Student Life: Cultural Excursion to Yaroslavl

Where the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers meet.

A huge part of being an international student are the cultural experiences outside the classroom. As part of our program this semester we offered students to take an optional weekend excursion to Yaroslavl.

Yaroslavl is located about 250 km north-east of Moscow where the Kotorosl and Volga Rivers meet. The city was founded in 1010 and is now one of the largest cities on the Volga with a population of about 600,000. It’s a beautiful relaxing town full of history with plenty to see and do.

Volkov Theatre

We arrived by train on Friday night and were greeted by our host family with open arms. Anton, who was our guide for most of the weekend took us on a small tour by car as soon as we arrived before taking everyone to their homes for the weekend. The girls stayed with Anton’s mother-in-law, Lyuba and her son Vlad in their apartment. Our one boy who went on the trip stayed with Anton, his wife Tanya, and their two year old daughter. After a late supper and plenty of conversation (in a creative mix of Russian and English) everyone was off to bed to rest up for sightseeing the next day.Saturday started with a wonderful traditional Russian breakfast before walking tour of Yaroslavl lead by Tanya and Anton. The first stop was the oldest theatre in Russia! The building was closed so we couldn’t see inside. There were no plays playing that evening so we went over to the symphony to see what was happening there. As luck would have it,  there was a concert that night and instead of being held in the concert hall it was being held in the Volkov Theatre. We bought tickets knowing only two things: the concert was in the theatre and the symphony was playing Rachmaninov.

Daniel, Greer, Jacqueline and Eliana with our hostess and guide Tanya (center) in front of Успенский собор

And on we went with our day visiting parks, churches, and markets. We went to the Yaroslavl History Museum and to the Medical History Museum and took a boat tour down the Volga River. We had dinner at one of Tanya and Anton’s favorite restaurants and all rushed home to change to go to the concert.We walked into the theatre and it was clear that tonight was a special night. People were even more dressed up than usual and there was a special chatter in the air. When we went inside we learned that the concert was indeed very special. It was part of the Moscow Easter Festival and was being performed by the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra and Choir conducted by Valery Gergiev. This was much more than we had expected! Everyone was so excited especially because it was impossible for students to get tickets for the concerts in Moscow! After the concert we all had tea and cookies at Lyuba’s apartment and visited with each other.

Sunday was filled with more adventure! We started again with a great Russian breakfast before Anton and Vlad took us to the Space Museum. The museum is very new (built for Yaroslavl’s 1,000 anniversary in 2010). Yaroslavl is the home of the first Russian female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, and a lot of the museum was dedicated to her career. After the museum we continued our walking tour from the day before seeing more of Yaroslavl by foot.

Spaco-Preobrazhensky Monastery

Our tour took us to Спасо-Преображенский монастырь (Transfiguration of the Savior Monastery) which was founded in the 12th century (as more of a fort than a place of worship) and are the oldest buildings in Yaroslavl. The top of the belfry there is also the best place to get a view of the city. We continued through more beautiful parks, over historical bridges and down the banks of the river to the eternal flame and then on to dinner. After dinner we all went back to the space museum to see a film at the planetarium. Our last hour in Yaroslavl before we caught the train back was spent with our wonderful host family laughing and talking and drinking champaign to celebrate our weekend together.

See more about the trip and what we are doing here from a student’s point of view on Eliana’s blog!