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The highest rating goes to Elena Ulko for her time with me, my daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Ismail Mirza, April 30 through May 3 ,while in St. Petersburg.
She spoke impeccable English, was very knowledgeable of Russian history, and made our visit to St.Petersburg an exceptionally pleasant and memorable experience. She set up a comprehensive, interesting and informative itinerary for us, was always prompt, very helpful with ordering, etc. in restaurants, and was a delight to have around. She made herself completely available to us for anything that we wished to do. Whenever we needed a driver, Andre was punctual and helpful.
Having Elena with us was more like having a friend than a tour guide....
Golden Ring of Russia
One of Russia’s most famous tourist routes begins in Moscow and takes a 700km trip around the Golden Ring cities famed for their great historical, cultural, and architectural magnificence. Although squeezing in this trip as part of a shore excursion can be tricky, there are weekend routes available taking in just a few of the cities in the Golden Ring. More leisurely travellers might like to add a longer trip around the Golden Ring to their private tour of Moscow, with more domed cathedrals, monasteries, palaces, beautiful landscape, and restored artwork than you can shake a pirozhki at.
Currently, the cities included in the Golden Ring are: Vladimir, Suzdal, Bogolyubovo, Yury-Polsky, Paleh, Shuya, Uglich, Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Ples, Sergiev-Posad, Pereyaslavl Zalessky and Rostov Veliky. However, there appear to be plans afoot to expand the Golden Ring to drive even more tourism to towns in the area. Rumors of such plans arise fairly frequently so it remains to be seen if anything comes of the latest gossip.
Gorodets is included in such gossip as it is famed for its national crafts; the town is already used to playing host to considerable numbers of tourists however, so some consider it unnecessary to fall under the umbrella of the Golden Ring city ‘brand’. Transport links between cities in the Golden Ring are excellent though, with a regular fleet of buses taking tourists along the route from Moscow, and it is the inclusion in this transport ring that is most attractive to the cities vying for attention nearby. Major improvements in the roads would be necessary for most cities and towns and there is some hope that government funds would be made available to carry out improvements should a town or city be added to the Golden Ring.
No Horse-Drawn Carriage Needed
The original route of the Golden Ring was based on each town being separated by a day’s travel by horsedrawn coach. With these newfangled automobiles and buses it is possible to cover lots of ground in a weekend tour of the Golden Ring. You may find, however, that this simply whets the appetite for an extended trip on your next visit to Russia. Some travellers take a week or two to traverse the entire route, stopping at all the towns and cities and visiting sites of local interest near to the Golden Ring cities themselves. Special treats to consider adding to such a tour include the towns of Myshkin (from Uglich), Tutayev (from Yaroslavl), and the Intercession on the Nerl Church from Vladimir.
The first town on the Golden Ring route from Moscow is Sergiev Posad, where visitors can behold the beauty of the medieval monastery. Other towns and cities on the route were built between the 11th and 17th centuries and house wonderful examples of the rich heritage of Russian architecture and life in general. There are many Kremlins to be seen, a plethora of churches and monasteries with lots of artwork housed within, and numerous statues and monuments to check off the list as you go. The inclusion of the cities in the Golden Ring has motivated the maintenance of historical sites, buildings, and artwork for more visitors to Russia to enjoy. Building restoration has largely been completed following damage incurred during the Soviet Era (where many churches and cathedrals were destroyed), as well as the Second World War. Museums have been springing up in the Golden Ring cities to commemorate Russian history and there are great opportunities to see architecture in the classic Russian style using white stone.
The traditional route around the ring cities starts in Moscow and heads counter-clockwise to Pereslavl-Zalesskiy, then onto Rostov, and so on. Those who are staying in Moscow, or have spent lots of time in St. Petersburg before heading to the Golden Ring cities, might want to focus on the smaller towns and enjoy some moments of calm in the countryside in contrast to the hubbub of city life. Rostov is a particularly pleasant place to regain one’s inner peace as the pace of life is much slower here. There is also fun to be had in discerning the difference between urbanites in Russia and those living a peaceful provincial way of life in the smaller towns of the Golden Ring. The further away from Moscow you venture the less westernized everything is in Russia, which serves to highlight what a fabulous and diverse country it is.