Posts Tagged ‘Novgorod’

MOCKBA – a true metropolis

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Ok, so I haven’t had time to write for a while, so I’ll do a quick update.
In Novgorod I was hosted by Aleksey and his family, but unfortunately Aleksey was very busy and had to work the whole weekend. On Saturday I spent the day in the centre of Novgorod, which has a beautiful historical Kremlin, or Fort. (The Novgorodians call it Detinets, “Young Men’s Compound) Next year the city will celebrate its 1150th anniversary, so unfortunately everything was undergoing renovations. Still, I got to see a museum with archeological finds from the town, dating back to it’s viking heritage, (it was called Holmgard, the capital of Gardarike), complete with a viking sword and viking dragon broches! It also had an impressive collection of russian icons.

On Sunday, Aleksey drove me and his mother and father out to a small monastery  a place called Peryn, outside the city, dating back to 995 AD. Then he drove us to St.Yuryev Monastery, where he left us because he had to work. His mother works as a tourist guide, and knew very very much about everything we saw that day. Unfortunately, she didn’t speak much English, so there was very little of her knowledge that she managed to communicate to me. Being a guide, she also knew the people at the ticket stands, so we got in everywhere for free! We hitched a ride with a tourist bus from St.Yuryev to the nearby museum of wooden architecture, where I got to try my hand at weaving and spinning, and try some old Russian children’s toys!
The buildings in that museum were moved from 26 different locations in the Novgorod region, and dated from the 16th to early 20th century. In the museum we also met a Swedish girl, who turned out to be Aleksey’s swedish teacher in university!

After catching a bus back to the centre of Novgorod, we also went back to the museum where I’d been the day before, but this time I got to see the treasury, which had so much gold, silver and jewelry that one could get almost dizzy! Last we went to the St.Sophia cathedral, which is the oldest stone church in Russia, almost 1000 years old, and still standing, still being in use! I’d been there the day before, but this time, with Aleksey’s mother, I got to go to a place that tourist normally can’t get to; up on the choir’s gallery! There were some amazing iconic frescoes, almost as old as the church itself!

Sunday evening I took the night train to Moscow, and I arrived here Monday morning at 5:32am. I was supposed to meet my host, Jimmy, at 7:30, but my phone didn’t work in Moscow, so I couldn’t get hold of him. Eventually, when the shops opened, I managed to get myself a new sim card, but by then Jimmy was at work, he works at the American embassy, and he couldn’t meet me before 5:30pm, which meant that I lugged all my belongings around Moscow the whole day! When I finally met up with him, we also met with Luka from Italy, with whom I’ve been sharing a room the last couple of days.

Soon after we arrived in his apartment, a huge place in a secure area, where many of the foreign ambassadors live, he got an sms about a couchsurfers’ meeting at a Banya, a Russian bath house, that same night. I really needed to relax after carrying all my stuff around all day, so I decided to go. I met some really nice people, and we had a lot of fun. We had a private area all to ourselves, with a pool table, karaoke, two sitting groups, a Turkish steam bath, a Finnish sauna and a cold water pool. One of the girls, Arina, were celebrating her birthday, and there was a lot of vodka and beer going around. After a while some of the guys cooked up a plan to have a strip show as a birthday present for Arina, but I don’t know if she was more flattered or embarrassed… 😛 The only thing that was a little disappointing, was that it wasn’t a REAL Russian banya with the Venik (bunches of birch twigs with the leaves still on), so I’ll have to try again later.  😉

Yesterday I was in good shape, since I’d managed to turn down most of the vodka in the Banya, but I was still too exhausted from carrying around all my stuff, so I stayed in, relaxed, washed some clothes and uploaded some photos and log posts. In the evening I went out to the weekly CS meeting in Moscow, and met some of the people from the banya, and many other couchsurfers. The Moscow CS community is very active!

Today I’m going to go around the centre of Moscow WITHOUT all my luggage, and just enjoy it. I’m meeting up with a couchsurfer I met yesterday, who’s helping me buy a train ticket, seeing as that is apparently one of the most difficult things you can do as a foreigner in Russia…

The past week

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

St.Petersburg, November 12 2008 – Idea for a video piece

Today I went to the Kazan cathedral again, to try to locate a priest or something who speaks English. I figured I’d try to get an interview about the youth work in the orthodox church in Piter, for my little video project, and maybe also get permission to film inside the cathedral. (Which is strictly forbidden, but I thought maybe, since it’s for a church…) My host gave me a note in Russian, which explained what I wanted, and I took it to the cathedral. After a while, they found a priest who spoke a little French, but seeing as my active French vocabulary can fit on two lines, it didn’t do me much good. We managed as much, however, as establishing that an English speaking priest would be there in about two hours.

