A small Sergiyev Posad is the only city in the Moscow Region to be included in the Golden Ring of Russia. The reason for this is the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius (Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra), the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church. The monastery complex of the Trinity Lavra is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Snow-white towers, golden domes, bell-ringing and the continuous flow of pilgrims — all this is a center of life of a town with a population of 100 thousand people. However, the town is also known as the capital of the toy kingdom. This is the place where the toy industry was born and the first Matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) was invented. Today’s Sergiyev Posad is a living open-air museum. Here you can learn about the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh from the local monks, treat yourself to the tasty honey cakes and kvass, and attend the town fairs full of the Bogorodskoye toys. All this attracts more than a million tourists to the town every year!
In the middle of the 14th century, there were only cells and the Holy Trinity Church at the site of the modern town of Sergiyev Posad on the Makovets Hill. Hermit monks lived and prayed here. Among them there was the novice Bartholomew, who later became known as St. Sergius of Radonezh, the founder of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. As legend has it, Prince Dmitry Donskoy visited the monastery in the XIV century seeking advice from this elderly monk on the eve of the legendary Battle of Kulikovo. After the death of Sergius of Radonezh, the Trinity Cathedral was built at the site with the relics of the saint, and crowds of pilgrims began to stream into the monastery.
Villages started to originate around the monastery in the XV century. Tsar Ivan the Terrible, baptized in the Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra, turned the latter into a powerful fortress with a stone wall, a moat and towers. The monastery was able to withstand during the siege of the Polish-Lithuanian troops in the early XVII century which lasted 14 months! The prayed-in walls of the monastery also sheltered the young Tsar Peter I from the Streletsky Revolt. He later patronized the monastery, having granted it the fisheries and saltworks. In the XVIII century, the villages belonging to the Lavra developed into the Trinity-Sergiyev Posad, one of the most powerful spiritual centers of the Russian Empire.
In 1862, the monastery town got its own Moscow-Troitsk railway, connecting Posad with the capital. Around the same time, Sergiyev Posad, in addition to its spiritual status, was dubbed the toy capital of Russia. The town is thought to have been making the best toys from olden times. The craft was especially famous in the village of Bogorodskoye where amazing toys were cut out from the soft species of wood in the form of cowherds, dogs with puppies, as well as moving figurines, like the legendary moving toy "Blacksmiths" - a peasant and a bear alternately hammering on the anvil. It was in Sergiyev Posad where the first Russian nesting doll (matryoshka) appeared in the late XIX century. This unusual toy was patterned after a Japanese wooden figurine from the island of Honshu - a kindly Japanese old man. And a peasant girl with a black cock in her hands has become the first Russian matryoshka. The "main" doll contained identical dolls of decreasing sizes hidden inside. A matryoshka factory was opened in Sergiyev Posad in 1904. Today you can find several museums of wooden toys in the town. They tell about the history of Russian dolls and have an extensive collection of toys.
However, Sergiyev Posad is famous primarily for the architectural ensemble of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993. The name of Sergius of Radonezh is also associated with the Spring “Gremyachy Klyuch” located near the city. The legend has it that the spring on the high bank of the Vondiga River appeared thanks to the prayer of a holy elder. Today, pilgrims come to this picturesque place to plunge into the ice-cold font with a prayer and drink holy water.
One of the unusual sights of the town is the refectory of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius. A legend has it that St. Sergius of Radonezh ordered the monks to feed all who visited the Lavra. So, today the monastic cuisine is a serious and well-established mechanism. In summer monks treat pilgrims to fresh kvass prepared on the natural wort, with raisins and sugar. In the refectory you can also taste delicious pickles from the monastic oak barrels - crispy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and sauerkraut – in all seasons. But most popular here are honey cakes baked by monks, who formulate the mandatory prayer. The recipe for the cake dough is kept in strict confidence. In addition to the monastic food in the refectory, you can find dishes of the traditional Old Moscow cuisine in the restaurants of Sergiyev Posad: ukha (fish soup) from rivers perch and pike perch in a pot with small pies, as well as mushrooms stewed in sour cream in a rye pot.
Sergiyev Posad attracts tourists with spectacular and theatricalized festivals all year round. Thus, a festival dedicated to folk toys is held in the town in May. The busy clamorous fair will offer you lots and lots of handmade toys: from Bogorodskoye to Filimonovskoye. And this is a great opportunity to see and buy stunning souvenirs. In July, the town hosts the "Sky of St. Sergius" Festival of Hot Air Balloons, during which everyone interested can go up in the balloon and see the colored domes of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius at a height. In September, you can attend the Russian Matryoshka Festival which arranges an exhibition of wooden toys, organizes master classes and treats to traditional Russian cuisine. Also in September you can witness a spectacular Fireworks Festival on the shore of the Kelarsky Pond near the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
Sergiyev Posad is equally beautiful at any time of the year. It's nice to be here in winter when the domes of the monastery churches are "dressed" in a frosty morning haze. During this time you can climb the Pancake Hill (Blinnaya Gora) to enjoy the amazing panoramas and then warm yourself in the town with hot Russian pancakes. In summer, you can get around all the corners of the mysterious Lavra, quench your thirst with the most delicious monastic kvass and look in the museums. This town will leave the most pleasant impressions, and the flavour of honey cakes will sink deep into the mind for long.
You can get to Sergiyev Posad from Moscow by suburban electric train which leaves from the Yaroslavlskaya railway station every half hour. The travel time is an hour and a half. Alternatively, you can choose a bus running to Sergiyev Posad bus station from VDNKh metro station every 15 minutes. There are also trains from St. Petersburg to Sergiyev Posad, with a transfer in Moscow. The travel time is about seven hours.