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A lot of our readers may be traveling this summer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to talk about your trip in Russian or ask for specific travel advice while you’re on the road? In this post, we will concentrate on the “old town” environment (ста́рый го́род) and all it’s got to offer.
First, let’s name a few things you may encounter in your typical European/colonial old town.
За́мок – castle. Mind the word stress; замо́к is a lock. This is normally older and more rugged-looking that the later дворе́ц (palace).
Кре́пость – fortress. The adjective is крепостно́й, as in крепостны́е сте́ны (fortress walls).
Ров – moat. This comes from the word рыть (to dig).
Ба́шня – tower. One famous example is Э́йфелева ба́шня (Eiffel Tower). Note that the Tower of London is still called Та́уэр.
Воро́та – gate. Note that this word is plural.
Це́рковь – church. Specific types include собор (cathedral), like Собо́р Пари́жской Богома́тери (Notre-Dame de Paris), храм (temple – only used for Orthodox, Buddhist, or Hindu temples, not synagogues; example – Храм Христа́ Спаси́теля), or часо́вня (chapel). Catholic churches in Eastern Europe may be called костёл. Other religious buildings include мече́ть (mosque) and синаго́га (synagogue).
You may also see a монасты́рь (monastery/convent) or кла́дбище (cemetery).
Old towns were often populated by the nobility (знать – feminine noun, not to be confused with the verb “to know”). Some of them housed royalty like коро́ль (a king) or короле́ва (a queen). Other titles you may come across are князь/княги́ня (prince/ss/ as an independent title, not the child of a king/queen), при́нц(-е́сса) (prince/ss/, normally, though not always, the child of a king), ге́рцог(-и́ня) (duke/dutchess), гра́ф(-и́ня) (count/ess/), or баро́н(-е́сса) (baron/ess/). Wikipedia will have detailed descriptions of how these titles were used depending on the country and period.
Other people living in old towns might have been реме́сленники (craftsmen), во́ины/солда́ты (warriors/soldiers) – including ры́цари (knights), духове́нство (clergy), and merchants (торго́вцы). Крестья́не (peasants) usually lived outside the city walls (городски́е сте́ны).
Some stories you might hear during your trip may include a война (war). Кре́пости (fortresses) were built to withstand an осада (siege). You will likely learn the story of строи́тельство (construction) of some of the landmarks (from the verb стро́ить – to build). Finally, you will learn when the city was осно́ван (founded).
Finally, let’s learn a couple of practical phrases to help you get to all these places. You will need биле́ты (entrance tickets), which you should be able to buy в ка́ссе (at the ticket office). Remember to check if any ски́дки (discounts) apply! Find the вход (entrance) to the landmark. Perhaps you can even catch an экску́рсия (guided tour) or the site! If you are somewhere with a tour guide (гид/экскурсово́д), mind the расписа́ние (schedule). Independent travelers will want to buy a путеводи́тель (guide book) to navigate the landmarks (достопримеча́тельности — don’t be scared of this word! Think of “достоин” – worthy and “замечать” – to notice).
I hope this post was helpful. Try spotting some familiar words on this TripAdvosor page for Prague. Where should we go next in our linguistic travels?