It is a journey back in time, as far back as the 12th century, into an era of some of the most significant events in Russian history. The Golden Ring refers to a group of ancient towns situated in a circular route in a region northeast of Moscow that was formerly known as Zalesye. All of the towns associated with this route prominently feature the world renowned golden onion domes that crown the tops of so many Russian Orthodox churches, and were also present on many other Russian architectural monuments including kremlins, cathedrals and monasteries.
The Golden Ring is a very popular tourist route in Russia, with most of the cities accessible with a drive along the M8 highway, which winds along through the picturesque countryside past enchanting meadows filled with daisies and purple sage, alongside the gentle currents of the Kotorosl River, over ancient stone bridges. The drive is a pleasant one, and each of the Golden towns along the way offer their own unique glimpses into the history of Mother Russia, serving as “open-air museums.”
Special Landmarks of the Golden Ring
About 43 miles from Moscow you will begin to see the vibrant blue and gleaming gold cupolas of the incredible walled St. Sergius monastery at Sergiyev Posad. The ten or so towns considered part of the Golden Ring are all about a half day's drive apart, and include some fairly good sized cities, like Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Kostroma, but the smaller villages retain more of their original medieval character.
In the pretty town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, the Goritsky Christian monastery resembles a fairy tale castle, and is currently under renovation to restore its glory. On the way to Yaroslavl is the imposing Borisoglebsky monastery, and there fantastic frescoes that cover the walls of the Church of Elijah the Prophet.
Treasured Keepsakes from a Trip Around the Golden Ring
Once someone has had the opportunity to enjoy the enchanting journey of the Golden Ring, they commonly want to keep some relic or memorabilia as a souvenir to remember their special experience. There are many intriguing souvenirs from Russia that are highly desirable both for travelers and collectors. One such item has often included images of some of the beautiful cathedrals as part of their decoration.
Religious themed Matryoshka dolls are one of the most iconic representations of Russia's folk art. The captivating set of nested Matryoshka dolls can be adorned with painted peasant costumes, religious images like the Golden Ring churches, fairy tale scenes, or even more contemporary designs such as cartoons or political figures. An entire Matryoshka doll cottage industry is still in existence today in towns like Sergiyev Posad after more than a hundred years. Generations of “turners” and painters have taught their descendants how to use the beautiful blonde wood obtained from the forests of linden trees surrounding their villages to hand-craft the adorable stacking figurines since the late 19th century, and the dolls are extremely desirable to collectors world wide.