​Stary Oskol

15 Dec 2017

A lost piece of Russia’s Golden Ring

Recent statistics show that around 80% of foreign visitors to Russia visit only Moscow and/or St. Petersburg, something we can well believe. Fair play to those who make the effort to come at all but at the same time sad that few ever venture further afield. The next destination for most is the Golden Ring, a term given to a collection of pretty places mostly to Moscow’s north-east although they range in size from tiny Plyos to Yaroslavl which has a population of half a million, and in splendor from Suzdal where time hasn’t touched the town to SergievPosad which sees the bulk of tourists thanks in part to its UNESCO-listed status and proximity to Moscow. All are worthy of a visit in their own right but expect busses of tourists, mostly domestic and an increasing number of Chinese.
Much of the rest of Russia sees very few visitors, either local or foreign. Partly this is due to a lack of infrastructure but geography also plays a role; unlike in much of Europe where you can jump in your car and everything is more or less within a short drive, in Russia, distances are vast with one hell of a lot of nothing in between. Consequently, unless it’s somewhere you really want to, or have another reason to be there or nearby, most places receive only the occasional, casual visitor showing up, or a few hardcore trekkers.
Stary Oskol falls nicely into this category – it’s never going to rival St. Petersburg for beauty but isn’t as remote as Kamchatka to attract the off-the-beaten-track junkies. In fact, it’s slap bang in the middle of Russia’s agricultural heartland and dates back to 1593 although as much of it was trashed during the first world war (bizarrely, it was captured by Hungarian troops), and that was after the Crimean Tatars had done their best to wreck the place in the 16th century.


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