Cities of the Golden Ring…Cruising the Volga River

Cities of the Golden Circle

Cathedral of the Transfiguration

After three and a half days in Moscow we were moving on. After lunch our ship started moving up the Moscow Canal and into the Volga River. It was surprising how quickly the big city fell away and the rural countryside came into view. The ship glided along while I enjoyed the view from the deck. Occasional homes and a few fishermen dotted the banks, but for the most part the land was open country.

We were headed to our first stop, the small provincial village of Uglich. This is one of the cities in what is called “The Golden Ring”. The Golden Ring Cities preserve the memory of significant events in Russian history and act as open air museums showing off fine examples of Russian architecture from the 12th to the 18th century.

Cities of the Golden Circle

The souvenir gauntlet in Uglich, Russia

We tied up at the jetty and had a pleasant walk through the woods to get the first of our historical reminders… the Uglich Kremlin…a collection of historical buildings built in the 15th century which now houses a museum. The buildings derive their historical significance from the most important event in the cities history. On May 15, 1591 the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible, Tsarovich Dmitry, was found in the courtyard of the palace with his throat cut. This marked the end of the Rurik Dynasty and, after some years of unrest, the beginning of the Romanov Dynasty.

Cities of the Golden Circle

Church of St. Demitri on the Blood

A small jewel of a church was built on the spot where Dmitry died..Church of St. Dmitry on Spilled Blood. Sitting on the banks of the Volga it is the first thing you see when you tie up. This small town of 35,000 people has a shrinking population and little to offer except for tourist who come to visit the churches and monasteries, some of which are beautiful examples of 15th and 16th century Russian architecture.

The other church on the grounds of the kremlin was the Cathedral of the Transfiguration, built in 1713 with its five traditional onion domes, painted surfaces and a separate bell tower. It was a classic design and my favorite of the cities churches.

We were starting to get the rhythm of the trip now…cruising part of the day, visiting towns and cities, having coffee or cocktails and meeting other travelers.

During cocktail conversation it became clear to me that my friend Barbara and myself might be the only Democrats on the trip. When the conversation turned to politics and I announced that I was a Yellow Dog Democrat who had voted for President Obama twice I got the fish eye from several old Grand Dames but no one tried to throw me overboard. In fact I made friends with several couples who had the good graces to overlook my liberal leanings and we found common ground in travel, photography and food.

Cities of the Golden Circle

Eternal Flame for Russian War Dead and Cathedral of Assumption in the back.

Overnight we sailed to our next Golden Ring City…Yaroslavl…located 250 km northeast it is a trading post and government center first founded in the 5th – 3rd centuries BCE.  The historical center of the city is a UNESCO Heritage site and offers beautiful examples of 17th century Neoclassical architecture and a modern urban master plan that was ordered by Catherine the Great in 1763.

It was a charming city to stroll with its covered markets, old churches and a lovely park…The Volga Promenade…which overlooked the volga river and formal gardens. Along the streets by the covered markets small stands sold fresh cranberries. I was surprised because thought of them as only cultivated in North America…shows what I know.

Cities of the Golden Circle

Esplanade Park overlooking the Volga River in Yaroslavl

Until the beginning of WW1 Yaroslavl remained a flourishing industrial center but the 1917 Revolution and WW2 were hard on the city. Today like most smaller cities in Russia the population is decreasing and with it a way of life. Russia is in the midst of a Depopulation Bomb…since 1992 deaths have far exceeded births. It is estimated that the population will have shrunk from 143 million in 2005 to 121 million in 2025.  What will these small cities look like then I wonder.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises during my Waterway of the Tsars cruise.  However, the receipt of complementary services will never influence the content or post in this blog.  I write the truth, even if it means biting the hand that feeds me.


About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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5 Responses to Cities of the Golden Ring…Cruising the Volga River

  1. What a fascinating trip. Thank you for sharing. We were going to do a river trip with Viking river cruises and the estimate we got in the beginning was misleading and turned out to be double the price. We paid our deposit and then we cancelled within 6 hours after we received the invoice and the salesman said there was a $200 cancellation fee per person. After a month we got all but $200 each credited back to our credit card and then we had to harass the company to get the rest of our money back. There are other river cruise lines that treat you better. Viking advertises a great deal and I thank them for supporting pbs but the money has to come from somewhere and it is the guest who ultimately pays. I know their itineraries are great but it is an expensive way to travel.

  2. It sounds like an interesting trip and the idea of a river cruse does appeal to me. Don’t think I would get sea sick on a river! Gene and Charlie’s comment is interesting and so was your disclosure statement. Was not expecting that!

    Is it just the churches and government buildings that have the onion domes? Do any homes have them? Fascinating trip, can’t wait to hear more!

  3. LindaRose says:

    Hahahaha, you got the fish eye, or ‘stink’ eye, as I´ve heard it…..because of your liberal leanings…..too funny, the fotos, again, LB, are wonderful.

  4. Stefanie says:

    Enjoyed this Larry!

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