Time to leave Moscow and it was on to the Trans Siberian Express for… a whole two hours.
After smashing, no, shattering a plate in the kitchen and possibly waking up the entire hostel, I set off for Arbatskaya, the nearest Metro station to join the morning commuters.
Two stops later, without experiencing any dirty looks because of my rucksack, I was at Kursk Station.
I never left the subterranean depths until I walked to the platforms. The station felt like an extension of the subway, as opposed to Metro.
A lot of the roads in Moscow don’t have crossings – you cross underground. I usually approach subways in the UK with some wariness – they’re usually deserted and are often used as toilets. In Moscow, the subways are extensions of the streets filled with all kinds of shops, coffee stops and hotdog stands.
At Kursk station, I felt like I was in the subway not a station.
I’ve no idea whether there was an above ground station because, having been shown by the security guard to the waiting area and how to read the departure board, I wasn’t leaving.
No breadcrumbs. I’m not Hansel and Gretel.
The train arrived 30 minutes before departure. There was no frenzied scurrying along the tunnels to reach the platform.
At each carriage of the waiting train, there was a conductor who checked everyone’s tickets – no fare jumping here.
I had a seat reserved.
The seating was in clusters of six or four, damnit, you’re going to be sociable.
It was just under two hours to Vladimir…approximately 120 miles. The train didn’t pick up full speed until it left the outskirts of Moscow and they took 15 minutes to reach.
Vladimir was the capital of Russia until the 13th Century.
After it was attacked, a decision was made to move the capital to a quiet, sleepy town called Moscow…
Vladimir seems to be a small, industrial town. There are a number of huge factories or power plants visible on the edge of town, from the viewpoints up by the UNESCO heritage site of cathedrals, churches and monasteries.
This area is also the town centre – one main thoroughfare with small side streets looping along side it and running parallel. The rest of the down stretches away North – it seems strange to have a high street so close to the edge of town rather than in the middle. This may be because of the churches taking such a prime position at the highest point of the settlement.
The Cathedral of the Assumption was constructed from 1158 to 1160, though it was rebuilt and expanded after a fire in 1185. It was added to Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1992. The seat of the Vladimir and Suzdal diocese, the cathedral has held services for its entire history except from 1927 to 1944.
The Church or Cathedral of Saint Demetrius was built between 1193 and 1197, and you come to see this one for the stone carving. The exterior walls are covered in an amazing profusion of images. Apparently at their top centre, the north, south and west walls all show King David charming the birds and the animals. I couldn’t see this, myself.
Rather than heading to Suzdal which is the main tourist attraction on this part of the Golden Circle, I stayed in Vladimir, sitting in the gardens and exploring the streets.
Georgiveskaya ulitsa (street) is recent addition. This pedestrian-only street curving southwest from the main strip was recreated in 2015 as a brick-paved thoroughfare from the old days, dotted with souvenir stores and what looked like a craft brewery, plus whimsical bronze statues of 19th-century locals and working water pumps.
The Painter and the Pharmacist.
I particularly liked the Idler and the Detective. Apparently, in the 19th Century young boys and men loafing around the streets were a key issue – pickpocketing and generally annoying the good citizens. Plain clothes detectives were put to the task of dealing with them.
As huge numbers of tourists are not beating a path to its door and it’s a small town, there isn’t the same level of English signage as in Moscow.
I didn’t expect there to be and, for a few moments, as I walked into town and saw only Cyrillic signage I did wonder how I was going to work out which which to go. I had already spotted the domes of the cathedrals so I headed that way, but I do like the assurance of Google Maps on my phone to confirm decision making.
It was so different twenty years ago. A lot more indirect walking was involved. Getting lost, basically.
As a small town, it’s also a very friendly town.
Sitting on the park benches I lost count of the number of interactions I had with people, I think, mostly passing the time of day. I fell back on my favourite phrase in Russian: I don’t speak/understand Russian – I’m English.
People smiled, nodded, patted my arm and would say goodbye when they left.
I also had great fun in the bakery as I stocked up with provisions for the Trans Siberian Express train I was catching later that evening.
Open with “Please,” followed by “I don’t speak Russian” and it quickly becomes obvious that communication will be via the medium of mime. The lady serving me was highly entertained and it made my shopping trip far more interactive and fun than simply asking for what I wanted.
There’s also no problem with asking people for help here. I needed to lift my rucksack down from the overhead storage on the train to Vladimir and needed to ask a man to move aside so I could lift it. He looked at me, looked at my bag and lifted it down for me.
While sitting outside the railway station an old lady bent double came over to me and, I hate to say it but, my first assumption was that she was begging. I said I didn’t understand and she gestured towards the steps I was sitting on. She wanted help to climb them.
I’m pretty certain she walked away muttering about the bloody stupid Englishwoman. Wasn’t it obvious she was asking for help to climb the steps?
Vladimir is not a huge town but it was a nice place to relax with a good book.
*Featured Image: Vladimir Railway Station with the UNESCO heritage site high on the hill above.