Sudzal is cutter than a bunny. What would be trash anywhere else, becomes art in this tiny town.
As you approach by bus, the blue domes of the Cathedral of the Nativity can be seen from the road. We were giddy watching from the bus window, until one of the other passengers, deducing we were tourists (gee, what gave us away?) motioned for us to get off the bus and walk from there. He was correct to suggest it (more like push us off) since the attractions of Sudzal are the town and streets themselves.
It used to be that upon hearing the word Kremlin, we immediately thought of The Kremlin in Moscow, but we’ve learned that it means simply the citadel and most Russian cities have one. Sudzal does as well. The Cathedral is located inside Sudzal’s kremlin as is the Wooden Church of St. Nicholas. The Cathedral dates from the 13th century and is stunning with it’s deep blue domes adorned with golden stars.
We opted to skip touring all of the churches and instead spent the time wandering about town,
buying wild blueberries from an old lady at the market (which is located beside the Resurrection Cathedral) and simply lying in the shade of trees since the temperatures were in the upper 90s. Sudzal is so cute that Russians flock here to get married. We ran into at least seven wedding parties taking their pictures.
Sudzal is enchanting and well worth the time to visit. Getting there though, can be really difficult if you don’t speak Russian. As I wrote in my previous post (here), tickets for the rapid train were sold out and we had to settle for taking the local train instead. The ride was three infernal hours long: the seats were as hard as concrete, people were crammed all over the hallway and the heat was unbearable. The train only goes as far as Vladimir. Once there you must board a one hour bus to Sudzal. The bus station in Vladimir is located right across the street from the train station so that at least is convenient enough. The bus pulls into the bus station in Sudzal but you can simply stay on, pay a bit more to the driver and that same bus will take you into town. No one tells you this and it was only by watching the locals and asking by signs that we were able to figure it out. Even though, we needed another local to tell us where to get off and we’re not even sure we did so at the correct spot. Did I mention that no round tickets are sold? This means that you must go thru the motions of buying all these tickets several times over in the same day; with the many confusions, Russian scolding, and wrong group-queues that go with that process. Russians are helpful and if you persevere, it can be done; it just ends up being a bit exhausting.
If all that doesn’t persuade you to take the organized tour, here’s a story from our train ride back. From Vladimir to Moscow we were early enough on the train to get seats together. It was late afternoon and the train car felt like a steam bath.
Some guy, thinking that the train was air-conditioned went around closing all windows. One man dared to complain but since the guy had four friends with him, after a shouting match (in Russian of course), all windows remained closed. The temperatures climbed to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I really, really needed to open the window but we were afraid of incurring the wrath of the 5 drunkards. I crossed to the next car to see if I could find seats over there. The car was full but the temperatures there were bearable: they had all their windows open. I came back and debated with the guys once more about opening our window. We decided against it. I went back to the other car just to feel the breeze and I saw one of the conductors sitting there which gave me an idea. In my very limited Russian and using the best charades I could think of, I asked him to help me open my window because it was stuck. He followed me to our car and opened our window. He looked at me very oddly when the window opened without any effort at all. Almost at once, everyone else in our car got up and opened their windows too! I can’t believe we were all allowing 5 drunk bullies to boil us alive. Since the mutiny was begun by the conductor, they just sat and stared but didn’t say a word. About an hour later they too opened their window. Wish I could say this made our train ride alright but at least it didn’t kill us as I was sure it would.