Kolomna 2017

Kolomna is a small city about 120 km to the south-east of Moscow. Our dacha is in that general area, so I pass through it a few times a year.

Just like Moscow and Volokolamsk, Kolomna was founded in the 12th century, and could almost be considered to have been an informal second capital during the 15th century, though it later fell into relative decline.

Its post-Soviet fortunes have been relatively good. While there are no major heavy industries, its larger size (140,000 people), historic attractions, and reasonably diversified service economy enabled it to weather the transition much better than Volokolamsk. During the post-Soviet era, its population “only” declined by about 10% relative to its peak, which isn’t bad given its proximity to the Moscow gravity well. There was even some limited backflow from Moscow to Kolomna to take advantage of the cheaper living costs – one can buy a very respectable detached house for less than $100,000 (that’s the cost of a two bedroom apartment in Moscow’s grittiest outskirts), while a historical multi-room mansion close to the river and the Kremlin can be had for as little as $200,000.

The integrity of the central tourist area is well maintained, with regulations forbidding ahistorical construction or renovations. There are good connections to Moscow, and plenty of amenities, including a recently constructed ice skating rink.

Kolomna was a major center of locomotive manufacturing in the USSR, and trams remain the major form of public transport within the city. There is even a tram museum, though it is currently closed for a lengthy renovation.

The Kolomna Kremlin, constructed in its present form in the early 16th century, encompasses an area almost as big as the Moscow Kremlin, and its walls are even higher on average (though not as thick).

The most colorful legend around the Kolomna Kremlin concerns Marina Mniszech, a Polish femme fatale who married both the False Dmitrys, and bore the second one’s son. Too bad for her, the Russians kicked out the Poles in 1613. She was unable to secure support for a Cossack uprising against the Romanovs, who instead handed her over to the new Russian Tsar. She was imprisoned in the Kolomna Kremlin tower in 1614 and died there soon afterwards… though some speak that she cursed the Romanovs and their descendants, and turned into a magpie and flew away.

The central area has a very nice and reasonably priced restaurant called Knyazhich (pictured: Beef Stroganoff). One can also stop by the hipsterish Ne Prosto Cafe (“not just a cafe”) for refreshments.

Apart from the Kremlin itself, the city happens to be chock full of museums:

  • Local museum (краеведческий);
  • Blacksmithing museum
  • Tram museum (currently closed for restoration)
  • The writer Alexander Kuprin’s house
  • Kalachnaya museum (a sort of traditional bakery)
  • Communal services museum (yes I’m wondering about that as well)
  • Samovar museum

I haven’t visited all of these yet.

Probably the most interesting museum is the pastila museum. Pastila is a traditional Russian dessert. One can tour not just the museum, but – if you get lucky – the factory itself.

During the Soviet period, pastila was made according to industrial technologies. The old ways were forgotten, and were only recently restored. While I am not a huge fan of pastila, the traditional Kolomna variant (see above) does genuinely taste much better than the mass produced slabs sold in the supermarkets.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    You can find all my travel posts here.

    My personal website has a list of all of my travel reviews here.

    PS. I have written up Bryansk and Sergiev Posad, and only have Veliky Novgorod left to complete. This will bring my planned travel series up to date to the present day.
    Obviously I have a lot to say about Moscow, but since I live here, I think it would be better to do that as an intermittently updated page on my website.

  2. Anonymoose says

    Any nice bars there?

  3. Thulean Friend says

    Solid post. Took a look at the website link and can’t resist the temptation to ask why you’d rate Chicago better than New York. And why are you so down on Seattle?

  4. Thorfinnsson says

    Another nice post.

    Based on the photographs and description Kolomna appears like it would be a good place to live if one requires occasional access to Moscow but prefers a lower cost of living and less hectic urban environment.

    If Russia expands HSR substantially then “occasional access” could be replaced with routine access in the style of French TGV commuters.

    1. I dislike maritime climes, so that’s a minus for NY. I like continental climes, though I accede that I may not have fully accounted for wind chill in Chicago. Otherwise, while NY is bigger than Chicago (that’s better), New Yorkers lose out personality wise, while Chicagoans made a very nice impression. Hence difference of one point.

    2. Seattle has a horrid climate, and like Portland, has far more SJWs than even NoCal (and without the eccentrics that make life so interesting in the Golden State).

  5. That is indeed happening, as I wrote, though the bulk of this outflow is towards towns around 20-50 km away from Moscow – 120 km (2 hours by train) is too strenuous for regular commutes.

  6. What do you think of Rublyevka and Zhukovka and the gaudy mansions there btw? And do you ever follow Daniel Estulin? I think he has some interesting ideas about Trump

  7. Took a look at the website link and can’t resist the temptation to ask why you’d rate Chicago better than New York.

    Chicago pluses vs. New York: Nicer people, more beautiful architecture, better use of space (parks, boulevards, it feels less claustrophobic), better and cheaper food, cleaner.

    Chicago minuses vs. New York: state going bankrupt, worse crime, less of a “world city.”

  8. Seattle has human poo on the sidewalks.

  9. This is first-rate travel writing in terms of place descriptions and photos, and history. I greatly enjoyed my tour…thank you. But it did leave me wondering what the people are like who live there. A commenter asked if there are any nice bars. If so, and the essayist had stopped into a bar (or market), perhaps he could have said something about the people. Paul Theroux (the world’s greatest travel writer of recent times) would have done that. But perhaps the essayist simply did not have time for that…he said he was just passing through.

  10. The stroganoff looks delicious. No noodles?

  11. Anonymoose says

    Don’t forget San Franshitsco. and POOrtland.

  12. The traditional American dish called ‘beef stroganoff’ (beef and mushrooms in a cream sauce served with egg noodles) has little in common with the original…

  13. Agreed. Beef Stroganoff at the Pushkin Cafe – probably about as authentic as it gets.


  14. The Big Red Scary says

    What are some desirable places in the 20-50 km range?

    The “express trains” seem to be faster only because they make fewer stops, but still seem to go no faster than about 100 km/h. I’m very far from a train engineer, but it is not obvious to me that they couldn’t speed up a bit. The Lastochka of course can and does go faster, but is unfortunately less wide spread. One hopes this will change.

  15. Bardon Kaldian says

    I’ve read Kuprin long, long time ago. While not a great writer, I think he’s underrated. Some of his stories are more than just period pieces.

    Anyway, this looks like a decent place. Nothing spectacular, but- decent.

  16. What are some desirable places in the 20-50 km range?

    Aren’t you supposed to be the expert on that? 🙂

  17. Good news – finally – more or less – finished the Veliky Novgorod. Needed to recollect many things, plus sort through 900 photos (of which ~110 will be published). Took me almost a whole day!

  18. silviosilver says

    1. I dislike maritime climes

    I’m not even sure I know what a maritime clime is. What’s the actual difference it makes that you dislike so much?

  19. The Big Red Scary says

    I know fairly well my own neighborhood, which has its charms, but would like to know others before buying a house. Most of all, I want intelligent, interesting neighbors, and I suspect it would be possible to improve my situation in that regard. There are a number of good people where I live, but also too many nouveau riche, especially in the summer, who pollute and profane the woods and the lake.

  20. Does every Russian family have their own dacha?

  21. Does every Russian family have their own dacha?

    Of course not.