Smolensk Oblast : Smolensk
The first recorded mention of the city is in 863 AD. It was the capital of Slavic Krivichs tribe in the ninth century. Smolensk is a city with great history. Since XII century it was a capital of the princedom, but since 1522 it became a city of Moscow kingdom. In 1596 the great fortress was built to protect the inhabitants. The fortress is currently one of the most interesting sights of the city. It's bigger than Moscow fortress (the Kremlin). The length of its walls is about 6.5 km.
Several kilometers from Smolensk lies the Katyn (Russian: Катынь; Polish: Katyń) forest. In 1940, the forest was the site of a massacre of some 4,410 of Poland's intelligentsia, political elite, soldiers and high-ranking military officials. The term "Katyń massacre", however, has come to encompass a series of massacres of Poles by directive of Joseph Stalin. In total, 21,768 Poles of various professions (professors, doctors, soldiers, lawmakers, and police officers) were murdered at the hands of the Soviet Union's NKVD. In 2007, Andrzej Wajda, one of Poland's most esteemed film directors, whose father had been murdered in Katyń, released a dramatic film titled Katyń that examines the massacre and its effects on Poles in the years immediately after.
From Moscow several trains from Belorussky Railway Terminal reach Smolensk in 5-6 hours. Some of them reach into Europe as far as to Paris and Nice (in summer only). The same trains can be used to reach Smolensk from Belarus. Daily expresses connect Smolensk with Moscow and Bryansk; there are regular trains to and from Saint Petersburg and Vilnius.
Several times a week there are buses connecting Smolensk with such European cities as Paris, Madrid, Riga and some others. Most of these buses originally start their journey in Moscow and make a stopover in Smolensk. Other buses run to Mogilev, Kaluga, Velikiye Luki, Kursk and Tver. Daily buses run to Mstislavl, Belgorod, Bryansk, Moscow, Oryol, Saint Petersburg and Tula. A bus journey from Moscow to Smolensk takes about 4.5-6 hours (depending on possible traffic jams in Moscow), the price of a single ticket starts from 900 rubles (approximately €12.5 or $14).
By car and by thumbEdit
Smolensk is situated on the M1/E30 and A141 highways. Е30 goes from Berlin to Moscow through Warsaw, Brest and Minsk; while A141 connects Oryol to Vilnius through Bryansk and Vitebsk. Both highways are good for hitchhiking - bear in mind that E30 is about 6.5 km north from the city.
By bus, minibus, tram or trolleybusEdit
A single ticket for bus, tram or trolley use (different tickets for each kind of transport) costs 18 RUB purchased from the service person in the bus (cash only) and is valid for a single ride. No special validation needed. It is highly recommended to buy the ticket, because the controls are regular, especially during the first days of each month. There is a number of discount tickets for students and elderly people, in public buses (trams or trolleys) only. The list of public transport routes is found here (in Russian), their timetable is given here (note that not all buses are included). There is an enormous fleet of minibuses on the same routes. The price is the same as with a public bus (you get no paper tickets in a minibus, though). Minibuses operate every 10-15 minutes, which makes them more convenient than a bus. During rush hours, however, minibuses are often cramped.
There are several cab companies offering their services. A regular cab may cost about 130 RUB if you need to get from periphery of the city to the center. You should always call a taxi by phone, even if you see a taxi on the street nearby. Street taxis may charge a higher price than taxis called by phone. Every company has their phone number written on its vehicles; it's very convenient for tourists.
Currently Smolensk is not a bike-friendly city due to the lack of cycling lanes. However, the central park area, the streets nearby as well as a big green area to the south-west are easy to use. In case you decide to go cycling, note that some inhabitants are riding on sidewalks while others prefer the right side of the road.
The historical part of the city (within the Fortress) can be easily explored on foot. Note that the area is sometimes hilly and several central streets are paved so choose appropriate footwear.