So I walked up Nevsky Prospekt, spent a couple of hours in the Hermitage (looking at art and old stuff, I might say something about that later), and returned to the Kazan cathedral. One block up the street I found a Lutheran church, that had a gathering later that night, so a plan started forming in my mind, making a little piece that could maybe compare the little lutheran church and it’s work with the big orthodox cathedral across the street.

When I got back to the cathedral, it had been about two and a half hours, but there was a mass at the time, so I waited till it was done, and then presented my little note again. It turned out that the guy who spoke English had NOT been taking part in the mass, and had left ten minutes earlier, while I’d been sitting in on the mass. I got contact with one of the priests, however, he might have been about my age. His wife spoke English, so he called her, I explained to her what I needed, and she in turn told him, who answered her, and she told me that there was an English speaking deacon, Father Georgy, who was the one who’d just been there. The priest got my number, and would ask Father Georgy to call me, so we could set up a meeting.

With that promise, I went across the street to the St.Petri lutheran church, and found the meeting they were having. There were a handful of people in the youth room upstairs in the church, and they were having Taizé prayer in both Russian and German. I joined in, and with my rather limited German managed to follow the program. After the prayer, they had tea and cookies, and they were very curious who this stranger was. The youth pastor there, Tatiana, told me about the congregation and their work there, and she and her colleague Elena agreed to tell me a bit about it on tape. Tatiana was also interested in getting in touch with my congregation back home,  and explore possibilities of further contact! She struck me as a genuinely enthusiastic person, with a burning desire to do new things to keep building the congregation, in other words a wonderful youth pastor! I will certainly pass on the contact info and wishes!

Unfortunately Father Georgy never called, so I’m not entirely sure what to do with the takes from St.Petri in St.Petersburg, but I will keep them, and see if I can find another way of using it.

St.Petersburg, November 13 – Guided by  my host

When I got home last night, I was home alone, because my host was in Uzbekistan. (She’s a flight attendant) She got back early in the morning, and went straight to bed. When I got up, I took a good long time, because my feet have become a little sore from all the walking, so I didn’t want to get right back out. In any case, I was waiting for a phonecall from Father Georgy.

Since Natalia’d had night shift, she had the day off, and we spent it together. She helped me get to a medical office so I could get my second dose of Hep B vaccine, and we went to look for the office of Privjet in St.Petersburg, in case they could register my visa. (It was the office of a partner of Privjet, and they couldn’t)
We had dinner at a restaurant, went home and brought some beers, and watched the movie Mongol.

Novgorod, November 14 2008 – Novgorod, founded by vikings

Today was YET ANOTHER late morning. It shouldn’t be that hard to adjust to a two hour time difference, should it? Anyway, I went to the bus station, bought a ticket for Novgorod, had to wait an hour for the next bus, and now I’m here.
My host Aleksej picked me up at the bus station, and took me home to where he lives with his family. They seem really nice, and they want to do everything for me, and Aleksej tries to make them relax… 🙂

Once again I’ve forgotten that it’s later than it feels, and I’m putting down my computer a little before 3 am…

Novgorod – under construction

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

I am currently in Novgorod, until tomorrow evening. I arrived last night, and my host is able to have me until Sunday afternoon.  This is just a small update from an internet place in the centre of Novgorod, but they don’t have an accessible usb port on this machine, so I’m not able to upload my last entries, that I have on a usb stick, nor any photos. I’ll try to post them when I get to Moscow on Monday, instead.

Today I’ve been walking around the historical centre of Novgorod, which is all being renovated because the city celebrates 1150 years in 2009. It’s a small city in Russian standards, only about 200 thousand inhabitants, but it’s been important in Russian history. It owes much to the Scandinavian vikings, who had much trade going through, and in the museum today I saw lots of viking artifacts from various archaeological digs!

This’ll be it for now, more to come later.