Suzdal, Russia

Trip Start Mar 13, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A few miles to the north, Suzdal is a beautiful old town unscathed physically by the Soviet era's concrete eyesores.  With its small, brightly-painted blue, green, and mustard yellow wooden houses, little onion-domed churches, and numerous bell towers, Suzdal looks like something out of an old Russian fairy tale.

Suzdal's a popular getaway for wealthy Moscovites, so accommodation here is especially pricey.  That cost and weather that's still too cold for happy camping confined us to dorm rooms that sleep 14 at the town's hostel.  Here we made some friends one evening with a large group of school children from Moscow eager to practice their English.  These 12-year olds spoke English better than almost anyone else I've met in two weeks in Russia; but like Tweens everywhere, these kids wanted to talk about "Foootbol", Rap music, Tupac, and Brittney Speers, all subjects about which I know absolutely nothing.

Before leaving home I was told about how horrible the food is in Russia by numerous people who have traveled here, but that seems to be another thing that's changing.  It's still hit or miss with Russian restaurants, but I have also had awful food in places like Italy that are renowned for their cuisine.  Moscow and Saint Petersburg restaurants are generally expensive, but I managed to find a few reasonably priced places with delicious Georgian food and also tried a fine buffet spread at an Azeri restaurant in Moscow.  Meanwhile, I've had some exquisite Russian food in Vladimir and Suzdal, including such dishes as Ukha (soup with salmon, pike, and sturgeon), Arzuaga (salmon chunks and mushrooms in paprika sour crean sauce), Minikito (sauteed pork medallions with walnut and herb crust), and a couple interesting salads.  Pelmeni are a Russian staple and are stuffed dumplings very similar to tortellini and usually served in a dill broth with some sour cream.  Trying to remain adventurous, I tried to "Old Russian style" Pelmeni in Suzdal; they were stuffed with a mixture of ground beef heart, ground beef liver, and porcini mushrooms and absolutely delicious.  The point of all this is, the tales of the horrible food in Russia from ten or twenty years ago don't necessarily describe the current situation.

The Savior Monastery of Saint Euthymius is the largest of many in Suzdal and a rather enchanting spot where every hour on the hour during opening times there's a short concert of chimes from the bell tower.  As I was walking by between concerts I overheard some people talking up in the bell tower and figured it was open for viewing.  Always in search of a better perch for taking photos I wandered around the tower until I found an open door, squeezed myself up the stairs in the narrow winding passageway to the top and started snapping shots.  Less than 30 seconds later someone started screaming at me from behind, the beardy monk in black who was playing the bells earlier, motioning to me to go back downstairs.  Sometimes when you find yourself in a place you're not supposed to be you can get out of trouble by just saying, "Tourist.  Photo", but in a situation like this it felt best to try to appear not only very foreign but also mentally retarded.  Needless to say, I didn't ask the mad monk whose domain I invaded for his photo.

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