IN VOLOGDA, A CITY KNOWN CHIEFLY FOR ITS LACE, YOU CAN TRY THE CREAMY LOCAL BUTTER AND ATTEND A SALT-MAKING WORKSHOP — OR, THE MOST EXCITING OF ALL, TAKE A FAIRY-TALE JOURNEY TO VISIT FATHER FROST, THE RUSSIAN COUNTERPART OF SANTA CLAUS.
1 Day in Vologda
Almost all guides start their city tours from Kremlin Square. Here, on the banks of the Vologda River, stands the monumental St. Sophia Cathedral. A beautiful view of the city opens from its 78-meter high bell tower.
Remember to get your pictures taken with the monument to the letter “O”, sitting on the bench with a sign that says, “Let’s sit and say our o’s” (a reference to the Vologda accent!), or next to the art object called “The door to…” All these attractions are located in the park on Cathedral Hill. A visit to Russia’s one-of-a-kind lace museum will undoubtedly be the culmination of your programme. Don’t forget to undertake the quest, either — it leads to the carved palisade mentioned in a famous song about Vologda.
The afternoon is best spent at the Semyonkovo Open Air Museum. There you’ll learn about peasant traditions in the Russian North and will be able to try making the famous Vologda butter according to the original recipe.
2 Day in Totma
Stay the night in Vologda, and in the morning, get up early and travel to Totma, a town of sailors and explorers located 210km from the region’s capital.
The city’s signature architectural style is the Totma Baroque. The facades of the churches are adorned by exquisite ornaments called “cartouches”.
The Church of the Entry into Jerusalem, a ship-temple, is home to the Mariners’ Museum. On the excursion there you will learn about the history of the Russian navy, the discovery of Russian America, and the geography of the voyages across the Pacific Ocean made by merchants from Totma. Besides all that, you can also participate in a real “sea battle”.
The history of Totma is first and foremost the history of the salt industry. Today, fragments of brine pipes can be seen in the Totma Ethnographic Museum and in the village of Varinitsa on the outskirts of the city.
3 Day in Veliky Ustug
After a day of visiting the cultural attractions in Totma you’ll take a 4-hour trip to Veliky Ustyug where you can spend the night in one of the city’s hotels. In the morning, refreshed and well-rested, why not head out to see some of the local attractions?
Ustyug is famous for its 300-year tradition of producing art of the northern niello style. You can see the process of niello works’ creation at the Severnaya Chern factory and buy something at the factory souvenir shop.
Veliky Ustyug is Father Frost’s (Ded Moroz in Russian) hometown. That is why the Residence of Father Frost, a special gift shop, the Ded Moroz Fashion House, and his post office can all be found in the city.
Father Frost’s Residence is located in a picturesque pine forest not far from Veliky Ustyug. From the main gate of the Residence stretches the Path of Fairy Tales. On it, apart from inhabitants of the magic forest, you will see the house of the little forester, the Magic Well, the enchanted bridge, and have a chance to witness valiant contests. The Residence features a hotel, several comfortable guest houses, cafés, and shops.
At Father Frost’s home, his assistants will show you all the rooms of the fairytale house: the magic laboratory, observatory, library, study, and the wardrobe that contains his famous outfits. At the end of the excursion, the master of the house himself will meet his guests in the throne hall.
The Zoological Garden located near the Residence is affiliated with the Moscow Zoo. Over 400 animals and birds live there.
You can visit Father Frost at any time of the year. You can get there by car, or by plane or train via the city of Kotlas. From there it’s only a 70km car or bus ride to Veliky Ustyug. TLR
TATYANA MISHURINSKAYA / FATHER FROST’S HOUSE
A RECORD-BREAKING FRESCO
THE ST. SOPHIA CATHEDRAL ON VOLOGDA’S KREMLIN SQUARE IS THE FIRST STONE CHURCH BUILT IN THE CITY. IT WAS BUILT DURING THE RULE OF TSAR IVAN THE TERRIBLE. INSIDE YOU CAN FIND A FRESCO OF “THE LAST JUDGEMENT” WHICH IS THE LARGEST ON THIS SUBJECT IN RUSSIA — IT IS 400 SQUARE METERS! THE CATHEDRAL’S 18-CENTURY ALTARPIECE HAS BEEN PRESERVED IN ALMOST PERFECT CONDITION.
THE CITY’S TEMPLES ARE ADORNED WITH CARTOUCHES WHICH LOOK LIKE SHIPS IN FULL SAIL.AN OBSERVATION DECK HAS BEEN OPENED ON THE BELL TOWER OF THE CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, OFFERING
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF TOTMA.
A MUSEUM CITY
VELIKY USTYUG IS A TRUE MUSEUM CITY WITH ITS NUMEROUS WHITE-STONE CHURCHES AND MERCHANT MANSIONS. AT THE VERY LEAST, YOU SIMPLY MUST WALK AROUND THE CATHEDRAL COMPLEX KNOWN AS CATHEDRAL COURTYARD (SOBORNY DVOR), WALK ALONG THE NEW EMBANKMENT OF THE SUKHONA RIVER, VISIT DYMKOVSKAYA SLOBODA, AND THE MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF VELIKY USTYUG.