Novgorod, Russian Federation
On train now heading to Novgorod, which is 3 hours south of St Petersburg (SPb), sort of on the way to Moscow. It’s the ancient site of the first Viking settlement in Russia, around which the beginnings of the first Russian state formed. It was hard to leave SPb. I made good friends quickly here amongst the crowd of Anton The Good & Katya The Saint. They are all such kind and caring people. Katya has kindly given me her sister’s contact in Moscow who works as concertmaster with the New Opera Theatre and has offered to take me around. The Electritska to Novgorod is very efficient and clean, and after emerging from the industrialised outskirts of SPb, we passed through deep green explosions of rural countryside. The girls next to me were watching a movie together on their tiny smartphone and the large women across the aisle was sending clippings flying as she vigorously manicured her fingernails. This now feels more alone to me after saying goodbye to my SPb friends. Katya and Sasha (a friend of Katya’s whom I was delighted to meet the night before when we went drinking in the park as a party of several – it was after the afternoon downpour in SPb and by late evening with the sun still up it was warm and muggy and it was better to be outside of the apartment) kindly walked me to SPb’s Moscow train station, helping me to navigate the complex ticket purchasing system. I know I’ll manage but I quipped to them both that I need to take them with me for assistance. In Novgorod the dark clouds opened and so I waited after arrival at the station under shelter until it passed. It was after 21:00 hours when I found Hotel Akron. I had some food from my survival provisions in my room and headed out for a lap of the Kremlin until midnight. A grand wall and a sodden moat. Couples wondered through it and out over the splendid river on the pedestrian bridge in the midnight light. Back outside the Kremlin a roller blade skater was practicing exquisite moves on the grand asphalted area before Lenin’a statue. National sports are considered to be ice hockey and skating. In fact Russia is world champion in ice hockey. I supposed this fellow was a ice skater or ice hockey player keeping in shape during the summer on his rollerblades. I’ll explore this old city’s Kremlin (castle) further tomorrow, including the monument to a Thousand Years of Russian History, in the daylight and when things are open and then catch the overnight sleeper train to Moscow.