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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Mini St. Petersburg

For MT
Classical architecture, wide streets and a statue of Pushkin silhouetted against a river view are enough to make Tver a little bit like the northern capital. Located at the intersection of the Volga River and the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, Tver combines the atmospheres of the two larger cities and completes it with its own quirky provincial charm.

Although Tver's roots are medieval, not much is left from the early years after wars and a power struggle with Moscow, which the town eventually lost. Tver first became a major city when Prince Mikhail of Vladimir made it the capital of his princedom. During the years of the Tatar yoke, he was a staunch opponent of the Golden Horde, while Moscow's princes frequently united with the Mongols against enemy princedoms. Tver's proud opposition to both Moscow and the Tatar Mongols led to the execution of Prince Mikhail and the eventual union of the weakened Tver with the Moscow princedom in 1485.

Tver's former cultural and economic power is perhaps best illustrated in the story of 15th-century merchant and traveler Afanasy Nikitin. In 1468, he left his hometown for a legendary seven-year expedition to India across Central Asia and Iran. He was the first European to document his adventures, posthumously published as "Voyage Beyond the Three Seas." He never made it home, dying near Smolensk on his way back.

Sackings by the Tatars, Lithuanians, Muscovites and Ivan the Terrible left nothing of medieval Tver. A fire in 1763 destroyed most of the wooden buildings yet again and determined Tver's fate to be recreated as a mini-St. Petersburg, complete with riverfronts, stone facades and imperial squares. Catherine the Great ordered an "elegant face to the city," and her wish led to a city plan reminiscent of the Admiralty part of the former capital: three major streets fan from the main square, which has changed its name six times and is now Lenin Square. Catherine was so pleased with her first provincial project that she considered Tver second in beauty only to Petersburg.

Maria Antonova / For MT
Across the River Tmaka: an old house next to Belaya Troitsa, Tver's oldest church.
Like other points on the axis between the two capitals, Tver is home to a "Putevoi Dvorets," an imperial resting palace used by the monarchs on the way between Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Tver, the palace facade is now under reconstruction, but the renowned art gallery inside is functioning.

Take one of the two bridges across the Volga to explore the north side of town, a quieter neighborhood with a long park and even a sandy beach to the east. The elegant Old Bridge is one of the city's landmarks, but the New Bridge is actually older than the Old: it was moved here from St. Petersburg in the 1950s. There was once a monastery on this side of the river that later became a political prison. The Greek Orthodox scholar Maxim Grek was exiled here for 20 years after being proclaimed a heretic. Philip, the Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia, was imprisoned here in 1568 for criticizing Ivan the Terrible and was smothered with a pillow in true Russian medieval fashion a year later. Only the Church of the Dormition remains from the monastery today, right next to the interesting but crumbling Soviet river port building.

For a piece of Moscow in Tver, go south of Lenin Square on Tryokhsvyatskaya Ulitsa, a pedestrian street surrounded by shops and cafes, referred to as the "Tver Arbat." At the intersection with Simeonovskaya Ulitsa, there is a shop selling maps, books and Tver souvenirs. Full of artists, matryoshkas and frolicking students, one pleasant difference from Moscow's Old Arbat is the lower prices.

A different Tver can be found on the other side of the River Tmaka. The city ends, making way for a village of smaller houses with wooden lattices and red geraniums on windowsills. Here stands Belaya Troitsa, Tver's oldest church. It is a spot where both Moscow and St. Petersburg seem far, far away.

How to Get There

By car: Take Leningradskoye Shosse out of Moscow. Tver is on the M10 highway, 167 kilometers from the capital and 485 kilometers from St. Petersburg.

By train: Most trains to St. Petersburg stop in Tver. Train 24A departs at 12:30 p.m. and takes an hour and 40 minutes; train 68A departs at 9:30 a.m. and takes about two hours. You can also take a local train that departs several times an hour and takes 2 1/2 to three hours. All leave from Leningradsky station.

What to See

Tver Life Museum (Muzei Tverskogo Byta): Tver's folk art, dress and items of daily use from various social classes and historical times are on display in this estate house that belonged to one of the wealthier merchant families. Tea from a traditional samovar is offered at the downstairs samovar exhibit.

19/14 Ul. Gorkogo, (4822) 318-404, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Mondays and Tuesdays, adults 30 rubles, children 5 rubles.

Tver Regional Art Gallery (inside Putevoi Dvorets): A Russian Museum in miniature, with Aivazovsky, Shishkin, Repin and other Russian classics.

3 Ul. Sovetskaya, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Mondays and Tuesdays.

Bukinist: Used bookstore complete with retro postcards, rubber band-bound collected works and an erudite saleperson.

9 Ul. Sovetskaya, (4822) 347-491, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays, 6 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.

Where to Eat

Arzi bistro: Cheap and busy fast-food joint across from Zvezda cinema. Soups are 30 rubles, various Middle Eastern sweets are 14 to 30 rubles apiece.

30/2 Svobodny Per., (4822) 331-053.

Kofeinya Town: Pleasant coffee shop that also serves alcohol, dozens of varieties of tea (50 rubles for a teapot serving two people) and vegetable pies (50 rubles each). You can get one espresso for free from 10 a.m to 1 p.m.; at other times it costs 35 rubles.

15 Ul. Volnogo Novgoroda, (4822) 348-518, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Nadezhda restaurant: Located across from the city park, this was one of the first cafes in Tver, with a calm, family-friendly atmosphere. Serves many different kinds of fish: baked trout is 230 rubles. Homestyle solyanka is 75 rubles.

12 Ul. Sovetskaya, (4822) 320-045, noon to 10 p.m.

Where to Stay

Hotel Osnabruck: Centrally located in a new building; 2,200 to 4,600 rubles per room.

20 Ul. Saltykova-Schedrina, (4822) 32-84-33,

Tver Park Hotel: Located away from the center in a park zone, near the road to Moscow; 1,500 to 3,200 rubles per room

14 Moskovskoye Shosse, (4822) 39-77-22,