On the tranquil Sosna River, sleepy Yelets stands out as one of the early Rus settlements to have retained some of its traditional character. The town centre is littered with large and small churches in various stages of disrepair and lined with pastel-coloured buildings and wooden cottages.
Founded in 1146 as a fortification against the Turkic invaders from the east, Yelets became a punching bag for the Mongol Tatars, who devastated it half a dozen times during the Middle Ages. The town became famous for its intricate lacemaking from the 18th century.
Yelets’ centre is laid out in a grid, with ul Kommunarov connecting Hotel Yelets in the west with Ascension Cathedral in the east. Further east (downhill) lies the Sosna River.