Atomic city, cherry orchards and ancient monasteries

The city of Nizhny Novgorod. Source: RIA Novosti

The city of Nizhny Novgorod. Source: RIA Novosti

The outskirts of Nizhny Novgorod have a variety of attractions that cater to a wide range of tastes.

The Nizhniy Novgorod region was for a long time closed to outsiders and this was influenced by the presence of the ‘nuclear’ town Arzamas-16, Russia’s first nuclear centre, now known as Sarov. The closed city is however a thing of the past, and today a variety of opportunities converge in this region to cater for all tastes.

An ‘atomic’ city

A decision was taken in 1946 to set up the country’s first nuclear scientific-production centre in Sarov, which was a closely-guarded secret. Today anyone who is interested can learn about the fundamental stages that went into creating Russia’s contemporary nuclear shield, touch the Soviet super-bomb and learn about the lives of those who stood at the threshold of the country’s nuclear might.  To get a complete education in Russia’s nuclear program, one only needs to visit the historical museum of nuclear weapons, which opened in Sarov in November 1992.

Historical museum of Nuclear weapons. Source: Getty Images / Legion Media

Among its exhibits is the first Soviet atomic bomb the RDS-1 – the famous ‘Tatyana’, as well as the RDS-4, which was the first production atomic bomb, and the first artillery shell with a nuclear warhead, as well as the warheads belonging to the USSR’s first strategic missiles. The precursor to the bomb of bombs, the famous RDS-1 nuclear device now stands in one of the museum’s halls. Next to this device is the console, from which the bomb was activated and the aerial bomb casing created especially for it.

The famous RDS6s ‘sloyka’, which was the world’s first hydrogen bomb, always attracts particular attention from visitors to the exhibition. Andrey Sakharov, who was still young at that time, played an active role in creating this device as a member of a group of theoreticians.

Probably the most controversial of the museum’s exhibits in Sarov is the bomb, which entered the history books under the peculiar name of the ‘Kuzkina mat’. It was this bomb, which Nikita Khrushchyov, banging his shoe fervently on a table, promised to demonstrate to the Americans. The characteristics of this, the world’s most powerful experimental hydrogen bomb stir the imagination: the power of the device inside the casing was equal to 100 megatonnes of TNT. In order to better understand how much power this represents, imagine all the explosives used in World War Two put together, multiply this by 20 and you will arrive at an explosive device. Owing however to the initiative of Andrey Sakharov and due to the fact that the ‘mamasha’ was far too big to fit into the belly of the specially prepared Tu-95 bomber, it was reduced to half its size.

Historical museum of Nuclear weapons. Source: Getty Images / Legion Media

Entry to the city of Sarov is only affected by means of a special pass, which can be arranged when booking an excursion around the nuclear city.

Ancient monasteries

The first location, which one needs to remember, is Diveyevo. The Svyato-Troitskiy Serafimo-Diveyevskiy Monastyr (the Holy Trinity Saint Seraphym Diveyevo Monastery) is in the heart of this village to the south of the region. The monastery is inexorably linked to the name of Saint Seraphym of Sarov and his relics are kept there. Solemnities of Saint Seraphym of Sarov are held here every August, however if you prefer not to be in a crowd of people, choose any of the other summer months for your visit.

Diveyevo. Source: Lori Images / Legion Media

For those who prefer ancient Russian architecture to nuclear reactors, the Makarevskiy Monastyr (Makarev Monastery) in the Lyskov district is worth a visit. This monastery was founded in 1453 by Saint Makary Uzhensky. After its inception however the cloister was smashed by the Tatars, therefore the remaining architectural structures date back to the beginning of the 17th Century. The wonderful ensemble that serves to this day as a monastery rests on the right bank of the Volga River and not only attracts pilgrims but also tourists, who want to admire this most beautiful example of ancient Russian architecture.

Gorodets, which is a contemporary of the city of Moscow, cannot be missed. This is one of Russia’s most ancient cities, and was also founded by Yuriy Dolgorukiy. It gained notoriety as one of the ‘muzey pod otkrytym nebom’ (open air museum) cities. Every house in the centre is a Cultural Heritage Site. One should definitely visit the neighbouring ‘Gorod masterov’ (Craftman’s Centre), which houses displays and traditional craft workshops for trades like: gold embroidery, gorodets painting, pottery making, wood carving, and gingerbread making.

Diveyevo. Source: Lori Images / Legion Media

As is often the case, the most interesting areas are those off the beaten track.

Cherry orchards

In the village of Bolshiye Baklaldy is the world’s only cherry museum. Incidentally this trip is a must in May: the beauty of the cherry orchards in blossom defies description. The history of this location dates back to the 17th Century, when the first (varochnaya) cooking room was founded under the Boyar Boris Morozov. This was where juices, liqueurs, and marinades were prepared. They have retained their notoriety to this day. Visitors to the museum will certainly be invited to familiarise themselves with the famous taste of these products. Incidentally not only the museum, but also the whole village of Bolshiye Bakaldy is very nice, and in spring it is transformed into one enormous blossoming cherry orchard.

Cherry orchards. Source: Lori Images / Legion Media

From these cherry orchards the road leads to the village of Buturlino, to the natural history museum, which is housed in a beautiful building constructed in the ‘provincial classicism’ style. The museum houses artefacts from ancient peasant life, displays from the Bornukov stone carving school, as well as the ‘Staraya kvartira’ – the interior of a village school teacher’s house on the eve of the outbreak of war.

The culmination of the visit has to be the Baronial village in the Gagin region, in which Antione Jomini’s estate is located. Some of the structures dating back to the beginning of the 19th Century are in a semi-ruined state, while others are comparatively well preserved not only externally, but also internally. A rich park is laid out around the estate. This is one of the most beautiful estates in the Nizhniy Novgorod region and it is worth making the long journey south to see it.

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