A Moscow Region Escape

Dmitrov is the perfect destination when you suddenly realize that you can't handle Moscow a minute longer but have only half a day. Only one hour after making this decision, you can be in the main square of this sleepy Moscow region town.

In 2004, Dmitrov celebrated its 850th anniversary, cleaning up the previously dusty central part and making it pedestrian-friendly. The Kremlin is located near the main square, which has a fountain in the summer and ice statues in the winter.

Dmitrov is one of few towns in the Moscow region that have preserved the medieval ramparts around its Kremlin. The ramparts, reaching 15 meters in height, are likely to have been there even before the Mongols and are the main attraction in the city. The wooden walls that stood on the ridge were not preserved, but one of the three wooden gates to the Kremlin was reconstructed in 2004. The ramparts provide the best vantage point to see the churches inside and are converted to a sledding area in the winter.

Dmitrov is about the same age as Moscow and was founded in 1154 by Prince Yury Dolgoruky. As the legend goes, when Yury was crossing the Yakhroma River, his wife gave birth to their son Vsevolod, and Dmitrov was founded at the site as a fortress to protect the border of his princedom. It was one of the largest cities in Russia in the first part of the 15th century, when it was a merchant town.

Maria Antonova / MT
Only a short trip from Moscow, Dmitrov offers visitors a Kremlin and a monastery built in different architectural styles.
Hiding behind the ramparts is the 16th-century Dormition Cathedral, a smaller church and the museum. Dmitrov's museum was created in 1918 with help from Russia's "anarchist prince" Pyotr Kropotkin, who lived in the town after his return from years abroad. He refused ministerial positions in Moscow and lived quietly at 95 Ulitsa. Kropotkina in a wooden house until his death. The modernist house built in 1895 rotted and was demolished. A new development called "The Return of Kropotkin" is now being constructed on the site.

Kropotkina is the street running on the other side of the Kremlin, now the location of a dozen life-size bronze sculptures by Moscow sculptor Rukavishnikov depicting various people strolling around town. If you go past them onto Ulitsa Liry Nikolskoi and walk through a neighborhood of pretty one-story houses, eventually you will hit Dmitrov's second major attraction, the Borisoglebsky Monastery. It was also founded by Dolgoruky but rebuilt practically anew in 1620 after the Poles destroyed it. For many years the offices of the Moscow Canal were located here.

The Moscow Canal was dug between the Volga and Moscow rivers in the 1930s, mostly by prisoners. To construct it, a gulag camp was placed in Dmitrov. It was the largest one in the prison camp system and numbered 200,000 people. Stalin's ambitious canal project was 128 kilometers long, had 11 locks and many dams and hydropower plants. Most of the people who participated in its construction were later executed at the Butovo polygon in the south of Moscow. The canal transformed Dmitrov from a forgotten backwater town to an industrial city. It lies to the east of the tracks, opposite town. Today the canal is a favorite spot for ice fishermen.

How to Get There
By car: Take Dmitrovskoye Shosse, or A104. Dmitrov is 65 kilometers away from the capital.
By train: There are frequent suburban trains from Savyolovsky Station. There is a weekend express to Dubna at 10:05 a.m. that stops in Dmitrov and takes one hour.
By bus: Bus 401 leaves from Altufyevo metro every 20 minutes and drives along the Moscow Canal. The trip takes about 1 1/2 hours.
What to See
Dmitrov Kremlin
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday. Forty rubles for all three exhibitions.
The museum has the usual collection of prehistoric pebbles, folk art and personal belongings from estates in the Dmitrov region. You can get a group tour of the Kremlin -- the price is 1,000 rubles for 40 people.
16 Istoricheskaya Pl. (222) 587-32-04

Borisoglebsky Monastery
A well-kept and quiet monastery with only nine monks. Apparently they keep peacocks in the big metal cage that you see on the right when you enter, but the birds probably move to a warmer spot during the winter months.
4 Ul. Minina

Moscow Canal
You can get to the canal by crossing the railroad tracks. Yakhroma, a town about 5 kilometers south of Dmitrov, has the famous Lock No. 3, with two caravels modeled after the ship sailed by Columbus.

Where to Eat
Stary Gorod Cafe
A basement venue with paintings of the old town on the walls that doesn't get a lot of traffic. Starters for 110 to 200 rubles, main dishes under 300, coffee, cocktails. The chef seems to have a penchant for cheese.
36A Zagorskaya Ul., (49622)3-87-77