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Central Moscow Tour- in four parts with map:
Travel in Russia planes, trains and automobiles
Trans-Siberian Route Stops
For information about the weather along this route, check this temperature chart.
There are a number of options of places to stop when leaving Moscow and heading East towards Lake Baikal. The TransSiberian trains make numerous stops before reaching this point and there are many other trains that travel in this general direction. Departing from Moscow there are, however, two general choices that meet up again in Yekaterinburg. One option is to head to Kazan which means departing from Moscow's Kazanskaya Train Station and the other is heading towards Vladimir, Nizhni Novgorod and Perm before reaching Yekaterinburg. Each of these has their advantages.
Once you leave Moscow you are headed towarded smaller cities and towns with less people who understand English so it is important to have some knowledge of the cyrillic alphabet. Generally prices will be less but availability of some products and variety of products will be less as well.
The information below is not supposed to tell you where to stay or where to eat. Rather it is intended to give some ideas about what there is to do at each of these stops so that you can make a better decision regarding which stops make the most sense for you.
Most of the organized tours stop at Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk and Ulan Bator in Mongolia. In addition, I have added those stops which I personally think are interesting and/or worth considering. It is not necessary to stop at them all, but they each offer something different.
This map is taken from the CIA World Factbook - Russia.
First mentioned in 1108 when founded by Grand Prince Vladimir Monamakh of Kyiv, it is one of Russia's oldest cities. Part of the Golden Ring, it is one of those cities founded in 11th to 17th centuries for religious and defense reasons that are considered to be the cradle of Russian civilization. During the 12th and 13th centuries Vladimir was an important stop on the trade route between Europe and Asia.
It rose in importance in 1157 when the throne of the grand prince was shifted from Kyiv to Vladimir. Andrei Bogoliubsky brought artists and master craftmen with him to create a modern town in this northern wilderness. It was at this time that that the Golden Gates were constructed as part of the city's defense fortifications.
Also built during Vladimir's heyday, which lasted until the Mongol invasion of 1238, were several cathedrals that are unusual in surviving the barbarian assaults. The Assumption Cathedral (1158, 1185, 1480), decorated with gold, silver and precious stones and filled with frescoes, icons and one of the largest iconostasis in Russia was designed to rival Kyiv's St. Sofiya Cathedral. It was considered to be the finest example of a Russian cathedral. In fact, at the end of the 15th century Ivan the Great sent his Italian architect Fioravanti to study it when designing the Moscow Assumption cathedral. Also dating from this period is the Cathedral of St. Demtrius that originally stood near the palace of Prince Vsevolod III. This building is notable for its 1,300 bas reliefs that cover the exterior walls and the kokoshniki over the doors and arches.
Vladimir's glory days ended in 1392 when the town became part of the Moscow principality. By the mid 17th century, there were less than one thousand people living in Vladimir. The city slumbered until the early 20th century after the Soviet revolution, when Moscow's planners decided that it should become an industrial city, and they established here a large tractor factory, an automobile parts engineering plant and at least 48 other major factories.
Intwined with Vladimir's history is the older (first mentioned in 1024) and smaller (only 12,000 inhabitants) town of Suzdal located 26 kilometers to the north. Suzdal was the religious capital, while Vladimir was the princely capital during the 12th and 13th centuries. In addition to the pretty Kremlin, the seven square kilometers of Suzdal contain over 100 historic buildings even after the Soviet government destroyed a dozen churches and ten monasteries. In fact, the whole city is a UNESCO world heritage site. Outside the small town is a Museum of Wooden Architecture that features a number of buildings clustered together as they might have been in the mid 18th century when most of them were constructed. It's especially nice to visit during the Russian Winter Folk Festival takes place (25 December-5 January).
The third place to visit in this area is the ancient town of Bogoliubovo, where in 1157 Andrei Bogoliubsky built his palace because of its strategic location at the intersection of the Klyazma River and the Nerl River. Although there is nothing remaining of the palace, the Church of the Intersession on the Nerl River is amazing. Constructed in a single summer in 1165, the church sits perched on a hill in the middle of a field. There are no roads leading to the church, and one must walk about 1.5 kilometers from the train station.
Transportation to Vladimir is by bus or train. The train route is 210 kilometers and takes about from 3.5 to 4 hours. Travel between the two is generally by bus, or if there are a several in your party, consider hiring a car.
