Tour Dates for 2011: June 17 - July 3.
Day 1: Arrival to Simferopol, transfer to the Hotel. Rest. Supper. Flight (tentatively) Turkish Airlines. Includes: (D).
Day 2: We will start our tour by exploring the city of Sebastopol, a heroic city-port on the southern shores of the Crimean Peninsula. Crimea historically was a Greek colony, and after that a part of the Roman and then Byzantine Empire. The legend about the Apostle Andrew tells us that he was starting his missionary travel through the lands of the Scythians and Slavs here in Crimea.
Probably we’ll never know that for sure, but at least that part of the legend does not seem improbable: we know of the early Christian presence in that part of the Roman Empire from a number of sources. And it was here that Blessed Duke Vladimir was baptized by the Byzantine priests. We will start our exploration of the area with a visit to the archaeological park of Khersones, an ancient Greek, Roman and then Byzantine city, a semi-capital of the area for a long time.
Here, amidst the ruins we’ll see the baptismal font of St. Vladimir and we will visit a memorial cathedral built in celebration of the 900th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’. From here we’ll proceed to visit the monastery in Inkerman, dedicated to St. Clement, the Pope of Rome who was exiled here by the pagans and met here his martyr end. In the afternoon we’ll explore the city’s main attractions and we’ll learn about the glorious days of Sebastopol and role that it played in history of Russia. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: Those who wish, we’ll be able to attend Divine Liturgy in one of the churches of the city. After the service we’ll continue the exploration of the important historical center by visiting near-by cave cities of Mangup-Kale and Eski-Kermen, established as the Byzantine fortresses in late antiquity. Here we’ll see interesting cave dwellings, fortifications and churches with some surviving frescoes. In the afternoon we’ll return to Sebastopol to finish the exploration of the city and many attractions that it has to offer from different historical periods. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: In the morning we’ll start our journey back to Simferopol. Our first stop will be at Chufut-Kale (the “Jewish Fortress”), one of the most important cave complexes on the Crimean Peninsula. Established as a Byzantine outpost, it served military purposes all through the Middle Ages, and was inhabited even as late as 19th century.
After a tour of the fortress we will proceed to the Dormition Cave Monastery. Its founding dates back to the time of the iconoclastic trouble in the Byzantine Empire. Iconophiles, monastics, the keepers (“lovers”) of icons had to flee persecution in the main areas of the empire. Here, on the far outposts of Byzantium, amidst the Crimean Mountains they found refuge and peace. Our last stop will be at Bakhchisaray (The Khan's Palace).
The city of Backchisaray was a capital of once powerful state of Crimean Tatars. The Peninsula was occupied by the Tatar step nomads hundreds of years ago and a new capital was established by them. Little remains from those days, but the palace, that important remnant of the past still stands and represents an interesting sample of the 16th century Crimean Tatar Architecture. At about 8pm we’ll board our overnight train for Kiev. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 5: The Chronicle says that Apostle Andrew came to the hilly banks of the River Dnepr, where Kiev now stands, erected a cross and prophesied that a great Christian city will be build on that place one day. Perhaps due to that tradition Kiev will become known in chronicles as “the Mother of all Russian cities”.
We’ll start our exploration of the historical center with a visit to St. Sophia Cathedral, a beautiful church consecrated in the 11th century, we’ll see the reconstructed “Golden Gate”, a part of pre-Mongolian military fortifications of the city, and we’ll visit the Old-Kiev hill, from where, as it says “the old-Russian land descended”.
In the afternoon we will visit other important historical monuments through the city, like the Church of St. Cyril with some of the earliest frescoes and the Church in Berestovo, in the former country residence of the Russian Dukes, where according to tradition blessed Duke Vladimir reposed in the Lord. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 6: Today we’ll dedicate to the exploration of Chrenigov, another important historical city. Chernigov historically was understood as inseparable from Kiev. Located some two hours NE of Kiev, the city shares the history and many similar features with its larger and more famous counterpart. Here, in Chernigov, we will see a number of historical monuments that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries.
