Set along the banks of the tranquil Polist River, Staraya Russa has the idyllic charm of a 19th-century village. Here, Dostoevsky spent summers and wrote much of The Brothers Karamazov, and the town is still today something of a mecca for literary enthusiasts.
You can pick up a map at the Magazin Kniga (ul Lenina 6; 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat & Sun) bookshop, near the main square.
The simple, two-storey Dostoevsky House (21477; ul Dostoyevskogo 42; adult/student R40/20; 10am-5.30pm Tue-Sun) on the small Pererit- itsa River is now open as a museum. The house never left the family's possession before becoming a museum, and some original pieces remain. Dostoevsky's desk has copies from his mazelike drafts, and you can see his doodlings on the pages. His bookcase holds books from the period, and his wife's bedroom still contains her bed and chest. A keyboard instrument that Dostoevsky supposedly tinkered with sits by a window overlooking the river. Russian-language guides lead you through, pointing out every detail in a half-hour tour. In summer you might be able to arrange an English-language tour (R50) ahead of time by contacting the Dostoevsky cultural centre tel/>37285; ul Dostoyevskogo 8; 10am-6pm Tue-Fri & Sun). The centre also offers tours of the town (R300, two hours) and hosts temporary exhibitions (R40). Staraya Russa was the setting for The Brothers Karamazov, so fans will want to visit the streets and churches that the characters frequented.
Other attractions in Staraya Russa include the Local Lore Museum(Kraevedchesky muzey; 35866; pl Timura Frunze 6; adult/student R40/22; 10am-5pm Wed-Mon), which is housed in a 12th-century church and displays old religious relics; you can also see fragments from the church's original frescoes.
Next door to the museum is a picture gallery(Kartinnaya gallereya; 35989; adult/student R40/22; 10am-5pm Wed-Mon), with a small but noteworthy selection of paintings (and also a few sculptures) of artists who spent time in Staraya Russa. On the same street, ardent war buffs can check out the small but earn- est Museum of the Northwest Front (35285; ul Volodarskogo 20; adult/student R40/22; 10am-5pm Wed-Mon).