Kirzhach (Киржач) is a town in the north-western part of Vladimir Oblast. Kirzhach does not fall into the list of the basic attractions of the region. Still, the town has its own charm and deserves a short stroll if you pass by.
The town sits on the banks of the river Kirzhach, the left tributary of the Klyazma. Kirzhach is mainly surrounded by forests with few fields and hills. The town stands on the circular railway line that runs around Moscow (Big ring of Moscow railway). The respective circular road A108 is found 10 km to the west, while the radial road from Moscow passes through the town and heads east towards Kol'chugino and Yuryev-Polsky. The population of Kirzhach is 32,000 (2006).
Kirzhach is known since the 14th century. Several documents by the Moscow prince Ivan Kalita mention a village on the Kirzhach river and date the town back to around 1330. Yet a more definite identification refers to the foundation date of the Kirzhach monastery (later, a convent). The monastery was established by the spiritual leader Sergius of Radonezh at 1354–1358. Initially, the monastery was a skete (an isolated side settlement) of the Trinity lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad, while the settlement was considered as a village-at-the-monastery (not a town). The advantageous location on the Stromyn way (Стромынский тракт), the road between Moscow and the towns around Vladimir (Suzdal, Yuryev-Polsky), led to the rapid growth of the settlement. Since 1781, Kirzhach has been considered a town. The old Stromyn road gradually diminished, but the new connection, the circular railway line around Moscow, appeared as early as 1900. The presence of the railway caused the development of industry in Kirzhach. Originally, textile production prevailed, but in the 20th century other industry appeared (production of engineering tools, car lights, etc.) Still, most of the factories are located in the suburbs, and Kirzhach does not look like a heavy industrialized town.
The Kirzhach river flows from north to south and divides the town into two parts. The historical center and the convent are located in the eastern part, close to the river. The western part of the town looks more like a village. Still, the church of St. Nicholas (one of the main sights of Kirzhach), the train station, and the bus station are located in the western part, away from the town center. The railway runs along the western boundary of Kirzhach. The road to Moscow leaves the town in the western direction, the road to Alexandrov goes north, the roads to Vladimir run towards the M7 highway, both south and east. Main streets in the historical center are parallel, улица Гагарина (ulitsa Gagarina) and Ленинградская улица (Leningradskaya ulitsa). The former street leads to the bridge over the river and is continued by Большая Московская улица (Bol'shaya Moskovskaya ulitsa), while the latter one heads east and turns into the road to Kol'chugino and Yuryev-Polsky. On the eastern bank, the town extends to the south, far beyond the historical center. These districts are mainly industrial and are of little interest for the traveller.
The train station is on the western boundary of the town, in the very end of Большая Московская улица. The station is pretty small and serves local trains only. These trains typically run 6–8 times per day between Alexandrov (the Moscow – Yaroslavl railway) and Orehovo-Zuevo (the Moscow – Vladimir railway). Two more trains in the evening depart from Alexandrov and terminate at Kirzhach. Getting to Kirzhach by train is generally inconvenient.
- From Moscow: take any local train from Kursky station towards Orehovo-Zuevo, then change to the train in the direction of Alexandrov. Alternatively, take a train to Alexandrov from Yaroslavsky station and change for a train to Kirzhach or Orehovo-Zuevo. In both cases, the trip will take 3–4 hours. Only in summer and only on weekends, two direct trains run from Moscow (Kursky station) to Kirzhach and further to the Bel'kovo station.
- From Vladimir: local trains with a change in Orehovo-Zuevo; two connections available (in the afternoon and in the evening), 3 hours each.
The bus station is near the train station, in the end of Большая Московская улица. The station building is open 04:30-18:00. Information: +7-(49237)-21-303. The buses running between Moscow and Kol'chugino/Yuryev-Polsky do not make a detour to the bus station, but stop on the main road.
- From Moscow: buses to Kirzhach (or to the further destinations, Kol'chugino and Yuryev-Polsky) depart every hour from the main bus terminal at Schelkovskaya metro station. Additionally, there are mini-buses that do not have a strict schedule and depart as soon as they are filled up. The trip takes 2–2.5 hours.
- From Vladimir: one direct bus per day. Alternatively, change in Kol'chugino and expect at least 3 hours for the travel.
- From Alexandrov: 5 mini-buses daily.
- From Kol'chugino and Yuryev-Polsky: buses to Moscow, 3–4 times per day from Yuryev-Polsky (1.5 hours) and every 1.5–2 hours from Kol'chugino (45 minutes).
