How to Find the Little Boat of Peter the Great in Russia’s Golden Ring
John Seckel, an American expat who has lived and worked in Moscow for many years, heads our affiliated Moscow office. He knows the backwaters of Western Russia as well as he knows the capital, but even he was surprised by this little gem on the Golden Ring.
Small but Mighty MuseumNot too far from Moscow, in a tiny little city that not even many Russians have visited, there’s a curious museum consisting of only one room. The museum may be small, but it is a place that is of great importance to the birth of Russian shipbuilding and the rise of the Russian fleet. The place is Pereslavl-Zelesky, and the museum is called Botik of Pyotr I or the Boat of Peter the First, and the main exhibit is a wooden boat that is more than 300 years old.
The tiny museum on a snowy day in the Golden Ring
Photo: John Seckel
Young Peter Falls in Love with SailingThe story begins in 1688 when the young Peter finds an old English boat in Moscow and is fascinated by it. With the help of Dutch masters, he repairs the boat and has a chance to sail it. The waters of Moscow are too shallow and Peter searches for a body of water with greater depths. On being told of a fitting lake, Peter sets out without telling his mother, to Pleshevo Lake. He’s captivated by the size of the lake and decides that this is just what he’s looking for.
The Beginning of the Russian FleetAfter returning to Moscow and admitting to his mother where he has been, he goes about pursuing support for his idea to build ships. In 1689, with the assistance of Dutch ship builders, he begins building boats on the banks of the lake. Not long after, though, he has to postpone his dream, as a fight for the throne with his sister Sofia heats up. As soon as he can, he begins again, and by May of 1692 launches a frigate with 30 cannons. With the shooting of these cannons, the Russian fleet is born.
The March of TimeAs our guide was painting a picture for us of how the territory used to look, it was amazing to see just how much had changed since then. The water was much closer to the hill on which the museum is located. The canal that the boats were launched into has grown up with trees. Not much is left of the huge effort that Peter put into making this area the birthplace of Russian shipbuilding.
(click on photo for larger version)
Fire!It’s not that they didn’t protect the boats that were left after shipbuilding moved to other areas. The boats were, by decree, to be preserved. It was fire that took its toll. The city burned several times and along with it, the boats. Workers collected and cared for the remaining boats, but back then putting out a fire was not easy. The one remaining boat was either pulled from the fire and saved, or left down at the docks where the fire didn’t reach it.
Little Town on the Bucket ListThis little town on the Golden Ring is one that you could easily drive by and not notice. Most of us are in a hurry going here and there. But stopping at this museum is one of those times when spending just an hour can give you an entirely different perspective on Russia.
I never thought that a one-room museum could hold my interest for so long. In what seemed like just a few breaths, we had to get moving along. I’m glad that after so many years of living in Russia, I still find new places that I can put on my Bucket List – and then cross off.
John and the Moscow office staffers celebrate after touring this hidden gem in the Golden Ring
Photo: John Seckel
Circle the Golden Ring with MIR
MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience to Russia, with affiliate offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Siberia offering on-the-ground support, and tour managers that clients rave about. MIR’s full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”
Visit the Small Town of Pereslavl-ZeleskyCall us to plan your own itinerary to Russia and include a stop at the Botik of Pyotr I in Pereslavl-Zelesky on the Golden Ring. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace. We love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. (more about our custom and private travel expertise)
Or you can opt to explore the Golden Ring towns on MIR’s classic small group tour: Russia’s Imperial Capitals & Ancient Villages.
Contact MIR today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-424-7289 to learn more.
(Top Photo: Peter’s boat on display in the museum; Photo: John Seckel)
PUBLISHED: August 29, 2018