During Soviet times, the ancient city of Nizhni Novgorod was named Gorkii in honor of its famous resident, Maxim Gorky who was born here. (There is both a Gorky Museum and a Gorky House Museum, each in one of his former residences.) The city is still listed on the train schedule by this name. As Russia's third largest city, with a population of less than two million, one expects to find a modern, cosmopolitan city. Instead this is a low-key provincial city with a charm of its own, situated at the juncture of two major rivers, the Oka and the Volga.
Although an older Russian city, founded in 1221, and important as a trading center from early times, Nizhni Novgorod was never a political or religious capital. For a brief time, it had some importance as a strategic location, but then the city was destroyed several times by Mongol invasions. Finally in 1393 Nizhni Novgorod lost its independence and was incorporated into the Moscow principality. After this its position became important as a commerical and trade center and its Kremlin was rebuilt similar to its present day appearance in the 16th cenutry.
The city played a role in a number of events in Russian history. Its citzens, Kuzma Minin and Dmitri Pozharski and their followers, were those who led the rebellion that crushed the Polish invaders during the Time of Troubles (1612). Then during the time of Peter the Great, Nizhni Novgorod was known for its manufacturing of sails. By the mid 18th century the city was in need of rebuilding and major reconstruction occurred with several churches dating from this period. In 1817 a major international trade fair that was held annually until 1917 was established. (It was recently reestablished in 1989.) Later in the mid 19th century the city became one of the biggest industrial centers in Russia with shipbuilding, manufacturing and textile mills.
During Soviet times from 1930 to 1991, the city of Gorkii was closed to foreigners because of its strategic assortment of defense industry factories and developers. In 1937 the biggest auto factory in Russia was established here. GAZ, the Gorkii Automobile Works, whose emblem of a stylized deer against a red background marks everything from Chaika limousines to armored trucks. Because it was a closed city, it was to here that dissident nuclear physicist and Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov was internally exiled from 1980 until 1986. (His former apartment is now a museum that documents his life before and after his internal exile.)
There is some information about sites to see to be found on the internet at Nizhni Novgorod Visitors' Guide.
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Perm is considered by some to be a good place. After all, it is a city of one million people that has not been discovered by McDonalds. In many ways it seems like a place from the '50s or '60s. Perm was a "closed" to foreigners for many years because of all of the defense plants there.
The city is believed to have been founded by V. N. Tatishchev (1686-1750), a comrade-in-arms of Peter the Great. Tatishchev was an outstanding mining engineer, a historian and a geographer. In 1723 Tatishchev planned and supervised the construction of the Yegoshikhinsky Cooper Works and founded a factory settlement near the small Yegoshikha River,a tributary of the Kama. Boris Pasternak lived and wrote Dr. Zhivago in a blue house on Lenin St. in Perm. The Nobel prize winner included Perm into his novel as the town called Yurytin.
The Univerity website has some information in English about the city of Perm. It does not have the tourist attractions of Moscow or St. Petersburg but there is the lovely Tchaikovsky Opera House and Choreographic School, the Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, several museums (fine arts, local history), a circus and planetarium plus the Kama River offers some good beaches and is great for a short cruise.
In the vicinity of Kungur, 100km SE of Perm, east of Moscow is the Kongur Ice Cave. It is one of the biggest caves in Russia. More than 5.6 kilometers in length, the cave has 58 halls and 60 lakes that are known. The largest one grotto, which is called the Druzhba (Friendship) Grotto, was given its name in honour of the participants of the International Geological Congress who visited the cave in 1937. Grottoes are "adorned" with columns of stalagmites and icicles of stalactites up to two metres in height. The cave is a river cave, filled with water from the nearby Silva river. Twice a year, in spring and in autumn the cave gets flooded. In this time it is not accessible to tourists. For information about a place to stay in this area, check out this website: Vacational Rental near Kongur.
In summer there is swimming, fishing, rafting and boat tours. Hiking trips can be arranged to many lakes, waterfalls and into the taiga. In winter there are ski resorts, cross country skiing, ice skating. Equipment can be rented nearby and arrangements can be made for Troika and sleigh rides, ice fishing, elk(moose) safaris.
Southeast of Moscow on the Volga River, is the ancient and historical city of Kazan, the capital of the Tatar Autonymous Region. Although it's early history is Tatar, and it was the site of a major rebellion against the Russian tsars, today Kazan is a happily mixed population of Tatars and Russians, Muslims and Christians. As a major port at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka rivers, Kazan is a regional center of industry, commerce, and culture.