We will see the Holy Transfiguration Church, Church of SS. Boris and Gleb, and Church of Prophet Elias with adjacent cave monastery dedicated to St. Anthony of the Kiev Caves. After lunch we will tour the burial mound of the “Black Prince” legendary founder of Chernigov, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, and the Diocesan Center, at the Dormition Elets Convent, Church of St. Paraskeva, beautifully recreated in pre-Mongolian style, and Church of St. Catherine, built in recognizable Ukrainian Baroque style. After supper we will return back to Kiev for overnight. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Today we will start with a visit to the Holy Dormition Kiev Cave Monastery, the oldest monastery that comes down to us from the very late 10th or early 11th century. In fact, there were some claims that the monastery is considerably older and that it was established not by Russian or Byzantine monks, but by Irish missionaries, who wandered so far east on their missionary journeys.
While the exact age of the monastery is still subject for great debate, it is an incredibly important historical and spiritual center. Here we will explore two underground systems of the monastic caves, a number of churches and the Treasury of the Monastery. After lunch we will continue the exploration of the historical monuments of the city and will stop to see St. Michael’s Church, the splendid church of St. Andrew, built by the famous Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli on the place of where tradition says Apostle Andrew erected his cross.
From St. Andrew’s we will proceed to the world renowned cathedral of St. Vladimir, the Baptizer of Russia, built in the neo-Byzantine Style and decorated with murals of the famous Russian painters of the 19th century. Religious art inside of the cathedral relates to us the millennia old history of Christianity in Russia. In the evening an optional boat ride on Dnepr River can be organized for those who would like to enjoy the splendid panoramas of the city. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 8: Early in the morning we will transfer to the airport for a flight to St. Petersburg. Upon our arrival, we will visit Alexander-Nevsky Lavra, a beautiful monastery that at one point was one of the biggest and most famous in Imperial Russia. It was founded by Peter the Great on the place where it was believed Duke Alexander had a victory of the Swedish invaders that gave him nickname “Nevsky” (of Neva River, as the battle took place on the banks of the Neva River).
We will tour the grounds of the Monastery, including the magnificent Cathedral of the Holy Trinity that houses the remains of the victorious Duke Alexander and the cemetery where many famous Russian artists, writers and actors are buried. From here we will proceed to SS. Peter and Paul Fortress that was built by Peter to defend the newly regained Russian lands and the new Capital of Russia that was just under construction. After lunch we will visit the historical Vasilievsky Island and several other places that are important in the history of this beautiful city. In the evening we will embark the boat for a cruise trip to Valaam. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 9: Valaam is the northernmost point of the missionary trip of St. Andrew through the land of the Scythians and the Slavs. The Holy Transfiguration Monastery historically and currently is one of the most famous and important Russian monasteries. It is from here that many missionaries “set sail” to bring the light of the Gospel to the far lands.
There is no firm documented evidence of the existence of the monastery on the islands prior to the 14th century; although there is some evidence that monks may have come to the island as early as the 10th century, soon after the priests of the northern god Veles were expelled from the islands and the sanctuary of the pagan god was destroyed. Desecrated during Soviet times, the monastery is now largely restored and once again serves as a refuge to those who seek to serve the Heavenly Master in the most perfect way. We will visit several sketes of the monastery, see the main compound and walk through the pristine woods of the islands. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: It is hard to believe that a small and scattered town of Staraya Ladoga was rivaling in importance Kiev and Novgorod. Many Scandinavian chronicles talk about the Gardarika – the land of many cities in the country of the Slavs. Staraya [Old] Ladoga is mentioned on many occasions as a once prosperous city that was the key to the “country of Gardarica”.
By looking at the pristine landscape, peaceful river and small village-like houses, it is hard to imagine that a millennia ago it was one of the largest cities in this part of the world. However, a set of mighty burial mounds on the outskirts of the town firmly indicates that mighty Scandinavian and Slav warlords not only visited here, but choose to live and die here, making a tribute to the importance of the city by their burial monuments. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: Today we will explore Novgorod, which gives an appearance of a quiet, clean, typical provincial city of Russia’s northwest. But its thousand-year history is truly unique. Russian hagiographical accounts tell us that Apostle Andrew came here, and blessed the place by elevating a cross on the banks of the River Volkhov. It is also said that Novgorodians appreciated him sincerely and welcomed him cordially not only to their houses to attend splendid feasts, but even to sauna, to warm up, amidst the dreary northern climate.
