Myshkin: A Cozy Place to Burrow
Published: April 2, 2014 (Issue # 1804)
MYSHKIN, Yaroslavl region — While Rome might have been saved by geese, this tiny town in the central Yaroslavl region owes its fame and prosperity to a small mouse.
The place name Myshkin is derived from “myshka” — the Russian word for the small rodent. Legend has it that the animal was glorified in the name of the town after it saved the life of a prince who was resting on one of the banks of the Volga River. The prince, Fyodor Mikhailovich Mstislavsky, the founder of one of Russia’s most influential families in the 15th century, was awoken by the mouse darting across his face. Angered at first, the prince then realized that the mouse had saved him from a snake that had been creeping toward him as he slept.
Centuries later, the mouse became the symbol of a revival in the town when local authorities decided to use its unusual name to attract tourists. The international Festival of the Mouse held in 1996 marked the start of a booming local tourism industry.
Today, Myshkin with a population of just under 6,000, boasts the world’s only Museum of the Mouse along with 29 other tourist attractions, eight hotels and an increasing number of visitors from Russia and abroad. In 2012, 165,000 tourists visited the town, or 15,000 more compared to two years earlier, according to a 2013 report by local officials.
Unemployment is hardly an issue here. The population is involved in tourism and they seem to never run out of ideas. You can see a blacksmith pounding out a needle that is supposed to protect you from black magic. A bit farther down the street, a miller’s wife ushers you into her house to treat you to some tea and traditional Russian blini. And of course human-sized mice can be seen walking around the town, ready to play with you and give you useful advice.
What to do if you have two hours
Whatever man-made attractions might impress you in Myshkin, the humble beauty of its nature remains its biggest asset. The town is located on the high bank of the enormous Volga River — a great advantage for the fans of landscapes and views. Take a stroll down the Volga embankment with your camera ready. To get the best vantage point, it is worth climbing the 15-meter-high bell tower of the Assumption Cathedral (Uspenskaya Ploshchad; +7 485 442 1167) just a short walk away from the embankment. You might be asked for a small fee to go up.
The cathedral itself is worth a short tour, too. It is the result of a joint effort of the Italian architect Johannes Manfrini and a group of Russian artists headed by serf Timofei Medvedev who painted the interior. The construction of the church, which began in 1805 and was sponsored by Myshkin residents, did not stop even during Russia’s fight against Napoleon in 1812.
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