The biggest change in Russia these days? Cool provincial cities.

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If you need a break from Moscow, hop on a high-speed train and find yourself in the newly cool-ified provincial city of Tula in just two hours. 

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Founded in late 14th century, Tula first belonged to the principality of Ryazan. But Tula’s famous kremlin (fortress) was built after being annexed by Muscovy in early 16th century. It quickly became a key point in the great line of fortifications built to repel Tatar raids into Central Russia. 

Today the kremlin is still the jewel of Tula’s architecture. Behind its recently renovated walls you can find the grand five-domed Assumption Cathedral, built in the 18th century, a plethora of small museums devoted to local specialities like pryanik (gingerbread) and samovars, as well as a newly built exhibition center. Be sure to take a tour of the kremlin walls, which command impressive views.