Location: North of the Nizhni Novgorod Region.
Perhaps, remoteness of this place off the centre has enabled to preserve it almost untouched. And maybe the nature itself has protected it from all the cataclysms. River Vetluga that has been called “pulse of the whole Vetluzhskiy district”, its abrupt banks, severe forests have always attracted people here but strangely enough a person has not destroyed this natural life almost at all.
These beautiful places have amazed and inspired many people: V.G. Korolenko’s story “The river plays” is devoted to Vetluga, M.M. Prishvin has been in these districts too and he has written down that “ this river is a gray one: fir trees and pines... Although the river is narrow, it is somehow free near the forest, it definitely becomes wider”. Our contemporaries are not indifferent as well. But in addition to poets and writers fishermen from the whole Russia arrive here. Fishermen’ festival “Vetluzhskie rassvety” takes place in the village Mikhalenino every year in June where everyone can try to catch fish, using “grandfather’s tackles” (fish line, killer, hanger) and spinning. Vetluga amazes with its assortment - pike, perch, asp, catfish, burbot, orfe, bream, crucian, sabre fish, white bream, even small population of sterlet.
Varnavinskiy district is one of the most environmentally friendly districts of the region. Two types of specially protected territories are located on its territory: the state nature reserve and monuments of nature. In the village Karelikha it is the mineral source that has curative properties.
There are more than enough romantic places here, for example, the left bank of Vetluga - Lyaliny gory, where, again in accordance with the legend, there lived Razinskiy ataman Lyalya who had hidden the treasure here (some people are still looking for it).
The district centre - Varnavino has the status of the settlement but some time ago it has been the district centre and it is true that pilgrims from the whole Russia have arrived here to pray and to be healed by the Saint Barnabas.
Barnabas has stayed here after a long trip on the Red Hill where he has made a skete for himself in 1417 - this place has become the beginning of future Varnavin and this year is considered to be the date of its foundation. Barnabas, having learnt the local language, Christianised pagans, and having the blessing of healing, has helped sick people. Two churches have been built after his death on the Red Hill, thus Trinity-Varnavinskiy Convent was founded. That Convent has been the first and for a long time the only one cell of orthodoxy in Povetluzhie. Barnabas himself has been consecrated a saint for healing sick people in the 17th century. And the Convent in the 18th century has not evaded the destiny of many cells: it has been abrogated by the Decree of Ekaterina II but three temples of the convent have remained. And thanks to Ekaterina again, the city Varnavin has appeared that attracted many people from the whole Russia because of the Saint’s name: many people have come to his hallows to be healed. It has been the special place of pilgrimage: pilgrims have come here up to the 20th century and they not only honored the hallows but they were crawling around the temples, praying for forgiveness of sins.
Temples of the convent have not remained nowadays but the Red Hill (the place, where Barnabas’ skete has been) still attracts people here: one can see bends of Vetluga, its abrupt banks, forests, fields from here - everything that touches and excites in the calm beauty of the midland. The Saint Barnabas’ hallows have been lost after revolution but the temple has been constructed in the 21st century on the hill in the name of the blessed Barnabas. The Saint source, hallowed by Barnabas himself, is at the bottom of the hill, and there is the chapel, hallowed in the name of the blessed one. There are memorable stones at the place of the lost temples in honor of Saint Nikolaos of Myra, named after Life-giving Trinity and Koimesis of Mother of God. One can see centenary oaks, lindens and larches that remember pilgrims of the last century nearby, at the territory of the former convent. Our contemporaries come here on the 24th of June, on venerable Barnabas Memorial Day. The Settlement Day is celebrated this day - “Varnavinskaya godina”.
Historical-art museum of Varnavinskiy district is located in the former merchant barton. The significant part of the exposition is dedicated to the Saint, one can see maquette of the convent in the museum, the exhibition “Razintsy on Vetluga” is interesting, the collection of the weapon of the 17th-18th centuries is shown, one can become familiar with traditional Russian national costume in the museum. And the main part of the museum is devoted to relatively young craft of this district - stone carving.
Talented graduate of Holmogorskoe college has organised the factory of artistic bone carving in 1973. The enterprise “Varko” is in operation in Varnavino now, masters use cattle bone and horn, besides they use precious types of bone - of mammoth and of walrus. The assortment of goods amazes: bracelets, ear-rings, rings, signet rings, jewelry-boxes, caskets, pens, knives and etc. These artistic workpieces, made of bone, are known in many European countries.