Staraya (Old) Ladoga
The village of Staraya Ladoga, with its population of just over 2000, lies on the left bank of the broad, deep River Volkhov, 128 kilometers from St. Petersburg. Most philologists connect the name of the village with the Ladozhka River, tracing the derivation of the word to its Finn-Baltic origins: in Baltic geographical termination, the word "lataka" or "lata-ga" means a stream, a ditch or a boggy marsh. This settlement is not widely known, but it is a very special place, steeped in tradition, and at the same time extraordinarily beautiful.
History has been made in these parts on more than one occasion: it was from here that Prince Rurik was summoned to govern Rus; the celebrated road "from the Vikings to the Greeks" passed through the town; Staraya Ladoga was a contender, along with Kiev, as the burial place of the prophet Oleg; it was from here that the 20 year-old Prince Alexander, son of Yaroslav (later called "Nevsky") led an army of Novgorodians into battle with the Swedes in 1240; and St. Petersburg's founder, Tsar Peter I, assembled troops here for his decisive assault on the fortress of "Oreshek". Many legends also surround Staraya Ladoga. Two of them are totally incredible - the existence of an underground passage leading from the fortress under the River Volkhov, and the story of the golden coffin in which Rurik the Viking is supposed to have been buried.
The main "sights" of Staraya Ladoga are on the left bank of the Volkhov,
in an area divided into northern and southern sections by the Ladozhka
River. The settlement's historic centre is the mighty stone fortress
with its five towers, built in the late 15th and early 16th centuries on
a promontory, formed by the above-mentioned rivers. The fortress now
houses a museum and is currently undergoing restoration; the whole of
the west wall has been reconstructed, with its formidable towers that
reach 24 meters in diameter. The towers adjoining the river, which have
not yet been restored, are fascinating; in addition to the fact that
their structure can be clearly seen, you can also go inside them (albeit
with care). The fortress walls offer a spectacular view of Staraya
To the south-west of St. George's Church is the wooden Church of St. Dmitry Solunsky; it is now part of the museum and contains various displays.
The Convent of the Assumption stands to the north of the stone
fortress; it contains dozens of stone and wooden buildings, surrounded
by a brick wall. In the 18th century Peter the Great's first wife,
Evdokia Lopukhina, was incarcerated there. Today the convent's principal
place of interest is the Assumption Cathedral, built in the 12th century
and reconstructed in the 17th.
St. Nicholas' Monastery marks the boundary of Staraya Ladoga. A legend connects it with the name of Alexander Nevsky and his victory over the Swedes at the Battle of the Neva, though there is no documentary evidence to support this. The multi-tiered, octagonal, tent-shaped 18th century bell-tower, with its special place for the bell ringer, has recently been restored. The monastery also features the Holy Gates, leading to Volkhov: they are intricate and outwardly very secular. Next to the gates is the quaint, unusual Church of St. John Zlatoust (designed by Alexey Gornostayev and built between 1861 and 1873). Although decorated in the Old Russian style, it strongly resembles a Romance basilica.
Staraya Ladoga will has celebrating its 1250th anniversary (2003), at the same time as St. Petersburg celebrated its 300th anniversary. this is a SERIOUSLY old town. Staraya Ladoga can be reached by train from St. Petersburg's Moscow Station to Volkhovstroy (just under 3 hours' journey), then by bus (10 km).