a star on the front and looking straight out of Anna Karenina – but electric alas. All very posh inside with a pile of towels and sheets and duvet and a nice fluffy pillow. There are four to a compartment with top and bottom bunks. The end of the corridor has an enormous urn for hot water and not tooo grimy bathroom.
Arrived at Vladmir at the ungodly hour of 4:30am and got in coach to Suzdal. Breakfast was at a little local house around the corner where we later had a traditional Russian dinner as well (non-traditional price but did include a whole bottle of vodka so there you go).
Suzdal was founded in around 1025 and thanks to the fact that railway passed it by, modernisation did too. Its literally one ancient church after the next – many built out of wood with no nails and preserved in their original form. There are two of every church – one large for summer and one small for winter that could be heated. The church in the Kremlin was particularly exquisite with a huge icon wall (screening the altar) embellished with hundreds of detailed paintings glittering gold leaf.
There are also at least three monasteries in the town (two still operational) with lots of great stories about nuns and monks digging secret underground tunnels between them.
My roommate Abby and I had a ‘sponsored by Rupert’ glass of mead on the crest of hill overlooking the city. A bee drowned in hers but we decided not to read anything into it.