church2As promised, this last post of my two-week break is about my week I spent in Pereslavl, where I was born and lived for nine years. Pereslavl — full name Pereslavl-Zalessky — is about two to three hours Northeast of Moscow, depending on traffic, and is a town of about 40,000, which is small by Russian standards. The city is part of what is known as the Golden Ring, which is several cities that form a ring shape to the NE of Moscow and are known for being ancient towns full of history. The Golden Ring is often a big tourist destination for Russians and foreigners alike. Many Muscovites come to Pereslavl and the surrounding villages to spend the summer in their dachas (a second home in the country owned by those from the city, usually only used for summer living). Pereslavl is really quiet and has a village feel, as it has many traditional Russian wooden homes in addition to apartment buildings. But the apartment buildings are not overwhelming as they are in St. Petersburg or Moscow, and hardly detract from Pereslavl’s quiet atmosphere. My reason for calling Pereslavl and the surrounding region around Moscow the “real Russia,” is because historically these were the cities that were around almost from the beginning of Russian written history and where much of what people view as Russian culture developed and flourished. Many events that were central to the development of Russia as a country happened in this region, or were influenced by it, as I will describe (a few) below.
Pereslavl in particular, is famous for quite a few things. First of all it was founded in 1152 by Yury Dolgoruky, the same grand prince of Russia (before 1598 and the start of the Romanov dynasty, Russia was ruled by the Rurik Dynasty which was started by a group of Norse/Vikings who settled in an area near St. Petersburg around 860) who founded Moscow several years before.
Pereslavl is also the birthplace of Alexander Nevsky, who is known and glorified for his victories over German and Swedish invaders and his peaceful cooperation with the Golden Horde (Mongols) in the 13th century. The Neva battle of 1240, which apparently saved Rus’ from a full invasion by the Swedes, earned him the name Nevsky (of the Neva; the river in St. Petersburg). Nevsky Prospect, the central street in St. Petersburg, is named after him, and he was declared the main hero of Russia’s history by popular vote in 2008. After his death he was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox church, and there is a church in Pereslavl named the St. Alexander Nevsky church, though I’m not sure which one it is, as Pereslavl is full of churches.
One more thing that Pereslavl is famous for is connected directly to Peter the Great. It was in Pereslavl, on lake Plescheevo, that young Peter established his “toy flotilla,” which later under his rule became the prototype for Russia’s first fleet on the Baltic Sea. His first boat he built is on display in a naval museum in the city.
Pereslavl has one of the oldest surviving structures in central Russia, the Savior-Transconfiguration Cathedral, which was built between 1152-1157. Old earthen walls also surround what used to be the borders of old Pereslavl in the 12th century, when the town was first founded. Wooden fortress walls and guard towers used to be on top of these walls but they were taken down in the 17th c. because by that time they were not being used anymore. The walls are about 2/3 the height they were when they were first put up over 800 years ago. The top of the walls are wide and many people take walks up there.
So Pereslavl is a great place to be for those who love history. While I was there I visited several museums; one was in a place called Russian Park, and it had several displays in different buildings — one was called “First in the World” and was about Russians being the first in the world to invent or find certain things. I found this interesting because most items there had the dates they were discovered by/in Russia, and then the date of the next country, which was usually the USA. It seemed quite patriotic. The first mobile phone, the first TV, and of course the first man in space, were some of the items/events mentioned. There were also some buildings that had some folklore items and traditional dress.
I also visited a monastery which now houses several museums and is a nice place to walk around, as well as a few other small museums/galleries. However my main reason for coming to Pereslavl was to see my sister Yulya, and her family. I stayed with them in their apartment in Pereslavl for the week, and also met up with some other friends and acquaintances I had not seen for awhile. Besides seeing a little of what Pereslavl has to offer for tourism, we went for lots of walks around the city, ate at a few cafes, and relaxed at their house. They often had guests in the house as well, so there was never a dull moment. Not to mention the fact that I got a bit of practice speaking Russian all week.
All in all it was a great trip, fun and relaxing. However, having two weeks off from classes may have been a little too much, because getting back into the school mode is proving difficult. But I only have a little over a month left here. It is unbelievable how fast this semester has gone by, and there’s still so much to see. So until next time, whoever is reading this…..whenever that might be.