Monday, March 20, 2017

Day Trip from Moscow by Taxi: Sergiev Posad, Golden Ring Tour.

       My 6th time in Moscow, nothing can surprise me (I was wrong, again), and so I thought a day trip out of the city might be a good idea.
Sergiev Posad
       The Golden Ring is the most popular road trip circuit in the area, featuring a list of interesting cities and towns. They said if you only have enough time to do one day trip out of Moscow, you should pick Sergiev Posad… due to the following reasons:
1. Sergiyev Posad is the closest town to Moscow ( located just 75km away)
2. The town features an extraordinary (and one of the oldest in Russia) monastery dated back to the 14th century. Hence, It is a very popular spiritual hub among church pilgrims (a new noun I learned on that trip!)
3. The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

       We signed up for a private tour to Sergiev Posad with Angel Taxi (与说中文的导游参观谢尔盖镇). After experiencing their exceptional Suzdal Private tour, I had high expectations and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Sergiev Posad Cathedral

The Experience

       Unlike other tour operators that bring you directly to the Lavra, our guide from Angel Taxi brought us to a few other smaller churches that played a vital role in St. Sergius upbringing. The most memorable one has to be a monastery which is famous for its underground living cells dug by a group of monks living in seclusion in the mid-19th century.
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       Also, we were treated to a galore of hidden gems along the Golden Ring road. For instance, we stopped by a fascinating, traditional Russian wooden cottage which is awarded "Model House of the town" by the authorities.
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       Throughout the ride, we (as curious tourists) asked our guide a lot of questions about the Russian Faith and fortunately, our guide is a very knowledgeable and passionate guy. He was able to answer all of our questions and never for once grew tired of sharing fun facts about the Russian cultures with us. (He could be the best tour guide for those history buffs out there!).

       The quick pit stop at the little independent Traditional Toys Gallery also added to the fun. Here we had the chance to try out various Russian toys, which all of them are exquisite to the core. It wasn't a very big gallery, but there's a complete collection of very interesting traditional Russian toys, costumes, ancient farming tools and household items used by the Russians. The owner of the museum is a very friendly artist, who portrays his own artworks as well in that museum.
Russian Traditional Dolls
Sergiev Posad Toy Museum
Sergiev Posad Toy Museum
Sergiev Posad Toy Museum

The highlight: Trinity Lavra of St Sergiev

       After passing through the aisle of souvenirs stalls and a covered walkway, we caught the first sight of the monastery surrounded by a fortress wall with a tower at every corner. The astonishing architectural complex which includes more than 50 buildings was founded in the mid 14 century by St Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most highly venerated saints of the Russian Orthodox Church, a significant spiritual leader in Russian history.
Sergiev Posad Lavra

       The archway at the Holy Gates (the entrance) itself was a sight to behold. Just look up at the wall and you’ll see intricate murals dedicated to the life of St. Sergius. The most famous painting has to be the one portraying St Sergius giving a piece of bread to the bear. According to legend, the wild animal became friend with the Saint after their short encounter in the woods when he was still a young monk.

       There was a long line to get into the Trinity Cathedral but we were able to bypass the line with the guide. Standing inside the church you’ll sense a very nice fragrance. That’s from the burning candles which are made out of bee wax. Other than that, we were also informed that St. Sergius' incorrupt relics are kept in this place. There are stories about the relic’s power to heal and fill people with faith. In front of the Trinity Cathedral, there is a beautifully ornamented baroque bell tower with a well, where pilgrims were busy collecting holy water from. According to legends, the spring is a gift from God to St. Sergius, and that is why the natural spring of water is believed to possess magical healing power.

       Although The Cathedral of the Assumption is a replica of the Cathedral of the assumption in Moscow Kremlin, it is said to be much bigger. Also, it is a working cathedral as services and liturgy take place here.

        Before leaving the monastery compound, make it a point to check out the bakery where you can taste various organic monastic pastries, local flower tea and traditional salad.
Sergiev Posad food

       To round off the tour, we were brought to a higher standing observatory platform to take some final photos of the monastery. We were lucky to have plenty of sunlight and beautiful blue sky that day, the unobstructed vista was simply incredible.
Sergiev Posad Winter
Sergiev Posad Winter

Sergiev Posad Winter Important things to note:
1. There are a lot of pigeons at the entrance. Do restrict yourself from feeding them. (The reason? Just like why feeding squirrels is forbidden in some part of US.)
2. Entrance into the monastery ground is free but the usage of cameras in the church us not. Some part of the Lavra doesn’t allow photography at all.
3. Ladies visiting the Lavra should wear a long skirt and also headscarf while men are required to take off their hats in the church.
4. Lighting candles or prayers in the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra is free of charge. However, donations are always welcome.

What we liked about the tour

    Moscow Traffic
  • The driver was friendly, greeted us with smiles when he picked us up from the hostel early in the morning. 
  • Our guide, Mr. Alexander is a patient and knowledgeable man who speaks fluent English (this is especially important since we are foreigners).  
  • Angel taxi offers flexible schedule according to our preference. Basically, we just told them how we expected the trip to be, informed them about arrival and departure time to and from Moscow, and they came out with the optimal schedule of the road trip. Communication was effective and clear via emails
  • We didn't felt rushed and we enjoyed exploring the attractions on our own pace. The guide answered every single question professionally and I liked how he approached a priest to provide a more detailed answer when I had a question about the Tsar's decision on Orthodox Christianity.  
  • The best thing of all? We weren't "arranged" to visit certain souvenirs shops (which sell expensive stuff). 
  • After the trip ended, our guide went the extra mile to make sure we don't mess up our flight check-in. He bid us farewell only after he had made sure that we didn't encounter any problem with the airport staff. 
  • All in all, we're absolutely satisfied with the service and will certainly recommend this tour to everyone!

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Thank You for Reading! Miss Happy Feet was a guest of Angel Taxi Moscow, but all photos and opinion are as always, our own. This post is cowritten by Kimberly Lim. 
Feel free to share your thoughts with us by commenting below!

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