Tula and Kursk

It takes roughly five hours by train to get from Moscow’s Kursky station to Kursk (Курск), a city that is known for its war history. About halfway through the journey the train passes the city of Tula (Тула). Nicole and I visited Tula in January and Kursk in March 2019. I wouldn’t have gone to Tula if Nicole hadn’t heard about it. But I was pleasantly surprised by Tula.

Tolstoy’s house at Yasnaya Polyana

Tula has two major tourist attractions. One is in the centre, namely the pretty Kremlin dating back to the 16th century. The other is in the village of Yasnaya Polyana, an 18 kilometer taxi or bus ride away. This is where the famous writer Leon Tolstoy was born and had lived. We saw his house, situated in a park called the Tolstoy museum. But unfortunately we weren’t allowed into the house without a guide (so book in advance). Then we walked through the beautiful park and visited his grave. Once back at the main entrance we saw a bus, so we quickly hopped on. But there was something odd: no one seemed to pay. When Nicole asked a fellow passenger what to pay, she replied this wasn’t necessary. This was the bus for the staff of the Tolstoy museum. We thanked the driver for the free ride as he dropped us off in Tula.

Tula’s neighbourhood Iskra

Tula is fun at night. We visited Iskra (Искра), an old historic part of the city centre turned into a creative quarter. We bought mulled wine at a stall and enjoyed the festive atmosphere There were quite some workshops, bars and restaurants here. The cold wasn’t an issue for us, since there were fire pits outside. Visitors used the fire pits to toast marshmallows. We walked to close-by Metallistov street (Улица Металлистов) to buy local gingerbreads (Пяники, a Tula tradition) as souvenirs. This pedestrianised street was nicely decorated with Christmas Lights and ice sculptures.

Kursk

We spent a weekend in Kursk visiting friends, where we had a lovely stay with great company, food, drinks and an afternoon in the banya. Though tourist sights weren’t our priority, we did take time to see the city.

There aren’t many touristic sights in the city centre, apart from the large Znamensky Cathedral. Kursk suffered a lot of damage during the Second World War. Therefore there are few old buildings here. The largest tank battle in history, called the Battle of Kursk, took place near the city. Six kilometres north of the centre is a boulevard commemorating the Russian victory in this battle. Tanks and artillery are laid out along the kilometer-long Victory Boulevard (Prospekt Pobedy, Проспект Победы). At the end is a large Triumph arch and blocks with carvings depicting the history of Kursk. I have seen many war memorials in Russia, and found the Victory Boulevard one of the most impressive ones.

Practical advice on traveling here

Getting there: we booked our train tickets to Tula through the website of the Russian Railways, eng.rzd.ru. A friend booked our train tickets to Kursk, but these could be booked through this website as well.

Finding Iskra in Tula: the buildings can be found near Blagoveshchenskaya street (Благовещенская улица). It is close to Metallistov street (Улица Металлистов) and within walking distance from the Kremlin.

Getting to Tolstoy's house at Yasnaya Polyana: We used the app Yandex taxi.