Gorokhovets – The Hidden Gem of Central Russia


Having already visited all the famous towns on the famous Russian tourist route known as the Golden Ring, we wanted to visit a lesser-known place that has not yet lost its provincial charm. Although many of its neighbors in the region are part of the Golden Ring route of ancient Russian cities, the city of Gorokhovets is most often left out of this list. It is not a particularly famous city and it has never played a central role in Russian history, nor has any real ties to any major figures in Russian history or culture. Gorokhovets, however, is an old trading town whose appearance has hardly changed since the 19th century. Gorokhovets could be described as a hybrid of the established tourist destinations of Plyos, with its hilly surroundings on the Volga, and Suzdal, with its multitude of churches and ancient buildings and its provincial atmosphere.

The city is located relatively close to the large city of Nizhny Novgorod on the federal highway M7. Until the recent launch of the Lastochka high-speed train between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod which stops in Gorokhovets, there was no direct rail connection between Gorokhovets and the capital. These years of poor transport links nevertheless helped Gorokhovets to remain untouched by industrialization.


 
<figcaption>View of the city from the Klyazma River</figcaption>” src=”https://russia-insider.com/sites/insider/files/styles/w726xauto/public/gorokhovez-w675h380.jpg?itok=F3SaZU8G”/><figcaption>View of the city from the Klyazma River</figcaption></figure>
<p>We visited the city in the height of summer and the city seemed very quiet with very few people, in fact it was only an occasional car which spoiled the illusion that I had traveled back in time.  I immediately understood why the city was named a historic city because you are immediately struck by the number of old buildings that have survived in the city.  Among the typical wooden Russian houses with decorative window frames, there are a few elaborate examples.  One of these buildings is the house of industrialist Mikhail Shorin, a modern style wooden mansion with a tower.</p>
<p>Normally the only buildings in Russia to survive from the 17th century are usually churches, but Gorokhovets also has seven 17th century stone buildings that once housed merchants.  For comparison, there are only four 17th-century civil buildings left in nearby Nizhny Novgorod, and Moscow has only one.  One of the surviving civilian buildings in Gorokhovets is the Sapozhnikov House, which is now a museum and inside its thick stone walls the interiors of the building have been recreated to their original appearance.</p>
<p>Going through the labyrinth of stairs and going down to the cellar allows you to immerse yourself in the history of the place.</p>
<p>The main square is dominated by the Cathedral of the Annunciation, which is a traditional Russian monumental style of cathedral with five pale blue domes.  Today it no longer functions as a place of worship and belongs to the neighboring museum, although this arrangement may change in the near future.  Here is also the Sretensky Convent which was established in 1658 on the orders of Patriarch Nikon and today is again a functioning convent.</p>
<p>From there we crossed the pontoon bridge over the Klyazma River to visit the Znamensky Monastery on the other side of the river.  It is only possible to make this crossing in summer when the bridge is there or in winter when the river is frozen.  From this side of the river, you have a breathtaking view of the city that looks like a scene from a Russian fairy tale: wooden buildings, onion-domed churches and monasteries rising above the river on a picturesque hill .</p>
<p>It’s a view that hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 300 years.</p>
<p>The hill is known as Puzhalova Hill (derived from the Old Russian word meaning “to frighten”) and features in one of the city’s most famous legends.  Located between Moscow and Kazan, Gorokhovets served as a Russian defensive outpost and was subject to raids by Tatars throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.  One such raid took place in 1539, but the Tatars are said to have been frightened when they saw a vision of a knight appearing above the hill.  Well worth the rather steep climb here via rickety stairs both to look around the Nikolsky Monastery at the top and to enjoy the view from here over the Klyazma River and the Znamensky Convent and the endless forests on the other side from the river.</p>
<p>The final destination of our trip was a site of natural beauty just outside of town called Bald Hill, as no trees grow on top of the hill due to the wind.  According to legend, a Tatar khan who died during a raid on Gorokhovets was buried here.  From here you are treated to a completely unspoilt view of the forests across the Klyazma River stretching to the horizon.</p>
<p>Among all the cities of Russia that we visited, Gorokhovets occupies a special place.  Here, there is a perfect combination of provincial charm and beautiful natural surroundings.  It’s no surprise that Gorokhovets has been used as a backdrop for several historical films because it really seems like time has stood still here since the 19th century.  It is an ideal place to spend a weekend and forget the hustle and bustle of modern life.  In terms of tourist infrastructure, there are several guesthouses here and a beautiful hotel.  There aren’t many choices in terms of restaurants or cafes in the town, but provided you’re not expecting fine dining, you shouldn’t be disappointed.</p>
<p>In 2018, the city will celebrate its 850th anniversary and the regional authorities are committed to restoring the historic center.  It is possible that this will breathe new life into the city and make it a favorite destination for tourists.  Alternatively, it may result in historic buildings in the city being renovated to such an extent that they appear to be brand new.  For safety reasons, there is no reason to delay your visit to this authentic and charming provincial town!</p>
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Russia news</p>
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