The Blue Stone is one of the most interesting landmarks
PERESLAVL-ZALESSKY, RUSSIA: This is an ancient Russian town located halfway between Moscow and Yaroslavl, about 130km North-East of Moscow on the bank of Lake Pleshcheevo. It’s a part of the Golden Ring circular tourist route passing several cities and smaller towns of Central Russia famous for their architecture and quiet life. But, unlike other Golden Ring jewels, which treat the tourists to old churches and monasteries, art museums and traditional handicrafts shops, Pereslavl-Zalessky has more to offer and makes it one of the most interesting ancient towns of Russia.
Long History. Pereslavl-Zalessky, or just Pereslavl, was founded in 1152 by Prince Yury Dolgoruky, the founder of Moscow. In 1302, it became a part of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Pereslavl was devastated numerous times by the Mongols between the mid-13th century and the early 15th century.
Pereslavl is a small town (pop. 40,000) with abundance of old churches and convents. Historical part of the town is intact as against those in the majority of the old Russian towns; Soviet era of block of flats stand to the east of the centre. The white stone Savior’s Cathedral is the real treasure and one of the oldest stone churches in Russia. Pereslavl is the birthplace of the holy prince Alexander Nevsky, who is commonly regarded as a key figure of medieval Russia. Popular polls rank Alexander Nevsky as the greatest Russian hero in history.
Blue Stone is one of the most interesting landmarks of this area
Along Trubezh River. Center of the town was fortified with earth ramparts, which still survive. You can climb on top of the ramparts to get a different perspective, and the ramparts walk is a gem for those who want to see and feel the place. A walk along Trubezh river is one of the most rewarding experiences in Pereslavl. It is the most picturesque part of the town where traditional ways still survive with huts standing side-by-side with brand-new dachas belonging to local nouveau riches and Muscovites. One of the most beautiful places is Forty Martyrs of Sebastia Church at the mouth of the river Trubezh with a romantic view winter and summer.
Orthodox holy places. Within the town limits there are Troitse-Danilov monastery (Trinity monastery of St Daniel), Feodorovsky (St Theodore) convent and Svyato-Nikolsky (St Nicholas) convent. Abandoned and heavily damaged during the Soviet era, now they are restored and worth visiting. Of particular interest is St Nikita Cathedral with its pointed arches and vaulted ceilings. Monastery runs its own bakery and they make tasty gingerbread.
Next to the monastery is Nikitsky (St Nikita) sacred spring and a bathhouse. It’s very popular with pilgrims and tourists, since according to popular belief, its water brings health and long life.
The Blue Stone. The hill over Lake Plescheevo is known as Aleksandrova Gora (Alexander’s mountain). From the hilltop where a huge cross is erected, you can enjoy excellent panoramic view of the lake, Nikitsky monastery and the nearby village. At the foot of the hill, on the very bank of the lake, lies Sin-Kamen (Blue Stone, or Blue Rock), one of the most interesting and quaint landmarks of the whole area. It’s a pagan sacred stone, and according to local lore, in ancient times it was lying on the top of the hill and served as a center of heathen cults.
Numerous legends and beliefs have been linked with this enormous 12-ton boulder, said to have miraculous powers. In the times of Christianization and war against heathen cults the Blue Stone was hurled down from the hill. Later on it has been moved from place to place, it has been buried, even sank to the bottom of the lake, but mysteriously reappeared on dry land. It’s widely believed that this stone is moving, and it’s called a Sailing, or Moving stone, as well. Now the Blue Stone lies on the edge of the water and is said to be disappearing further and further into the ground. In spite of its name, the Blue Stone has dark gray color, though it does indeed look dark blue, when wet.
Another phenomenon is that the Blue Stone is still being worshiped. Stone is frequented both by the locals and the tourists, who touch it with their hands, meditate while sitting on the stone, and there is a tradition of leaving coins and candies on its surface. Following another tradition, the visitors bind the ribbons or just pieces of cloth on the branches of surrounding bushes.
