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Plyos, a Tiny Russian Switzerland in the Golden Ring

The old town of Plyos is not only the most picturesque, but also the smallest one in the Golden Ring. For over eight centuries already it has been standing on the steep bank of the Volga River, halfway between Kostroma and Kineshma.

The population of Plyos is about 3200 people.

Plyos can boast neither factories nor plants, nor outstanding architectural masterpieces. Nevertheless this little town embodies genuine harmony of architecture and nature, the buildings forming integral part of the unique Volga landscape.

Now the town is famous for its serene scenic beauty and its reputation as artists heaven. This is due largely to the renown of Isaac Levitan, the landscape painter who recorded local scenes. The Levitan House Museum displays his works as well as the works of other artists who visited Plyos. The town was also the home of the famous Russian basso, Chaliapin.

Plyos is a usual stop on Volga cruises. Tourists usually walk along the riverfront and take lovely views from the hill topped by the simple Assumption Cathedral, which stands within the ramparts of the old fort.


The name of the town evidently comes from the word plyos that most often denotes a straight length between two turns of a river. In olden days plyos also stood for a fishtail.

According to chronicles, the town was founded in 1410 by Vasiliy I, the Prince of Moscow and the son of Dmitry Donskoi; however, archeological diggings proved that an older settlement, called Chuvil had existed there as far back as the 12th century.

Plyos has seen and undergone a lot during its long history: forays of Tatars, internal wars between princes, and devastation in the Polish and Swiss intervention, it was an assembly point for Nizhni Novgorod home guards headed by the famous Minin and Pozharsky to release Moscow from the Polish usurpers. In 1812 during the Napoleons invasion Plyos turned one of the centres for formation of the citizens-in-arms. In the early 19th century, the period of the rapid growth of sale, the town became a big river port and trading centre for the neighboring Ivano-Shuisky textile industry region. In the last quarter of the 19th century after loosing the significant role of a trans-shipment point Plyos nearly fell into decay.

However, the town being a fascinating monument of Russian nature became an elevating summer plein air studio for artists and a pleasure resort for the intelligentsia from the capital and the principal town. The charming beauty of the town brought it fame of a Russian Switzerland.

Sights :

Not all historical monuments have been preserved in Plyos, because the wooden town was on fire several times. So, the oldest church there is the Assumption Cathedral dating back to 1699, whereas others were built in the 18-19th centuries.

The town planning formed in the 16th early 18th cc with due account of the riverside location and the complicated landscape relief has kept hitherto. The natural heights are adorned with numerous churches, such as the Assumption Cathedral, St. Peter and Paul Church (1841), the ensemble of the Trinity Church (1808, 1828.), the Transfiguration Church (1849), and St. Barbara Church (1821 ).

In the riverside part of the town you will see the ensemble of the Trading Square with market rows, the fire tower, and the Resurrection Church (1817) in the classical style. There are also numerous brick two-storeyed apartment houses of the 18-19th cc kept intact.

The State Historical, Architectural and Art Museum Reserve established in 1982 consists of the Levitan House Museum, the Landscape Museum, and Museum of the History of Plyos.

The museum Russky Dom (Russian House) provides interesting programmes. There are also newly founded museums: Museum of Wedding and Primeval Park Museum.

One of the original sights of Plyos is the Tree of Love, i.e. two pine trees with one branch accreting them. Another point of interest is the so called Stone of Love, a phallic symbol.

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