Novgorod,Valday, St Petersburg

The bus left Novgorod at 6.50 and sunrise around 9.15 (due Valday 9.20) so got to see dawn as we neared valdaisky national park which was a fairyland of snowy forest and snowy wooden dachas.

Valday is smaller than I imagined but pretty with snow by the lake side. It wasn’t too cold, I was able to sit with 2 thermal tops and no coat for quite a while on the lake edge of the pier opposite a monastery.

It must be stunning here in the summer. Very quiet at the moment – like Bodrum used to be with seasonal business probably.

Back to Novgorod and present buying, catching a train to St Petersburg. After several days here with incredibly warm, friendly people and beautiful sights, it’s a shame that UK press and unfortunately people who should know better are using Brexit politicking and the forthcoming Russian presidental election to scream abuse at Vladimir Putin, Russian government and Russians in general.

Russia is beautiful and sometimes deliberately misunderstood,   the many Russians I’ve now met are deeply thoughtful, caring and passionate. I think Vladimir Putin is same, overall a kind, busy man with more than enough issues for one lifetime. I can’t read newspapers really yet and not watched Russian TV but wish him great success and sanity at all times if he decides to stand.

Some young people I’ve met who criticise Russian government (yes, it’s allowed) are convinced that the UK is very different to Russia in terms of society and politics – the grass is always greener – I was probably like that too at their age.

I’ve decided to stay on social media until after the election, to play whatever role I can in correcting fake info from US/UK/EU etc, however crappy it gets – to quote Mastermind – I’ve started so I’ll finish. I have kept promise made to myself to return to Russia this year and kept promise to family to keep myaelf as safe as possible (in light of my earlier behaviour in life).

Off to St Petersburg in a few minutes, then fly back tomorrow afternoon, exchanging the mighty Volkhov for the majestic Neva or vice versa. One final post probably for this trip.

St Petersburg and Velikhy Novgorod 2

This morning again found very helpful Russians when I got off bus in the wrong place and additional bonus – a visit to Peryn Skete and church of ‘The Nativity of our Lady’ which is very peaceful with a friendly monk and had tiny chat about Russian dogs. He speaks some English too and there’s an English leaflet available.

Even getting off bus in the wrong place and in some fog, it is only about 30 min walk, mostly along one road from Peryn to St George’s monastery (although you can get the bus right there).

The Vitoslavitsky museum of wooden architecture is mostly undergoing restoration (about 5 min walk from the monastery). It will be ready next year I think (check with Red Izba for when)

I chatted with a lady whilst waiting for return bus to Novgorod and found out that Valday national park is a bus ride from Novgorod (for some bizarre reason I thought it was near Sochi). I also attempted to explain in my crappy attempts at Russian about Henry Viii & dissolution of monasteries.

After lots of helpful discussion with the brilliant Red Izba Novgorod tourist office – there’s not a massive difference in price and less than hour’s difference in bus journey between visiting Staraya Russia or Valday but there are more buses to Staraya Russia (I just missed one this afternoon otherwise may have gone).

So it comes down to personal preferences and swayed by idea of seeing a Russian national park (hopefully less fog), catching early bus hopefully to Valday for the morning before returning to Novgorod then St Petersburg in the afternoon.

Whilst it’s nice, natural to be impulsive when travelling around, I do not recommend what I’ve done at all, instead look at a map of Russia in great detail (also download TopTripApp and other guides) if you want to extend Novgorod trip further afield, plan a Valday trip well in advance (and allow extra day/s) so transport and accommodation could be properly sorted.  They recommend visiting May-Oct and would suggest easily a week visit minimum).

However who knows when I will be back in this region in the future anytime soon, so will try at least (having not got to any other national parks).

This afternoon,  visited Antoniev monstery and the cathedral of ‘The Nativity of our Lady’ (closed Mon, Tues – again plan in advance).

It’s about 30 min walk along Volkhov river from centre of Novgorod

For a lovely place to eat/drink, there’s a restaurant on a beautiful ship moored on the Volkhov opposite the Novgorod Kremlin:

St Petersburg & Velikhy Novgorod 1 – it is ok to visit in November

Russians as beautiful, friendly and helpful as ever. Flew in yesterday afternoon and was recommended Faberge museum which has late opening hours on Saturday (different museums have late openings on different days). The art & craftwork in all of the museum is fantastically intricate.

Then caught train first thing to Novgorod – haven’t caught train before and because it was a) dark and b) some station refurbishment going on, I missed the local terminal but thanks to a fantastic taxi driver who turned into a walking taxi, I ended up in the right place.

Train staff very efficient and train fine –  little things like hooks which slide along like curtain hooks make it easier for everyone esp families to put their coats up together.  Drinking coffee grounds by mistake helped shake off the habitual commuter early morning bleariness.

It is rainy here (saw some snow in distance from train). Once daylight emerged so did the forests which are next to the railway line and they have that wonderful autumny slushy look with little pools between the trees.

Somewhere between St Petersburg and Novgorod is a station called Platform 64 which sounds out of Douglas Adams Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy or similar.

Veliky Novgorod, the birthplace of Russia – is simply amazing – what has been collected and/or preserved and restored over the last 1000 years is incredible. Visited Kremlin & State Museum today which has amazing birchwood carvings and collections of icon paintings where you can see the styles change over centuries. I liked St Nicholas cathedral best – if you’re a fan of the Sistine chapel you won’t be disappointed. Been busy collecting Orthodox church photos for office mate too. 

BTW If you’re in V. Novgorod definitely go to Red Ibza tourist office if you haven’t made plans – staff are fantastic.

Finally made it to a Russian theatre – a mix of Russian poetry, dance, opera with ochestra. I didn’t know artist, just happened to be on today – рустем галич at Novgorod Philharmonic Hall

Wonderful, passionate performances. Couldn’t follow much of spoken language but not a problem. Russian language practice going ok but Turkish words appearing in sentences before I can stop them. This will be last tourist trip – friends probably coming out next year so if I do manage work related projects that involve Russia visits, will tag touristic stuff onto those.

There’s something ‘romantic’ about starting with the beginning of Russia so early on in overall Russian journey.