We will never know if that particular story is a historical fact; it does not seem likely. But we do know that already over a thousand years ago, Novgorod was second only to Kiev and was well known not only in neighboring Scandinavia, but even in far away exotic Byzantium. We will start our exploration of the city by visiting its Medieval Kremlin. The buildings of the Novgorod Kremlin date back to the 11th to 16th centuries. The most special of them all is the Cathedral of St. Sophia, built in the 11th century. Largely it has survived intact through its thousand-year history.
In addition to the Cathedral, we will visit several historic and art exhibits in the museums of Kremlin. After lunch we will visit the Market Square, the central point of the medieval city’s commerce and interaction. A number of churches in close proximity to each other serve as a tribute to the piety of Novgorod’s tradesmen. From the market place, also known as Yaroslav’s court, we will walk down Il’ina street for a visit to Znamensky Cathedral.
This church was built in dedication to the famous miracle-working icon, our Lady of the Sign (Znamenye), the paladin of Novgorod. The nearby Transfiguration Church (13th century) still contains some of the original frescoes painted by the renown medieval iconographer Theophanes the Greek. In the evening an optional boat ride on Volkhov River can be organized for you to enjoy the splendid panoramas of the city. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 12: Today we will continue the exploration of the city. In the morning we will visit Peryn’ - a small and remote island with a little church dedicated to the Mother of God. The story tells us that just like on Valaam, the Christian Monastery was established on the place of a pagan sanctuary.
In the 20th century the archeologists found some evidence that confirmed the ancient tale about Peryn’. From here we will continue to St. George Monastery – one of the oldest surviving Russian Monasteries with the Cathedral of St. George that dates back to the 11th century. After lunch we will visit the Vitoslavitsi Museum of Wooden Architecture.
This particular museum has the finest collection of wooden architecture of the Russian North. There are a lot of wooden churches, houses, barns and wells. These wooden monuments have been brought from various regions of Russia for preservation purposes as well as a display of a variety of wooden architectural styles. In the afternoon we will transfer to another important medieval center of Russia – the city of Pskov. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 13: Today we will start with an exploration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral situated amidst picturesque fortifications of the Pskovan Kremlin. From there we will proceed to the state historical museum with its excellent Icon collection, and special chambers with various medieval ecclesiastical artifacts. From the museum we’ll continue to explore the treasures of Pskov – among them two splendid jewels – Mirozhsky Monastery and Church of St. John the Baptist, both built and consecrated in the 12th century. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 14: This morning we will start with an exploration of the ancient Monastery of Pechori (Pskov Cave Monastery) that our Lord spared from Communist desecration. The monastery was founded at the entrance to a system of sandy tunnels that at one time were channeling the waters of an underground river. For the past several hundred years these “God-made caves” were used as the monastic cemetery and partially as hermit cells.
After visiting the caves and seeing the churches of the monastery, we will visit ancient town of Izborsk for an inspiring walk though the ruins of a medieval fortress to the icy-cold shower in the Holy Springs. Later in the day we will make a stop in a small village of Vybuty, believed to be the birth place of princess Olga, the grandmother of Saintly Duke Vladimir, the enlightener of Rus’. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 15: This morning we will transfer to St. Petersburg. Upon our arrival we will visit the State Russian Museum with its magnificent collection of Russian Art and the Church of the Resurrection, better known for its nickname – Savior on Spilt Blood. After the visit to the museum and memorial cathedral we will check into the hotel. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 16: This morning we will explore the State Hermitage, once the Winter Palace of the Russian Tsars, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of Fine Arts. Countless artifacts on exhibit cover the evolution of art from the Neolithic time and Ancient Egypt to the beginning of the 20th century. After lunch we will visit the splendidly decorated Cathedral of St. Isaac, one of the world’s largest domed cathedrals.
Never a parish church, it was built as a dedication to the heavenly patron of Peter the Great, St. Isaac of Dalmatia. The cathedral is very Western in style, but adorned with truly Eastern lavishness. The panoramic view of St. Petersburg from its observation deck around the dome is truly magnificent. The rest of your day will be at leisure. You can attend some performance in one of the city’s many theaters, spend some time shopping for some Russian memorabilia or just stroll the streets and squares of the beautiful city that is justly nicknamed “Northern Venice”. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 17: Transfer to the airport. Departure back home. Includes: (B).
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Europe Ukraine Russia History Whiz Archeology/History Pilgrimage/Spirituality