Living in Moscow and being in love with travelling, we have visited every interesting place in nearby 300 km from Moscow. However, only few of them still live in our memory as the most attractive. And only few of them are so magnetic that make us return again and again. One of this place is 700-years old Staritsa town and its beautiful surroundings, truly the place where time stopped!
Staritsa is a small picteresque town located 200 km north-west from Moscow. Staritsa stands on the bank of Volga River, «the mother of all Russian rivers». Many years ago, Staritsa was the favorite town and a royal residence of Ivan The Terrible, famous Russian ruler. At present, Staritsa is a small city with only 8000 of citizens in the shadow of neighboring Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Rare tourist visits this godforsaken corner of Russian province. However, Staritsa stands out for its 700-years history, and traces of previous epoch are still evident here. The oldest monastery was found in 16th century, many churches were built in 18-19 centuries. Since 19th century, the spirit and appearance of the city almost did not change: old mansions and abandoned churches bring here their meditative and unhurried nature. In the high tech era, you will see Russia as it was 100 years ago – a breathtaking voyage through times, indeed.
The beauty of Staritsa is emphasized by spectacular sceneries of its surroundings with light pine forests growing at the high bank of Volga River with its clear water and swift current. For a long time this area was famous because of its abundant limestone deposits. Since Russia was always the region of forests, not stones, the limestone was especially valuable as a material for building fortresses, churches, and royal palaces. Ramified networks of numerous abandoned underground quarries stretch along Volga River divided by canyons of small streams. Traces of previous epoch still live here. In winter, water leaks from the surface forming amazing icicles and ice stalagmites - unforgettable experience even for sophisticated traveller!
7 reasons to visit Staritsa
- • It is real Russia, not rich and bustling Moscow!
• It is located off the beaten paths - just try to find our foreigners who was there
• It is not far from Moscow, but the nature is unspoiled like in the middle of Siberian taiga
• The upper part of Volga river, «the mother of all Russian rivers» is also worth a visit
• Wandering within ramified network of abandonded underground quarries is a real adventure!
• Nearby husky nursery will give a special thrill to your intense contact with nature
• Abandonded churches and monasteries make you feel nostalgic for greatness and richness of a bygone era...
Our May journey to Staritsa
As I also mentioned, we love this place so much that travel there several times every year. As usual, our May journey to Staritsa began from packing our bags into CrazyBu (UAZ-452 "Bukhanka" or "Loaf of Bread" minivan). Only 4 hours of merry chatting inside the car with Georgian wine and fast highway => and we are almost here! There are some guesthouses and hotels in Staritsa, but we usually prefer camping on the high bank of the Volga River with amazing river view from the "windows" of our tents. The rays of the sun, chill wind from the river and intense smell of evergreen filled our morning.
This was the first time when we visited "Chukavino" eco-land, nice place especially for children and animal lovers! There were many types of horses as well as camel, reindeer and numerous ducks, chikens and turkeys. And surely, husky - VERY active and VERY sociable animals that lick us from head to toe! Should I say that everyone was thrilled?..
The weather was quite cloudy - standard situation for Russian spring. Our next stop was nearby church and the old beautiful mansion. The story of this place is typical for Russian cultural objects: they were nationalized by Soviet government and transmit to the local factory. Then "Perestroika" and chaos of 1990-s, attemt to restore the mansion, then strange complicated story resulted in many property disputes. Now the area doesn't belong to anyone and remains in constant disrepair...
However, the place still looks impressive despite or even because of the creepy atmosphere. Just look at the photos - someone dryes out old floorboard just in front of the gates of 17th century church. The latter is abandoned, too - wild flowers and young trees started to grow through ancient gravestones... There were also very old and branchy tree without leaves (the spring...) and there were self-made bench with table beneath with strange-looking old woman. Further we found very old car, several tumbledown buildings and... are you ready? ostrich farm! Ostrich shared the place with a flock of sheep standing knee-deep in the mud. From the dusty May sun her looming shadow grows... True Detective (C) What a place!!!
Russian countryside has very interesting feature... It could look nice and picteresque when it gets some sunshine or depressed and creepy when the weather is cloudy, especially in the rainy springs when everything is grey. This time the weather was cloudy so we enjoyed the atmosphere of desertion and nostalgy by greatness of the past epochs. Staritsa town was grey but impressive, too. All this beautiful churches of several hundred years old, ancient monastery, the high bank of Volga River, autentic 19th century manors and almost no tourists - that's why we like the town so much! We also met the professional historic working up as a guide (because he earns about 150 USD at the "main" job). He was slim, has bushy red hair and bright blue eyes. We thought that many years later he could be the Professor in the next "Back to the Future" movie!
Our next stop was Torzhok town located 70 km from Staritsa by (typical for Russia) very bad road full of potholes. But the weather was great! Moreover, we were extremely lucky because it was the main day of medieval festival! We saw large tent city and a lot of reconstructors wearing beautiful medieval clothes. Then there were many sparrings between warriors in armour of different types. And finally we enjoyed the battle between two armies of about 50 people each! It was really impressive...
It was long day and long journey. We spend there 2 days but it felt like a week at least! Nice company + nice place + luck => amazing journey. Thanks, guys!
If you want to visit such place, we can organize very interesting trip. The approximate itinerary you can find below:
In the first day, we will visit 700-years old Staritsa town with its beautiful old mansions, abandoned churches and real monastery, truly the place where time stopped!
In the second day, we will visit ramified network of underground quarries. Depending on your adventurism, you can either wander in some easily accessible beautiful quarries or search the road back from remote parts of the most challenging kilometers-long underground network! Being so close to nature, you will also try some popular Russian winter activities and even ride the dog team in nearby husky nursery. Russian bathhouse («banya») will bring the relaxation after the very active day.
Important: in many cases, especially if you travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg (or back) it would be more convenient to finish in Tver', it is only 3 hours from St. Petersburg by train!
Transportation: CrazyBu minivan or Pajero IV
Price: from 18 000 RUB / group
1 person: 18 000 RUB / group
2-3 persons: 24 000 RUB / group
>4 persons: 36 000 RUB / group
Not included: hotel (about 1000 RUB/pax; tent is for free), meals in cafe