Worth a Trip: Gorodets

A trip to the nearby Volga river town of Gorodets, 60km north of Nizhny Novgorod, makes for a fun day trip and, in summer, a chance to get out on the water. The town is the oldest in the region and is famous for its distinct style of folk art. The local museum quarter has been attractively preserved and can be toured in under half a day.

Gorodets earned its reputation for folk art starting around the time of the schism in the Russian Orthodox Church (1660). The town became home to a population of Old Believers seeking religious sanctuary. They became skilful craftsmen, artists and wealthy tradesmen.

In a largely illiterate society, Gorodets oil-on-wood paintings played the role of glossy magazines about lifestyle and current events. Today you can buy pictures (from R200) or a whole piece of furniture, painted in Gorodets style. The town’s other speciality is pryaniki – hard, honey-rich cakes sold in most shops.

There are several museums in town, but some of the highlights include the Children’s Museum at the Merchants, housed in a 19th-century schoolroom; the House of the Countess Panina, which faithfully re-creates the atmosphere of the 19th century; the Gorodets Regional Museum, focusing on the town’s natural and social history; and the Museum of Samovars, which boasts the largest collection of tea-making equipment in Russia.

Several hydrofoils leave daily for Gorodets from Nizhny Novgorod’s river station (R200, one hour) from late May to September. Vodokhod Tour Office in Nizhny Novgorod runs excursions for around R1000. Out of sailing season, Gorodets is accessible by bus from Nizhny Novgorod’s bus station (R180, two hours, about half-hourly).