Uglich Russia cruise – blood, market, churches
Leaving Moscow, we finally started cruising to the next town which reminds us of the old Soviet time. Going from around 12 million inhabitants to less than 40,000 was a bit of a release, let me tell you.
First, we sailed through the Uglich lock which was the first lock I saw at day time. There was another cruise ship and a speed boat behind us. I noticed 3 guys sunbathing and reading on the speed boat waving at me to go there :)
Uglich, now located in the Yaroslavl Oblast region, was founded on the Volga river by a Prince in 927 which makes it older than Moscow.
We are not sure of the origin of its name as it can come from different words:
1. ulichi tribe, a group of Eastern Slavs lived user-friendly
2. a charcoal name
3. geography – angle in Russian is ugal (угол.)
Hopefully the town was not named after the word ugly :)
Uglich is called the Russian Switzerland because of three things:
1. cheese – A special cheese factory in town.
2. mineral water – Mineral water has a shape of local churches from Uglich.
3. watches – The old Chaika (chaika = seagull) watch factory which is made in a typical Russian style of both low and high quality.
But Uglich Russia is mostly famous for another 2 things – a souvenir market and the incident when a Tsar killed the Tsarevich Dmitry.
But let’s start from the beginning…
On the way we saw:
- The coolest house painted in yellow and white holds an exhibition of lacquer boxes.
- The Assumption square named after a blown up church of the same name that used to stand here.
- A massive pink building has a bank and an Old Chaika watches store, also a vodka store.
- The yellow building that used to be a library is now the Family Happiness Museum.
Crossing a little bridge with a nice reflection of the cruise ships on the water on our right side, we were greeted by two elder Russian women dressed up in traditional costumes singing Kalinka. Of course, just another reminder that we are in Russia!
Then we entered a yellow church which is a museum now. Inside, a small concert of folk church music made my day. 4 men dressed up in black had such incredible voices they gave us goose bumps and standing ovation followed.
The Church of Dmitry on the Blood
Finally time to enter the main church of town – the Church of Dmitry on the Blood which perfectly reflects the architecture from the end of the 17th century.
Why has the church such a weird name?
Peter the Great ordered to build the church in 1692 here on the exact place where Tsarevich Dmitry, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible was killed. The red color of the church symbolizes the blood that was spilled here.
A bit more about history:
In 1584 the first Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible died and left only two sons behind (just FYI Ivan had 7 wives, one after another during his life. What a lucky/unlucky guy he was?!)
One son died as the nanny didn’t take care of him and he was drowned.
The youngest son was Dmitry.
Dmitry’s older brother Feodor I was not intelligent enough but he was made the Tsar anyway.
Who was ruling the country in reality was Feodor’s brother-in-law Boris Godunov who in 1584 said they should send the rest of the family to Uglich (Dmitry, his mother and her brothers) where Dmitry was stabbed a few years later.
There’s three angles to the story of the mysterious death of Dmitry in 1591:
1. by accident playing with a knife, maybe during an epileptic seizure
2. assassinated by someone who Boris sent (Boris felt threatened by Dmitry as he might claim the throne even though according to a Russian law he could not as he was a son born from the last marriage which was not one of the three.)
3. Dmitry managed to escape when someone tried to kill him and they killed someone else instead of him.
Nowadays, the fresco inside the Church of Dmitry on the Blood shows the second story, the one of the assassination following the images of Dmitry’s previous life. Some images describe as one of the nurses and his mother ask him to do something, and then his throat is cut twice. His mum is crying on another image below.
The 300 kg bell that announced Dmitry’s death was ”punished”, thrown down from the hill and sent to Siberia. Then it was returned to Uglich and we can see it now inside the church.
In 1606 the Dmitry’s body was reburied then in the Archangel Cathedral we visited in Moscow Kremlin.
The church floor is paved, extremely expensive with underfloor heating with boiling water and hot steam which only tsars used. Now when it’s raining, people cannot enter the church.
Naked bodies of Adam and Eve can be also found in the fresco paintings. Then painted hair and leaves on top and during restoration taken away.
You’ve heard of the saying that lightning never strikes twice at the same place? Well, here it did. 12 years ago the church was struck by lightning for the second time but thankfully nothing happened. Is it the crime place that makes it ”safe” now?
The current Church of Dmitry on the Blood on the steep Volga river bank replaced the original wooden chapel and wooden church. Its 5 blue domes with golden crosses are visible from far. The church is a part of a museum so there’s an entrance fee.
1. In front of the entrance where we see the original cobblestone pavement people should make a cross on their chest and bow before entering the church.
2. If in a Russian calendar you see feast days of 19 October, 15 May and 3 June, they are dedicated to the “Saint Pious Tsarevitch” Dmitry.
Next to the church we can see a red-bricked building – the oldest building in Uglich called the Palace of Tsarevich Dmitry where Dmitry lived from 1584 to 1591. It’s just a part of the initial house from 1480, nowadays a seat of museum. A non-original porch was added later where people were welcome with bread and salt and vodka.
”First you drink vodka and then kiss a lady for three times. Or the other way round if the girl is not pretty enough? :D” Oleg threw one of his many jokes.
The Transfiguration Cathedral
Afterwards, we visited the yellow Transfiguration Cathedral:
- 5 domes representing the Christ and 4 evangelists.
- It was built in 1713 when Peter the Great prohibited stone buildings in towns. However, in Uglich he allowed this church to be built using bricks from the previous church.
- Under the glass we can see parts of the original church.
- It is 17 m high inside but seems much higher as no columns supporting the ceiling make an optical illusion.
- 55 frescos inside with the main copy of the Raphael’s painting from Vatican.
- The blue and white frescos under the windows were done using the Grisold technique.
- There’s 6 rows of icons instead of usual 5 with local Saints icons, too. The sixth row was just added later and has no name.
- Luckily the frescos were not whitewashed but only covered with fabrics, unlike in other churches.
- The frescos were exhibited on one local tractor for a while and now we can see the tractor outside the church as a memory.
- Now the Transfiguration Cathedral is an active church again after it was closed during the Soviet times.
More about Uglich Russia:
- it’s safe to buy lacquer boxes as they are not made of wood so you are free to export them out of Russia.
- there’s not much industry in town.
- do not buy watches on the street because then it shows the right time just twice a day :) It’s recommended to buy watches in the watch factory instead, just to be sure.
- the tourism makes the biggest income for town.
- 8 schools in town.
- 80% of the population are women.
The best souvenir market in Russia is in Uglich which is open every day.
You can find here souvenirs from different regions of Russia, even from China.
It’s possible to negotiate up to 10 or 15% discount but no more. Our guide Elena recommended us to use this trick when trying to bargain at markets. Just ask in Russian: “Skolko? Boze moj. Dorogoj!” (Сколько? Боже мой. дорогой! = How much? OMG. Expensive!)
Click here for more information about my Russia cruise during which we visited also other towns.
My mother and I are really thankful for vissiting Uglich Russia. The Rachmaninov cruise trip was a press trip organized by Gvidon Tours.