Unusual Museums. Monastery Goritsky is located in the opposite, southern part of the town. Its impressive walls, towers and belfries overlook Pereslavl and Lake Plescheevo. Vista point offers an excellent panoramic view of the town dotted with domes of numerous churches and the lake.
Within a walking distance (about 3 km) from Gorytsky, on the southwestern bank of Lake Plescheevo, there is the museum-estate “The Little Boat of Peter the Great,” known as “Botik”. The only boat that survived is “Fortuna” kept in a building constructed for this purpose in 1803. It became the first museum in Pereslavl and is considered the oldest museum in provincial Russian towns. Besides “The Fortuna”, the museum also houses the exhibition hall “Rotonda” where visitors can see luxurious interiors of the 18th century.
The Museum of Kettles occupies a wooden izba (log house) not far from “Botik.” The museum has more than 100 exhibits: various copper, porcelain, and German silver kettles of different types and shapes. Visitors can also see household utensils used in Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries – old curiosity pieces for today’s visitor.
Huge popularity among the guests of Pereslavl enjoys the private Museum of Flat Irons. This museum, one of a kind in Russia, occupies an old merchant’s house not far from the town’s center. The museum’s collection includes some 200 irons made in Russia, Germany and Poland between 17th and 20th centuries.
Narrow Gauge Treasures. To get on with unusual exhibits, The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum is worth mentioning. Widely known as “The Museum of Steam Locomotives”, it is located in the village of Talitsy, about 15 km from the town.
Just 30 years ago, Pereslavl district had a network of narrow railways to serve peat-mining industry. Joseph Stalin’s son Vassily, who was an Air Force General, used one of these lines to get to his dacha on the bank of Lake Plescheevo. With decline of turf production, these railways were demolished, while only a few kilometres of tracks survived. The museum is situated at the former railway depot, where the exhibits include steam and diesel locomotives, machines, cars and railcars of the late 19th to early 20th centuries collected from all over Russia. Several times a year they start old steam engines and arrange short trips on surviving part of the narrow-gauge railway. Exciting experience!
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Touch Down: There is no train station in the town. You can get there by the Yaroslavl highway from Moscow or by bus from Rostov, Yaroslavl and Moscow. Driving from Moscow will take two hours.
Stay: Pereslavl Hotel built in the Soviet era and renovated quite recently. Good location, reasonable prices. Fisch Herberg hotel was built in 2015; small but cosy, it offers a banya (steam bath, or Russian sauna). Another small hotel is Albitsky Sad; considered to be one of the best in the town. ”Troyka” is a new and comfortable hotel located in the historical centre.
Eat: For many years, “Botik” café was the eatery most popular with the tourists. Its wooden building in a shape of an old boat is just across the road from “Botik” museum. It’s not a place for a gormandizer, but the menu is quite ample. Ask for locally caught fish and don’t forget smoked vendace, Pereslavl speciality. Solyanka (thick, spicy and sour Russian soup) and pelmeni (Russian dumplings) go well with vodka. The most delicious food (Russian and international) is served in the restaurant at “Albitsky Sad” hotel. For beer drinkers the best place in the town is a restaurant at “Fisch Herberg” hotel (beer from their own brewery and fish dishes). “Victoria Plaza Hotel” restaurant has a reputation for the panoramic view of the town (unfortunately, not the central part) and its special menu for children.
Play: Pereslavl is not the place for shopping. However, try a couple of souvenirs and antiquity shops, where, if you are lucky, you’ll find old postcards, gramophones, samovars and Soviet porcelain.
Mini Guide: An art-minded looking for special atmosphere will enjoy staying at Art Hotel. Run by a married couple of artists and located in a quiet street. It is full of artworks, old furniture and each room is designed in its own way. The outdoor barbecue facilities in a beautiful garden.