Monday 31st: New Year’s Eve. Vladimir & Suzdal:
When we woke we were in Vladimir and straight after breakfast we were on the bus to Suzdal with our guide, Anna. Suzdal is one of Russia’s most perfectly preserved walled cities dating back to 1024, located 35 kilometres from Vladimir. Here we visited the atmospheric St Euthymius Monastery built like a small kremlin with walls all around and a convent for rich Russian women. Then we walked a short distance to a museum of wooden churches and buildings. The best examples of these were painstakingly transferred from all over Russia to this site and restored to give a real feel for what life was like back then.
It was a vey cold day and hard for us to stay outdoors for too long so at the end of the morning we headed back to Vladimir and had another big lunch at a restaurant on the outskirts. After that came the tour of the historic city of Vladimir which was founded in 990 and is one of Russia’s oldest communities. With an architectural wealth, it has been decreed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the Uspensky Cathedral, built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries and considered one of the most important and beautiful of Russian cathedrals, where many of the prominent Russian Tsars were crowned.
New Year’s Eve was celebrated on board with a special Gala Caviar Dinner. Both red and black caviar were served out liberally with blinis, sour cream and all the trimmings. Of course, a shot of vodka was obligatory, too. The plan was for everyone to get dressed for the cold and leave at 10.30pm to visit a church for singing followed by a horse-drawn sleigh ride and then a party until midnight before returning to the train. However, we were both too exhausted from the previous hectic few days we decided not to go. It was a shame in a way as the others had a great time but we badly needed a good night’s sleep and felt much better for it.