- Assumption Cathedral. A 300-years old cathedral in Baroque style. Famous for its magnificent interiors, which combine features of traditional Russian style and Baroque. edit
- The Fortress Wall. The stone kremlin was built in 1595-1602 and helped to defend the city during several wars. Originally the kremlin included 38 towers; 17 of them can be seen today. edit
- The old smithy. The small stone building was built between 17-18th centuries; the exact date remains unknown. The blachsmiths' museum is situated there. edit
- The Roman catholic church. The brick church built in 1884-1896 is a good example of Neo-Gothic architecture. The building used to function as the archive for several decades and now no religious service is held there. Currently it is impossible to get inside. edit
- Gnyozdovo archeological site. The place is one of the largest survivals of the Viking Age in Europe. It contains extensive remains of a Slavic-Varangian settlement that flourished in the 10th century as a major trade station on the trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks. edit
- St. Michael's Church (Svirskaya) and other Pre-Mongol Monuments. Smolensk was one of the most important cities in medieval Russia and has preserved many pre-mongol monuments, most impressive of which is probably the St. Michael's Church (Svirskaya) edit
- International Music Festival of Mikhail Glinka A series of concerts in different genres. The participants come from Russia and Europe. The event is held at the state concert hall. The festival takes place every year in the last week of May and the first week of June.
- Firework Festival The event is worth visiting due to magnificent performances of several teams from Russia and Europe. It is organised at the airfield to the south of Smolensk. The festival takes place every year around September, 25.
- The ark of Smolensk Theatre festival is held every even year in mid-April.
- Slavic Culture Festival The event is a 2-/3-day festival devoted to the Slavs, held annually to the west of Smolensk in mid-August.
Smolensk offers countless opportunities to sample both local cuisine and international favorites. A diversity of foreign cuisines is also available - sushi restaurants in particular are currently in vogue.
- Felix Hostel, Dzerzhinsky Street, 19, ☎ +7 (4812) 40-10-32 ([email protected]), . There are rooms for 2, 4 or 5 people. Free wifi in all rooms. Conveniently located. Dorm bed: from RUB 500. edit
- Tourist Hostel, Kashen Street, 15-B, ☎ +7 (4812) 40-16-21 ([email protected]), . There are rooms for 2, 5, 6 or 8 people. Located close to the railway station. Dorm bed: from RUB 300. edit
- Seven Hills, Smolyaninov Street, 5, ☎ +7(4812) 20-95-74 ([email protected]), . There are single and double rooms as well as a suite. Rooms: from RUB 2800 to 3500. edit
- Small Hotel, Novo-Moskovskaya Street, 15, ☎ +7(4812) 630-300 ([email protected]), . There are single and double rooms as well as a suite. Rooms: from RUB 1800 to 4000. edit
- Usadba Hotel, Bakunin Street, 2-V, ☎ +7 (4812) 38-59-31 ([email protected]), . There are single and double rooms as well as a suite of rooms. Free wifi in all rooms. Rooms: from RUB 2700 to 10000. edit
- New Hotel, Gubenko Street, 26, ☎ +7(4812) 272-273 ([email protected]), . There are twin and double rooms as well as a suite of rooms. Free wifi and convenient location. Rooms: from RUB 3400 to 4600. edit
- Hotel Russia, Dzerzhinsky Street, 23, ☎ +7 (4812) 65-59-70 ([email protected]), . There are single and double rooms as well as a suite of rooms. Free wifi in all rooms. A cinema is situated in the same building. Rooms: from RUB 2280 to 6500. edit
Smolensk is a relatively safe city; however, crimes do occur. Use typical common sense. Avoid dark alleys - like you would anywhere else. Check the advice from your Foreign Office for entry requirements, health, safety, local laws and customs.
When visiting bars and restaurants make sure you know the price before you order and keep track of your spending, so no cheating is possible. Beware of scammers who strike up conversations out of the blue and invite you to visit their favorite club or bar; this is often a favorite way for the fraudsters to rob the foreigners, and the police are unlikely to help if you get scammed.
Also note that in winter months, streets in Smolensk might get quite slippery. Take a pair of grippy shoes or, even better, boots (to prevent twisted ankles) and a waterproof raincoat. Take care as ice patches are often hard to spot, even when they appear to have been cleared or melted. Wearing non-grippy shoes could result in injury.
- Vitebsk — an old city in Belarus.
- National park "Smolensk Lakeland" — located to the north-west of Smolensk, the green area of 564 sq. miles offers a closer look at wild nature of Eastern Europe.
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