The crisp air after leaving the plane on arrival in St Petersburg, my driver talking about how he doesn’t drink vodka any more but likes whisky if he drinks (not whilst working). Also apparently there is a museum of umbrellas and museum of mittens.
After leaving the hotel, everyone still out shopping, some bands playing music on the street, children captivated by human statues on stilts.
Trying to answer the automated alarm call at 5am. The station looks a bit like Leeds with shopping hall before platform and a fab wall map
On arrival in Novgorod, the packed city feel disappears. The hotel (Volkhov – recommend) which has a homely feel on the floors with stuffed bookcases and sofas / tables. I’ve stayed in 5* in PwC days but this felt much more relaxed and sense of space.
The efficiency of the pedestrian crossing with drivers who stop. Russian older ladies mostly wrapped up in woollen hats and scarves, the men with thick possibly sheepskin /leather coats and caps or thick fur hats.
Two street accordion players on either side of entrance to the Novgorod Kremlin playing different songs at the same time. An eternal flame burning brightly in the rain inside the Kremlin and ladies reflecting / possibly praying near the flower wreaths.
A fantastic wind tunnelling across the Volkhov as you get to the middle of the bridge from the Kremlin. Hundreds of brightly coloured padlocks. Excited children like beautiful small angels zigzagging along and a few cyclists navigating the narrow spaces at speed. Some Sunday strollers gazing into the Volkhov before turning into the park.
Men and women praying in the churches and cathedrals, like UK they sell religious items such as icons and the warm but tired looks on the sellers faces.
Everyone taking photos whilst walking round the Kremlin, some group selfies but mostly of buildings. Everyone talking in lively but calm tones all the time producing soothing rhythms against the patter or rain and swoosh of the wind.
2nd night of undisturbed sleep then ambling along to bus stop with commuters briskly criss-crossing the city centre roads. That global look which people have when waiting for a bus – waiting for buses to turn the corner with hope building before you can even see the number.
The fog smothering outside sounds until you walk along tree lined roads and birds flying overhead. The occasional neighbourly dogs coming to have a curious sniff before finding somewhere interesting to sit or a car to bark at.
A few people fishing by side of Volkhov / lake Ilmen. Visibility is about 2 metres of water. A small ‘crocodile’ of schoolchildren and teacher head off into the monastery.
A few dog walkers in a local park back in Novgorod and a group of mothers with prams clustering around a kiosk. Buying what I thought was a type of bread roll – do you want it heated – no – wander off and then bite into cold cabbage inside – different – wouldn’t eat cold again.
Wandering back through Kremlin with a female group that looked a bit like Pussy Riot doing a shoot by the memorial statues outside the state museum (NB know nothing about Russian non-classical music)
An engineer in the hotel who looked like a Borg with shaved head and a black strap round back of his head with a red light on it.
Getting bus ticket this morning with platform number on the ticket. Yes! One less question to ask. Quite a few people with larger bags and one women with flowers waiting for bus – feels suddenly like an overnight coach trip to Bodrum but without the summer heat. It’s quite clear night and some stars popping in and out.
Seem to be permanently saying ето вон там? over last few days whilst finding anything varying from cafes, bus stops, churches and monasteries. Always helpful directions back.
Back at the bus station one young woman chain smoking with couple of friends and trying to act cool but without some of the additional drama that you can find in UK.
This trip, postcards will be posted in Russia with Russian stamps (my brother particularly will be happy and probably twin niece & nephew). Now everyone will know привет.
Smiling older women, it is permitted here (was told by friend who was born & spent childhood in St Petersburg not to in St Petersburg and to look like you’re about to murder someone if walking in Moscow).
Not everything is pretty, people have health problems e.g. older people stooping but this is same as UK. Didn’t see much obvious poverty that is different to UK (of course am in tourist areas) but it seems like quite a lot of people are fairly content compared to TV news feeds, movies of Russia in 90s and earlier. They walk and talk in a relaxed way. The police are not especially visible, no idea about others but guessing not completely dissimilar to Turkey and other countries.
Another reason why we should be collaborating in a friendly way – people are looking beyond traditional boundaries and whether future is going to be a Russian national internet managed entirely by algorithms or some connection to global cables, infrastructure and global Icann – depends what other countries do too, level of government involvement /regulation, what Russian developers decide based on their own biases.
Back on the train – 4 younger teenage boys in seats in front of me and they are not showing off (maybe too young and the presence of parents etc). Who knows what wonders they will achieve in Russia and elsewhere. удачи but being smart and well brought up, they won’t need much.