Kirzhach stands on the A103 road that starts from Moscow (Щёлковское шоссе) towards Chernogolovka, Kol'chugino, and Yuryev-Polsky. The A108 circular road around Moscow also runs nearby. Therefore, Kirzhach is easily accessible both from Vladimir Oblast and from Moscow Oblast.
- From Moscow: 107 km along A103
- From Vladimir: drive M7 towards Moscow, then turn right in Pokrov or turn right to A108 (120–140 km). Alternatively, go via Stavrovo and Kol'chugino (110 km).
- From Alexandrov: local road (37 km); upon entering the town, turn left at the crossing with the traffic lights.
- From Yuryev-Polsky: local road via Kol'chugino (69 km); upon entering the town, follow the "major" (priority) road.
Kirzhach is easily explored by foot. The walk from the train/bus station to the historical center takes 15–20 minutes. Alternatively, you can use buses and mini-buses that run along the main streets of the town (Большая Московская ул. and further ул. Гагарина).
- Annunciation convent (Благовещенский монастырь). In the heart of the town, behind the central square, on the high bank of the Kirzhach river. The convent was founded by Sergius of Radonezh and dates back to 1358. Despite the small territory, the convent keeps a number of remarkable buildings:
- Cathedral of the Annunciation (Благовещенский собор) – the regular single-dome church with numerous kokoshniki in Moscow style of 16th century
- Church of the Savior (Спасская церковь) – a rather small and unusual building from 1656. This church looks like a large chapel: the tall rectangular foundation is topped with a small hip-roof, while the latter serves as a bell-tower.
- Church of All Saints – the classicism-style building with a huge bell-tower from the middle of 19th century.
- Chapel over-the-spring is on the slope of the hill, above the river. The legend says that the spring appeared after Sergius of Radonezh founded the monastery. The original chapel from early 17th century was destroyed during the Soviet period. However, the chapel is now restored, and the spring flows again.
- Church of St. Nicholas at Selivanova gora (церковь Николая Чудотворца на Селивановой горе), ул. Набережная, 13 (western bank of the river, turn south from Bol'shaya Moskovskaya ulitsa just before the bridge). The church in the former village Selivanova gora that was later merged with Kirzhach. The unremarkable church dates back to 1764, while the later bell-tower (1887) is more interesting. Its tall building refers to the classicism style with a slight neo-byzantine flavor. The church and the bell-tower are painted in dark-yellow. This color makes buildings unusual.
- Church of St. Nicholas at Zabolotye (церковь Николая Чудотворца в Заболотье), Сосновая ул. (eastern part of the town, left from the road to Kol'chugino). The regular church in classic style, built in 1846.
- Secular buildings are pretty regular. To see them, stroll through the town center (улицы Гагарина, Ленинградская, Советская, Некрасовская), and you will find several blocks of the original constructions from late 19th – early 20th century. The remarkable buildings are:
- Fire station (ул. Серегина, 10; near the convent) – the red-brick building from late 19th century.
- School (Ленинградская ул. 55) – neo-classicism style, early 20th century.
- Trading rows (ул. Гагарина, 29; central square of the town) – regular classicism-style trading rows built around 1850.
- [dead link] Museum (краеведческий музей), ул. Гагарина, 52 (east from the convent), ☏ +7-49237 -23-658. Su–F 09:00–18:00; Sa 10:00–16:00. The typical regional museum that includes exhibitions presenting different aspects of Kirzhach: textile industry, the production of copper kitchen tools (kettles, basins, etc.), wood carving, history of cosmonautics. The wood carvings are likely the most interesting objects here. Still, it is more exciting to watch the carvings on the real houses in the neighboring villages (see the "Get out" section).
- Lenin monument – a fancy monument on the central square, the huge and awesome head of Lenin.
- Aeroclub (Аэроклуб) (a few km west from Kirzhach; if you arrive from Moscow, turn left before entering the town), ☏ +7-495 -462-20-00. One of the largest sport airfields around Moscow, this club offers a variety of parachute jumps (both single jumps and training courses) as well as glider flights. The club has own hotel and cafe.
Food and small goods can be purchased in one of the small shops. These shops are concentrated around the main square (the beginning of ulitsa Gagarina) and near the train station. The town market is also located near the train station.
- Aida (кафе), ул. Гагарина, 30 (central square). A small cafe in the ground floor of the building.
- Boogie-woogie (кафе), Некрасовская ул. 17, ☏ +7-49237 -20-296.
- Kirzhach (ресторан), ул. Гагарина, 23 (town center). The restaurant in the building of Sherna hotel.