Russian Skies and a Fortress Wall

Hello, everybody! I apologize for being so late with my first post, but Russia really swallowed me up. It has taken a while for me to adjust and recover from culture shock to the point where I can write this blog. Russia is an interesting place, that’s for sure. One of my favorite things about Russia is the way the sky looks. I’ve been in many different states of the US (this is my first time to travel internationally) and I feel much closer to the sky here than I ever have before. The colors are more vivid and it looks more like a painting than any other sky I’ve seen. It also feels more like a dome. When you’re in the car or walking down the street, you feel certain that you will be able to touch the sky if you just keep walking/driving. You never do, of course, but it really feels like you will.Novgorod 1

Early on Saturday morning, we all staggered our way across town to Kazan Cathedral on Nevsky Prospect to get on the bus for our trip to Novgorod, a provincial town founded in the 10th century. We arrived there on time without any trouble. Novgorod wasn’t what I expected. I believed it would look more medieval, but to my surprise the only things that looked remotely medieval were the Cathedral of Saint Sophia and the Fortress (or Kremlin) wall. Our first day in Novgorod was rather boring as I had trouble paying attention to the tour guide. The tour was in Russian and after our long school week, I had a lot of trouble paying attention. Shame on me! As night fell (sort of; it doesn’t get very dark here at all) our sojourn in Novgorod became more eventful. After we changed clothes, we ate dinner on a cool old ship on the Volkhov River. It was sort of a tourist trap but it looked cool inside with a mezzanine and a dance floor. The chairs were upholstered with rich fabric, there were old pistols hanging on the walls, disco balls, and TV screens disguised in picture frames. We didn’t stay there  long, but I would have danced if there had been music and other people were game.Novgorod 2

After dinner, I ventured down to the cold Volkhov River with some other students to go swimming. I like cold water, so I enjoyed it. There were no waves, like the ocean, but it felt less stagnant than lake water. The riverbottom was super soft and sludgy and there were many clams underfoot. The water was extremely murky, which was a little creepy, but once I started to really swim, I didn’t seem to mind it anymore. Whenever a boat came along the river, I waved at the people on the decks and they probably thought I was crazy. But I was having a good time at last. Eventually, I got tired and went back to the hotel to take a shower and go to bed. The next day, we visited a cathedral that housed Ivan the Terrible’s super-ornate prayer booth parked right smack in the middle of the church. He must have really enjoyed attracting attention! That prayer booth/canopy/pavilion was quite a sight. After that, we drove outside of town a little way to visit some old timey log cabins that reminded me of the two story log cabin where I spent my childhood in Texas. I bought a lot of nice souvenirs for my family, and then we moseyed back to the bus for the return drive to St. Pete. I will write more when I have the time! Time and wifi access are two things I wish I had more of here.