Staraya Russa is one of the oldest cities in Russia, located a hundred kilometers from Veliky Novgorod, the city that during its history overcame periods of magnificent blossoming and complete decline. Now this quiet city is a real treasury of ancient Russian architecture. Here one can see about sixty monuments of history and architecture. People come here to wander around the places of memory of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky, look at the ancient temples, see local museums and visit the balneological and mud-cure resort «Staraya Russa».
Staraya Russa was mentioned in the documents of 1167 for the first time. The name Russa probably originated from the name of the local Porusya River, which in olden time was called Rusa. There is evidence that the city was already crowded in the 11th century, built-up and had wooden pavements. It owes its wealth to the mineral springs where salt was extracted. Staraya Russa was a monopoly supplier of salt for a large country. A saltworks is depicted on the emblem of the city granted by Empress Catherine II.
The rich city on the trade route was a tasty morsel. That’s why Staraya Russa was captured either by the Lithuanians or the Poles and the Swedes. But it always remained Russian. Today tourists admire here the most ancient Cathedral of the Resurrection, which is harmoniously inscribed in the natural landscape, the magnificent Transfiguration Church and the unusual Mina Great Martyr Church.
The archaeological excavations have been held in the city and around it for more than half a century. A lot of unique items were found: birch bark letters, textiles, household items made of clay, wax, bone, leather and amber dating back to the XII-XIII centuries. The finds are presented in the expositions of the Staraya Russa Museum of Local Lore. A balneological and mud-cure resort, opened in 1785, occupies a special place in Staraya Russa. It is worth to come to the city to look at eight natural mineral springs and lakes, from the bottom of which the «Staraya Russa» sulphide-silt mud is extracted. It helps to cope with a range of health problems in children and adults.
Walking along Staraya Russa one can make pause and taste the fragrant herbal teas, which are made here according to old Russian recipes. There is a pancake house in the city where traditional Russian pancakes with different fillings are baked right in the hall. One can also taste solyanka — a thick soup on steep meat, fish or mushroom broth, aromatic mushroom soup and rich Russian ukha (fish soup).
The famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky spent the last years of his life in Staraya Russa. A museum was opened in the house where he lived. Thousands of tourists from all over the world come here every year. Every year the city hosts International Readings «Dostoevsky and Modernity» and the International Chamber Performances Festival based on Dostoevsky’s works. Among the bright holidays in the city the festival of aeronauts in May deserves attention. And also the festival «Knyazhya Bratchina» (Prince’s armed force) in August, when old music sounds and the forgotten crafts of Ancient Rus are demonstrated.
One can get to Staraya Russa from Moscow by train that goes to Pskov. Travel time is less than 8 hours. From Novgorod it is possible to reach by bus or by car for two hours. From St. Petersburg — by bus or by car about 6 hours.