The Golden Ring near Moscow has several beautiful cities to offer. Their importance in history has made me want to explore not only Yaroslavl but also a small town nearby: Rostov.
Rostov (Ростов) is one of the oldest towns in the country with a population of around 31,000 people. The city lies on the shores of the Lake Nero. The city’s official name is Rostov, but to Russians it is also known as Rostov Veliky (to not mix it up with Rostov-on-Don). It is located around 200 kilometres northeast of Moscow, and it is quite easy to reach the city by train from there.
First people settled down at the place from 4,000 BC. Finn-Ugors people were living there until the 11th century, and the city of Rostov was founded by them. Officially it is known since the 9th century, making it one of Russia’s oldest towns. In the 13th century Rostov was one of the 5 biggest towns of Russia. Its importance was based on the fact that people living in the town were educated and worked very hard to make the town even better. The city’s political and cultural growth, however, came to an end with the Tartar invasion as many people were killed, the town was ransacked and partly destroyed. Nowadays Rostov is quite a small town with old buildings and a Kremlin.
When my boyfriend was visiting me, we spent a few days in Yaroslavl, and on our way back to Moscow we thought it might be a good idea to make a quick stop in Rostov. We took an Elektrichka (a local train) as it was the easiest and probably cheapest way even though it took some time (despite being really close to Yaroslavl) and it was also very cold inside the train. Nevertheless, we made it safely to Rostov. Some other passengers unfortunately already really hurt themselves when leaving the train by slipping on the ice. A very warm welcome to the city I must say!
We made some great feline and canine friends in the city. At the train station we met a lovely white cat that was living at the station. At least we assumed that she was as every employee greeted her like an old pal. Also, we met quite a lot of stray dogs, and one of them started following us as he saw us eating something. He followed us from the train station to the city centre, which was almost an half hour walk.
After reaching the city centre we decided that we first wanted to walk around for a bit and not go directly into the Kremlin. Our route lead us to the shores of the lake. The Nero lake (Не́ро) is shallow, with an area of around 55 km². Apparently, it is around 500,000 years old, which makes it one of the pre-ice age lakes in Russia. It was very nice to walk there, as there were no people or cars on the streets. Some of the buildings next to the lake looked deserted. However, there were some fancy mansions next to half-collapsed buildings in which there were still people living.
At the end of the road that lead along the lake we could spot another monastery. Due to the ice and snow it took us such a long time to gain ground so we decided to skip this monastery as we just would not have time for it.
Near the Kremlin there was also a souvenir market and as it was the weekend it happened to be open so we had a quick look at it. It was kinda really sad as no other people were there but we also did not want to buy anything from there.
The main sight of the city is of course the fortress with its Assumption Cathedral, which dates back to the mid-16th century. When visiting the Kremlin we even heard them as it was exactly 12 o’clock. There are several other churches within the walls, also tower bells, numerous palaces, and belfries. The bells rank among the largest and most famous ones in Russia, and everyone has its own name.
In order to see the whole area you need to pay a small entrance fee (I think it was 50 rubles). There is also the possibility to go inside some of the churches and museums there, but we decided not to do that. The area and the gardens were enough for us.
So far, Rostov is the smallest city that I’ve visited in Russia. It was really interesting as it was so extremely rural. The city was covered in snow (and ice and some dirt) which transformed it into a winter wonderland. True, there is not much to do or see in the town, but it is perfect for spending half a day there just as we did.