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zvenigorodZvenigorod, standing atop a hill that overlooks the Moskva River and founded in 1339, is known as Moscow’s Switzerland. Up in hills stands the 14th  century single – domed Cathedral of the Assumption, built by the son of Dmitri Donskoi; morning services are usually held here. The monk Savva, a disciple of St Sergius, began construction on the Monastery of Savva – Storozhevsky in the 14th century. It became the favorite religious retreat of Czar Alexei in the mid – 17th century; his white palace is situated across from the cathedral’s porch. Over the centuries the monastery grew to one of the richest and most powerful in Russia. Monks led a local revolution against the Bolsheviks in 1918; but a year later the monastery was shut down by the new government. The monastery has now been returned to the zvinigorodOrthodox Church.

The 15th – century Cathedral of the Nativity, decorated with kokoshniki and stone carvings, is open for religious services. The interior iconostasis towers from floor to ceiling. Next to the multi – tiered bell tower (which you can climb) is the Transfiguration Church. The 17th – century Trinity Church is nearby with the attached Kazan Refectory. It was here that one of Russia’s greatest film directors, Andrei Tarkovsky, staged much of his classic film on the life of the famous icon painter Andrei Rublyov, whose icons were discovered within the church in 1918 (now exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery). Lining the left – hand wall of the fortress is the red and white Czaritsa’s Chambers, used by the Polish wife of Czar Alexei. On the outside porch, notice the carved double – and – single – headed eagles, emblems of Russian and Polish rulers. The History Museum is now located within the chambers, and another museum, exhibiting paintings, ceramics and wood carvings by local contemporary artists, is in the nearby two – story monks’ quarters. Museums are open 10 am – 5 pm; closed Mondays and the last Friday of the month.

In summer, bring food from Moscow to picnic by the river and have a swim. Take a stroll through the Old Town (uphill from the center), and get swept back a century as you pass old wooden dachas, intricately carved and colorfully painted. In 1884, the writer and physician Anton Chekhov worked in a hospital here and later wrote the story Ward 6 about a doctor who goes mad. During the Soviet era, KGB and military officers kept summer homes here and frequented the nearby health resort.

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