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Friday, November 14, 2014

Suzdal - Cucumber Day!

14th, November 2014 = PICKLE DAY! (daysoftheyear.com) Read on to learn about a Russian Festival all about the pickle... well... all about the cucumber, actually. And it all happens in mid-July...


If you have been reading our blog for some time, you have probably noticed that whenever we publish something interesting about life and tourism in Russia, it’s usually something about Moscow. But Russia has a lot of other interesting places worth seeing and exploring! There are 26 UNESCO sites, the Golden Ring of Russian towns; there is Lake Baykal, Russian Arctica national park; numerous theatres, museums and galleries, and much more!

Today, we are going to talk about Suzdal.

Surely, Suzdal is one of the most interesting Russian towns. The history of the city is vague, nobody knows exactly when it was built. In fact, it seems to have always been where it is now! There’s even a legend saying that Suzdal was built by one of Noah’s grandchildren, who named it Sujdal. Another legend says that the town was a place where ancient princes came to serve as judges for their people. According to yet another legend, the town was built by the Finnish people in ancient times. What we know for sure is that its history goes back to at least the year of 1024. At that time Suzdal was located right in the center of the lands surrounding the Nerl river. Those were the richest lands of the ancient Kievan Russia. In the 11th century the peaceful life of Suzdal ended as Russian princes began fighting for power. As a result, Suzdal was burned down. Soon Andrey Bogolyubsky came to power and transferred the capital of Rus from Suzdal to Vladimir. In February 1238 Suzdal, as well as Vladimir, were burned down by Tatar and Mongol invaders. But Suzdal survived that brutal war as well. It was built again. Though the town lost its political importance, it became a religious center of the country. That was not hard to achieve, since Suzdal always had a remarkable ratio of churches to the population. At one point, there were 40 churches serving just 400 families living there! Can you imagine?
C:\Documents and Settings\Оля\Мои документы\Олины документы\Арина Анашкина\320px-Mongols_suzdal.jpg
Suzdal taken by Mongols. Miniature in the Russian chronicles.
Nowadays, with a population of only 11,000 people, it is still a fairly small town. Usually, the first two things all tourists notice are:
  1. There are lots of churches. Everywhere you look, you see at least one church close and several more farther away.
  2. There are no multi-storied buildings. In fact, it’s illegal to build houses in Suzdal taller than 2 stories. That’s how the historic look of the town is preserved.

Here are a few pictures of Suzdal for you. We were standing right behind Suzdal Kremlin, in the center of the city, when making this picture:

C:\Documents and Settings\Оля\Мои документы\Мои рисунки\cucumber day_suzdal2014\cucumber day_suzdal2014 005.jpg

And this is what you see when you turn to the other side:
C:\Documents and Settings\Оля\Мои документы\Мои рисунки\cucumber day_suzdal2014\cucumber day_suzdal2014 007.jpg

And here’s Suzdal Kremlin. There’s actually a church to the left of the building, which is also a part of the Kremlin. You can see its domes in the picture.
C:\Documents and Settings\Оля\Мои документы\Олины документы\Арина Анашкина\День весенних именинников_Суздаль 028.jpg
All the white stone churches and architectural monuments of Suzdal are included into the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. Suzdal also belongs to the Golden Ring of Russian cities. The so-called Golden Ring includes the most ancient Russian cities that played an important part in the life of Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Naturally, they feature unique historic architectural monuments like kremlins, churches and monasteries. These cities, including Suzdal, are loved by artists as they are very peaceful, and there are many picturesque views. They are also quite popular among tourists, both from Russia and beyond.

Now that we shared a little about the history and showed you some views of Suzdal, you probably think that it’s beautiful, peaceful… and boring. A typical provincial town with some Russian “flair”. No, no, no! That’s a big mistake!

Suzdal is a big tourist center. One day wouldn’t be enough to see everything there: the Kremlin, various monasteries and convents, open-air Museum of wooden architecture – and that’s just a small part of all the architectural masterpieces of the city! But it’s famous not just for its churches and historic places. It’s famous also for its people. The citizens of Suzdal are known as brilliant entrepreneurs. In fact, living off the tourism business, the local people managed to monetize practically every side of their life! Suzdal hosts a number of festivals and events throughout the year. One of the most important and popular festivals that has been held every year in the middle of July for 12 years is the famous Cucumber Festival.

The people of Suzdal have been growing cucumbers for 500 years. That’s why the town is often referred to as “Cucumber land”. Practically every household there grows cucumbers, so people know many different ways of using them, besides eating them fresh or making pickles. Cucumber festival is the perfect time to try cucumber soups, cakes, jam and rolls, and even have some cucumber liqueur!

Pic source: odditycentral.com

The festival takes place in the open-air Museum of wooden architecture and includes different contests, concerts, lots of food and souvenirs are prepared for tourists. You can enjoy performances of various folklore groups, learn to dance some Russian dances, play lots of different games – the list of activities is endless. It changes a bit every year, so you have to actually be there to see everything! One of the most important competitions is the cucumber eating contest, but it’s not the only type of activity. Basically, now it’s a chance for locals to sell anything (ANYTHING!) to the tourists who come to the celebration. But the atmosphere is so friendly and cheerful that you absolutely don’t feel being pressed to buy anything. It comes naturally (at least to the author of this article ☺). So be prepared to spend some money on cucumbers and cucumber dishes, as well as souvenirs - starting from magnets, cups and other trifles to traditional Russian headpieces and even clothes!

Pic source: 4varvara.wordpress.com

Pic source: 4varvara.wordpress.com

Pic source: odditycentral.com

Tasting of salted cucumber tasting at the Suzdal festival
Pic source: 4varvara.wordpress.com

The one thing uniting every festival is the end of the celebration. That’s when the guests say goodbye to the symbol of the celebration, a big hand-made cucumber toy, and then it is sent into the sky on a big balloon.

Cukes appeared in Russia about seven centuries ago… now, that was a good thing!

Did you like the story? Well, next time you are planning a trip to Russia, make sure to include Suzdal into your program!

Edited by:  for The Russian Store 

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