Founded sometime in the 10th century, Kazan became a Mongal-Tatar city in the late 14th century and soon became the capital of a powerful Tatar khanate. In the 15th century, when the Golden Horde broke up into separate realms, Kazan became the capital of an independent khanate. At that time the city was taken by Ivan III in 1469, but thirty-five years later the khan he had left in command ordered the massacre of the entire Russian population. The city was annexed to Russia by Ivan the Terrible after a long siege in 1552 (for this victory he ordered the construction of the church in Moscow known commonly as St. Basil's.) This time the old Tatar fortress was rebuilt as a Russian Kremlin.
Once a prominent Muslim city, Kazan remains a center of Tatar culture. Until Ivan the Terrible's victory there were numerous mosques but he ordered all Muslims to convert to Christianity and be baptized. Many Tatars refused and all their property was taken from them. At present a new mosque is under construction in the Kremlin on the site where one had stood prior to its destruction in the mid 16th century.
Kazan was largely destroyed in 1774 during a revolt by troops under the leadership of the Cossack soldier Yemelyan Pugachev, but was rebuilt soon thereafter, during the reign of Catherine the Great. It is the site of Kazan State University (founded in 1804), (where Tolstoy and Lenin went to school) and several other institutions of higher learning. Since this city remained intact during World War II, many of its beautiful pre-Revolutionary architecture still stand.The major site of interest is the Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO world heritage site and and an outstanding group of historic buildings dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, integrating remains of earlier structures of the 10th to 16th centuries. Other sights include the restored Cathedral of St. Paul and Peter, with it extraordinary wall lined by scores of pictures reflecting the stages of Christ's life, built in the 1700s after Peter the Great visited Kazan, the Kazan State University and Bauman Street, the city's main pedestrian thoroughfare. In addition there are several other churches and two 18th century mosques. Visitors to the city might want to add a day to cruise down the Volga, Europe's longest river.
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During Soviet times the city of Krasnoyarsk was closed to foreign visitors. But today it is a natural stopping point for travelers on the Trans-Siberian route.
The Russian czars kept expanding eastwards in the 15th and 16th centuries. To protect the lands along the Yenisey River, a fort was established in 1628 by Cossacks. By 1690 the fort received status as a town when Siberia was united with the rest of Russia. Its original name was Novo Kachinski (New Kacha's), but it soon became known as Krasniy Yar, meaning, ' beautiful steep bank' for the location of the fort was atop a steep hill overlooking the river.
In 1822 the city was chosen to be the administrative center for the region. This significantly increased the number institutions and people in the town. Later it was chosen to be a stop on the Trans-Siberian train route and in 1895 the first train arrived in Krasnoyarsk. Lenin spent two months in Krasnoyarsk 1897 during a period of exile. During Soviet times a number of factories were built here. During World War 2 large numbers of European Russians were evacuated to this area to operate factories which were moved here. Today it is the third largest city in Siberia.
The major tourist sites include Saint Paraskeva Pyatnitsa Orthodox Chapel, which is on one side of the 10 ruble note, the Communal Bridge over the Yenisey River with its fountains operating during summer, the Regional Museum which has interesting historical collections housed in a 1912 Egyptian style palace with Style Modern interiors. Nearby trips are possible to the Hydro Electric Power Station Dam and the town of Divnogorsk, which was constructed for the Dam builders and whose name means "beautiful mountains town." Also one can take a trip to the Stolby Nature Preserve where millions of years of dramatic seasonal weather changes have created interesting formations from the rocks.
For information about Krasnoyarsk check out the website of Anatoliy Brewhanov, who runs a travel agency called Siberian Tour guide. Several travelers have reported him to be helpful.
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This is probably the most common place to stop on the TransSiberian route. Most people spend several days in this area. It would be possble to spend weeks in the region seeing things in Irktusk, along the shore near Listvyanka, taking the CircumBaikal Train, heading up the lake to SeveroBaikalsk or across the lake and towards Ulan Ude. For more information about this region check out my Irkutsk/Lake Baikal page.
For a highly recommended guide contact Gans at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are flights from Ulan-bator to a number of different international cities. From the Western part of Mongolia there are flights from Ulgit to Kazakhstan. The Central Asia Tourism Corporation in Almaty indicates flights three times a week between Oskemen and Ulgit as of 1 Jan 04. No flights are shown between Ulgit and Almaty.
These descriptions of most common places to travel in Monoglia are from the website of a travel agency in Mongolia - www.visitmongolia.com.
last revised 25 Dec 04 © 2003-2011 Ruth E. Imershein
The information contained on these pages is intended to assist in making travel plans but things change, mistakes can be made.
Please do not depend entirely on this information when making your decisions.
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