An easy three-hour train ride from Moscow is a city known for two things related to tea: Russian gingerbread, known localy as “pryanik,” and the samovar, for which Tula has been the most famous production center for centuries. In fact, Tula is so well known for samovars that it has made it into a Russian saying: “taking a Samovar to Tula” is something akin to “reinventing the wheel.”
The metalworking that made Tula famous for samovars has also made it known for industry and defense. In 1976, Tula became one of 12 cities awarded “Hero City” status by the USSR for heroism during World War II due to its contributions to weapons manufacturing and efforts in preventing German troops from reaching Moscow in 1941.
Tula is not very big and can easily be seen in a short weekend trip. So, excited to see the city, I grabbed a coffee and hopped on an early morning train with a friend. We went on a Saturday in December and we came back to Moscow on Monday night. Tula is quite affordable as well. For the three-day trip, I spent about $100 total for everything.
The train ride there is almost worth going for in and of itself. It was breathtaking as we passed small towns, villages, and snow-covered trees glittering in the sunlight like a white winter wonderland.
After arriving in Tula, we grabbed lunch on the way to our Airbnb, dropped off our bags, and set right back out. In northwestern Russia in December, it starts getting dark around 4:00 PM and is completely dark before 5:00 PM. Therefore, we prioritized a little walking around before we tried our luck at the museums.
Walking in December means wearing multiple layers because it is very cold, but we enjoyed seeing all of the holiday decorations hanging from streetlamps and placed on sidewalks as we made our way to Lenin Square. There, we saw the black-domed Assumption Cathedral and the Monument to the Tula Pryanik. There was also a massive, festive green tree as well as a variety of other light displays– including a row of golden, sparkling trees and a golden samovar light display.
The next day, we drank coffee and ate warm pastries at a small bakery near our Airbnb and slowly made our way to the Tula State Museum of Weapons, passing several cathedrals and making a few small stops to see murals on buildings as we walked. In addition to the cold and lack of sunlight, we were also challenged in our trip by local COVID restrictions. At the time, many places in Tula demanded proof of vaccination, but Russia currently doesn’t recognize the western vaccines my friend and I received. Luckily, security accepted our foreign vaccine cards and we were allowed to enter. The museum had multiple floors and many exhibits full of weapons to view. Many of the signs were in both Russian and English, and we learned a lot about the different weapons and the historic role that Tula has played in producing weapons.
After leaving the museum, we explored a few other nearby areas before deciding to stop to warm up with some pizza. We then headed to the Kremlin to see the cathedrals located inside. We also tried to visit the Samovar Museum but were denied entry when our vaccine cards were not accepted. So, we just explored central Tula a bit more until it got dark, then had dinner and headed back to the Airbnb.
On our third and final day, we had planned to visit the Pryanik Museum but it is unfortunately closed on Monday, so we missed our chance, but it looks like a cool place to visit if you have the time. We did, however, get to see the Machine Tool Museum. We had trouble finding it at first because it is located behind some buildings rather than in front along the street as we had expected. However, once we found it, we were glad we did. It is a small, relaxed museum that is essentially one big, dimly-lit room, but the machines are fun to look at, and there is a ton of information to read. Most, if not all the information was in Russian, so those who struggle to read Russian should have Google Translate handy. We opted to go through the museum ourselves, but there were also guided tour options and a small gift shop to buy souvenirs.
With just a couple hours left, we walked through a shopping area near the Kremlin lined with places to buy pryanik, samovars, tea, and more. We purchased a berry-jam filled gingerbread – stamped with neat designs as many of the pryaniks are – and purchased a few others to take home with us as souvenirs.
If you have some extra time, many people also use Tula as a base to further explore Yasnaya Polyana, the family estate of Leo Tolstoy that is now a museum to the famous author as well as his final resting place. You can read more abou that here.
If you have a free weekend, Tula is a quick and easy trip to see a smaller Russian city filled with history and culture!
You Might Also Like
After taking my second semester of Russian in the US, my professor shared with me an opportunity to travel to Uzbekistan with SRAS with a study abroad scholarship I had acquired through my university. Traveling to Central Asia for the first time was a life changing opportunity for me and greatly helped me develop my […]
Less than a three hour drive from Tbilisi is the northeastern Georgian province of Kakheti. Georgia is famous for its wines and Kvareli, a town in Kakheti, contains a winery belonging to one of the country’s most well-known wine producers, Khareba. Georgia was also well known in the USSR as the source of nearly 95% […]
In mid-July, our SRAS group went on a day trip to Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia and also a popular wedding destination. After going to Bagrati Cathedral, we ate dinner and spent the night at a nearby guest house. Unfortunately, I did not feel well that evening, so I went straight to bed […]
As part of the SRAS/NovaMova study abroad program in Georgia, we had a weekend excursion to Svaneti during our third week. We had previously spent time in a couple different regions and cities, including Tbilisi, Mtskheta, and Khareba, but this was the first time our group saw the mountains of Georgia, a true natural wonder. […]
While studying abroad in Georgia, we visited many fascinating churches. Georgia’s Orthodox Church is among the oldest in the world, so the cathedrals have extensive histories and hold an important place in the country’s Orthodox culture. In addition, the unique architecture gives each church a special ambience and beauty. The following cathedrals were some of […]
Mtirala National Park is a vast rainforest between the Black Sea and the Adjara Mountains. The surrounding mountain areas in the Greater and Lesser Caucasus create an environment prone to severe humidity. The name “Mtirala” means “to cry” in Georgian and is derived from the annual rainfall of 4-4.5 meters. Not only is this one […]
Bishkek sits in the heart of Central Asia, surrounded by natural beauty. SRAS programs in Bishkek offer two categories of travel components. All regular programs offer several trips to see more of Kyrgyzstan, particularly its rural cultures. Students specifically on SRAS’s Central Asian Studies program have an extended travel component that covers multiple Central Asian […]
Kraków is Poland’s most visited city and is known as the county’s cultural capital. Krakow is home to the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a UNESCO City of Literature, and offers amazing architecture, history, and food. Just 2.5-3 hours from Warsaw, you take in many of the major sites in three days for […]
Russia’s two major capitals are largely tourist friendly. Much of the metro systems and city navigation are available in English. Many restaurants have English-langauge menus and even waitstaff that speak a little English. However, not everywhere will English get you by in a Russian-speaking country. This bilingual resource hopes to build students’ vocabulary skills and […]