At first glance, this small town on the edge of Lake Pleshcheevo looks like thousands of other towns in Russia, and it is hard to see what is so special about it. Single-storied wooden houses, a lot of trees, the golden domes of churches, two main streets, a crossroads, and on the edge, some Soviet-era apartment blocks and then dense forest. But this is a place where the present meets the past, where legends and folk tales meet history, and where the destinies of very different people are intertwined. This town guards a large number of secrets, but in order to uncover them you will need to be patient and observant.
The history of Pereslavl-Zalessky goes back many centuries, to the pre-Christian period, and it was laid waste several times by the Mongol-Tartars. It has 5 monasteries, and 9 museums, including the famous Peter the Great’s Boat Museum.
Today Red Square contains a number of historical buildings, including the oldest existing building in Central Russia - the Transfiguration Cathedral. Other buildings include the Church of Alexander Nevsky, the 16th century Church of Peter the Metropolitan, financed by Ivan the Terrible, and the 18th Century Vladimir Cathedral. You can also see a monument to Alexander Nevsky, part of the walls of the former Sretensky Novodevichy Convent and the Pushkin Garden.
In its long history Red Square has undergone several changes in its appearance. In medieval times this was the site of the wooden palace where Alexander Nevsky was born in 1220. Later, more churches and monasteries were built here. In the 17th Century this was an administrative center - the Voyevod or Duke of the region lived here, and in the 18th Century it was the site of the Pereslavl provincial chancellary.
In 1688 the sixteen-year-old Peter the Great built a shipyard on a hill in the village of Veskovo and started the construction of his “toy flotilla”. The boats were finally completed and launched on Lake Pleshcheevo on 1 May 1692. A mock army was present to mark the occasion. They fortified a small hill near the village, carried cannon there, and fired a salute when the flotilla was launched. Since then the villagers have called the hill Gremyach, or Thunder Hill, from the sound of the guns firing. The Young Peter the Great’s toy flotilla was the first step in the creation of the Russian Navy. At the time Russia’s only outlet to the sea was the Northern port of Arkhangelsk, closed to shipping in the Winter, and Peter knew that he would have to fight a war with Sweden in order to gain access to the Baltic sea. 11 years later he achieved this goal and founded the city of Saint-Petersburg in 1703.
Unfortunately in 1783 all the boats but one, the Fortuna, were destroyed in a fire.
The Boat museum, built to house the Fortuna, was opened in 1803. It was Russia’s first museum outside Moscow or Saint Petersburg. You can also see elements of some of the boats lost in the fire, including anchors, ship’s wheels and masts.
In the restaurant of this museum complex you will be able to try smoked and baked ryapushka, prepared according to the same traditional recipes that were used to prepare this fish for tsars and other prestigious visitors. Enjoy delicious food, superb service and a pleasant welcoming atmosphere.
The restaurant is decorated in the simple and cozy Dutch style that Peter the Great made fashionable in Russia, with blue and white tiles, heavy wooden furniture, paintings on the walls, and a life-sized figure of Peter the Great holding a tape measure: guests are free to measure their height and take selfies next to the Tsar.
The convenient location, high level of service and excellent food have made this tourist complex one of the most popular in the town.
There are many legends about the magical town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, and one of the best-known is about King Berendey. He is both a symbol – and legendary leader - of the ancient Berendey tribe and also the wise king from Ostrovsky’s fairy tale the Snow Maiden – the source for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera of the same name.
Many centuries have passed since those distant days in Russia’s pre-Christian past, and now the wise old king lives in a picturesque palace in the center of the town. Nothing is simple or straightforward here - there is magic around every corner. As you step onto the carved wooden porch you will see above you a big bird under the dome which will fulfill all good-natured wishes. When you enter the King’s home you will straightaway find yourself in an enchanted chamber where you will hear the story of Berendey and his friends the sorcerers. You will sit on the King’s throne and climb into his giant kneading bowl - don’t forget to make your wishes! The ladies of the court know many interesting things about the Tsar and are happy to share their secrets with you. Then you will go up to the second floor of the palace, into the King’s wonderful workshop.
This former monastery, on the southern shore of Lake Pleshcheyev, is the only one in Pereslavl built on a hill. Hence its name, from the word «goritsa», meaning little hill. It was within the walls of this monastery that Dmitry Prilutsky, a comrade of Sergius of Radonezh, entered into holy orders.
Another saint who is especially revered in Pereslavl also started his monastic career here: the holy Daniil who in 1508 founded his own monastery - the Troitsky Danilov Monastery nearby.
Like many monasteries, Goritsky has also served as a fortress and had a military role. For example, Eudoxia Dmitrievna, the wife of Dmitry Donskoy, took refuge in the monastery in 1382 when the town was attacked by Khan Tokhtamish. At a critical moment, when the Tartars were burning and sacking Pereslavl, she managed to escape on a raft and the thick fog over the lake hid her from view until after the Tartars had left.
The current monastery walls were built in the 17th Century and most of the buildings are from the 18th Century, including the four-tier bell-tower and the Cathedral of the Assumption, completed in 1761, with its magnificent baroque interior and elaborate iconostasis, which is still in place.
The monastery lost its status in the 19th Century and the buildings were abandoned. Ironically, the decline in the ex-monastery’s fortunes was reversed in 1919 when the Soviet Government decided to turn the buildings into a museum of regional history art and folklore, thus preserving the buildings, which were restored in the 1960s.
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