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Gorokhovets – The Hidden Jewel of Central Russia

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Having already visited all the famous cities of Russia’s celebrated tourist route known as the Golden Ring, we wanted to visit somewhere which is less well-known and which hasn’t yet lost its provincial charm. Although several of its neighbours in the region are part of the Golden Ring route of ancient Russian cities, the city of Gorokhovets is more often than not left off this list. It is not a particularly famous city and it has never played a central role in Russian history, nor does it have real links with any major figures from Russia history or culture. Gorokhovets however is an old merchant city 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 River Volga, and Suzdal, with its multitude of old churches and buildings and provincial atmosphere.

The city is located relatively close to the large city of Nizhny Novgorod on the M7 Federal Highway. Up until the recent launch of the Lastochka high-speed train between Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod which makes a stop in Gorokhovets, there was no direct train link between Gorokhovets and the capital. These years of poor transport links nevertheless helped Gorokhovets remain unspoiled by industrialisation.

<figcaption>View of the city from Klyazma river</figcaption>
View of the city from Klyazma river

We visited the city in the height of summer and the city appeared very calm with very few people about, in fact it was only the odd car now and then that spoiled the illusion that I had travelled back in time. I instantly appreciated why the city has been named a historical city as you are immediately struck by the number of old buildings which have survived in the city. Among the typical wooden Russian houses with decorative window frames are some elaborate examples. One such building is the house of industrialist Mikhail Shorin which is a modern style wooden mansion complete with a tower.

Normally the only buildings in Russia to survive from the 17th century tend to be churches, however Gorokhovets also has seven 17th-century stone buildings which were once home to merchants. As a comparison there are only four surviving 17th-century civil buildings in nearby Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow only has one. One of Gorokhovets’s surviving civil buildings is the Sapozhnikov House, which is now a museum and inside its thick stone walls the building’s interiors have been recreated to how they would have originally looked.

Walking around the labyrinth of staircases and going down to the cellar allows you to soak in the history of the place.

The main square is dominated by the Annunciation Cathedral, 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 is owned by the neighbouring museum, although this arrangement may change in the near future. Also here is the Sretensky Convent which was established in 1658 on the orders of Patriarch Nikon and today is once again a functioning convent.

From here we crossed the pontoon bridge over the River Klyazma to visit the Znamensky Monastery on the other side of the river. It is only possible to make this crossing in the summer when the bridge is there or in winter when the river has frozen over. From this side of the river you get stunning views of the city which appears like a scene from a Russian fairy tale: wooden buildings, onion-dome churches and monasteries rising above the river on a picturesque hill.

It is a view which has not drastically changed over the last 300 years.

The hill is known as Puzhalova Hill (derived from the old Russian word for ‘to frighten’) and features in one of the most famous legends about the city. Being situated between Moscow and Kazan, Gorokhovets served as a Russian defensive outpost and was subjected to raids by the Tatars throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. One such raid came in 1539 but it is said that the Tatars were scared off when they saw a vision of a knight appear over the hill. It is well worth the rather steep walk up here via a rickety staircase both to look around the Nikolsky Monastery at the top and to enjoy the views from here of the River Klyazma and the Znamensky Convent and endless forests on the other side of the river.

The final destination on our trip was to a site of natural beauty just outside the city called Bald Hill, as no trees grow on the hill’s summit because of the wind. According to legend a Tatar khan who died during a raid on Gorokhovets was buried here. From here you treated to completely unspoiled views of the forests on the other side of the River Klyazma which run to the horizon.

Out of all the cities in Russia we have visited, Gorokhovets occupies a special place. Here there is a perfect combination of provincial charm and beautiful natural surroundings. It is unsurprising that Gorokhovets has been used as the backdrop for several historical films as it really looks as if time has stood still here since the 19th century. It is a great place to spend a weekend and forget all about the hustle and bustle of modern life. In terms of tourist infrastructure, there are several guesthouses here and a nice hotel. There is not much choice in terms of restaurants or cafes in the city, but provided you are not expecting fine dining you shouldn’t be disappointed.

In 2018 the city will celebrate its 850th anniversary and the regional authorities have pledged to restore the historical centre. It is possible that this will give the city a new lease of life and establish it as a favourite destination for tourists. Alternatively, it may result in the city’s historic buildings being renovated to such an extent that they appear to be brand new. Just to be on the safe side, there is no reason for delaying your visit to this authentic and charming provincial city!

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HSE staff should receive bonus for work during pandemic, says Donnelly

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All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.

“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.

“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.

Advice

Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.

In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.

A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”

On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”

There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.

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Covid-19: More than half of Austrians now fully vaccinated

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With 53,386 vaccinations carried out on Thursday, Austria cross the 50 percent mark for total vaccinations. 

This means that 4,479,543 people are completely vaccinated against Covid-19 in Austria as at Thursday evening, July 29th. 

A further nine percent of the population have received one vaccination, bringing the total percentage of people who have had at least one shot to 58.9 percent or (5.2 million people). 

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

The Austrian government has welcomed the news. 

“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon. 

Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent). 

The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated. 

Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated. 

The village however only has 230 residents. 

“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister. 

Around one quarter of the Austrian population has indicated a reluctance to be vaccinated, with around 15 percent saying they will refuse the vaccination. 



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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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