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Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Westbrook, Maine
Level Contributor
645 posts
36 reviews
Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

My husband and I went to Russia for almost three weeks in February and, finally, here is my trip report! Thank you to everyone who helped me plan the trip!

Part 1

Thursday, Feb. 1: Arrived at SVO at 5PM and followed signs for the Aeroexpress. Bought tickets (500r) and grabbed a bite, since we had a ½ hour wait. After a 35-minute ride, we reached Belorussia Station and followed the crowd heading to the metro. Initially, I couldn’t get the machine to work with my credit card, so we went to the window. No English was spoken, but we had no trouble being understood. We rode three quick stops to Teatralnaya and, upon exiting the station, were immediately dazzled by the holiday lights in front of the Bolshoi – a great welcome to Moscow! It was an easy 10-minute walk to the Budapest Hotel.

After checking in, we unpacked and bundled up, excited for our first glimpse of Red Square, which was about a 15-minute walk. The center was dominated by a brightly-lit skating rink, and GUM was covered with white lights, but it was easy to spy the iconic St. Basil’s at the end of the square and Lenin’s Mausoleum to the right. I took photos, but my fingers got cold fast, so we headed back towards the hotel, finding a little restaurant, Cafe Vanilla Sky, 3, Nikolskaya St., that was open late. Tired and hungry we weren’t going to be picky. We shared a Greek salad, borscht, Beef Stroganoff, and a couple of “grogs” – rum, honey, and cinnamon. Total: 1898r, about $32USD.

Friday, Feb. 3: We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast, planning to spend the day at the Pushkin Museum and then have an early night. The hotel’s buffet breakfast was extensive, including eggs, sausages, oatmeal, cereals, yogurt, breads, cold meats and cheeses, veggies, and hot and cold drinks.

The walk to the Pushkin, about 25 minutes away took us past the Duma, Red Square, the Kremlin, and the huge (and controversial) statue of Vladimir the Great. We entered the main building first, and had paid before we discovered it was not the Museum of 19th and 20th Century European and American Art, which is the next building over. No problem; we had intended to see both anyway. We picked up audio guides and spent 2-3 hours there. (Skip the plaster copies of famous sculptures; those are left over from when the museum was a teaching institution.) After retrieving our coats, we walked next door. Three works were of special importance to me – The Red Vineyard and The Prison Courtyard by Van Gogh, and Blue Dancers by Degas. The Red Vineyard is of particular interest to many because it’s the only painting Van Gogh sold during his lifetime. This part of the museum seemed less extensive, but the collection is great and deserves an hour or two.

Leaving the museum at twilight, we stopped for a quick look at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Back at the hotel, we opted for take-out about a block away. I can’t find the name of the place, but it’s a coffee shop with a lot of nutritious/non-fast-food choices at the corner of Neglinnaya and Zvonarskiy streets.

Saturday, Feb. 4: We were up at 7 to catch a 9:20AM train to Sergiev Posad. Took the metro, (laughing at ourselves trying to pronounce the station names) to Komsomolskay, and followed the crowd to the train station, and…there were several! A young woman saw us looking puzzled, offered to help, and walked us to the platform. I’m not entirely sure it was the correct platform because we ended up on the local train, rather than the express. Oh, well! It was interesting, but we were a bit worried we wouldn’t know when to get off. We asked someone to help us and, seemingly, he understood because when we were told to get off, we were indeed in the right town. We easily found the park and statue our pre-arranged guide, Sveta, had suggested as a meeting place, but…no Sveta. We waited a few minutes, and then she came from across the street. Turns out she had been there to meet the train we were supposed to take, but when we didn’t show up, she decided to warm up in a nearby shop. We walked together to get a quick view of the monastery complex (a beautiful sight in the snow!), then crossed the street to her inn where we enjoyed a homemade breakfast of blinis, sour cream, jam, and tea. We then walked back to the monastery and toured for an hour and a half. Note: don’t miss Boris Godunov’s tomb, on the left as you enter the main cathedral.

Afterwards, we drove six kilometers in Sveta’s car to the recently restored Gefsimanskiy Monastery. The rough caves underneath the church are fascinating. They were dug by the “black monks” who lived there in tiny, solitary cells, eating little, and dying in a short time due to ill health.

We drove back to Sveta’s inn for a delicious homemade supper of blinis, borscht, salmon, bread, veggies, dumplings, and vodka. We had a great time chatting with Sveta, so didn’t make the toy museum, which I later found out has some of the last Romanov children’s toys. Saying goodbye to Sveta, we made our way back to the station, and caught the next train to Moscow - a slow train, but we weren’t in a hurry, feeling quite jolly due to the vodka consumed. A young Russian guy struck up a conversation with us, and we chatted with him all the way back to Moscow. (For the rest of the trip, he kept in touch, offering suggestions and answering any questions we had.)

Sunday, Feb. 5: Red Square! We started out at Lenin's Mausoleum, expecting a long line, but were able to walk right in, with only a quick security check. Passing all the memorials, we entered the mausoleum where there were guards stationed every few feet. Besides the guards, we were the only people in the room with Lenin; his body was in a brightly lit glass enclosure. I walked through quickly, thinking that if I slowed down or stopped, they might not be happy, and I certainly wasn’t about to try to sneak a photo. I felt as if their eyes were glued to me!

St. Basil’s was next, and we were lucky to catch a service going on in the first small chapel. The interior was surprising - broken up into many small chapels with dark corridors between. I can’t say it was a wow, but it was atmospheric and there are good views from the windows.

Next up was a self-guided walking tour of Kitay Gorod, which worked out well once we finally found the starting point. Saw several beautiful churches, then the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars, which we liked a lot, as it gave an evocative look at the early Romanovs’ lifestyle. Then on to the English Court – to me, not a must-see, but interesting. The guard-ladies, who seem so stern at the beginning, often turn out to be sweet. I found that if you are sincerely interested, they warm up and are helpful and even enthusiastic about explaining the exhibits. I often found myself nodding to a long description in Russian, which, while not entirely illuminating, was much appreciated.

By then it was close to 3PM and we wanted to get to Ryabushinsky Mansion, also known as Gorky House. Walking from the southeastern corner of Red Square, it took us 45 minutes, including about 10 minutes of floundering once we were almost there, trying to find the exact location. This building is an Art Nouveau masterpiece. The stunning staircase is only the beginning; all the rooms, including Gorky’s study with his personal effects and the upstairs church, are beautiful and interesting. We spent a little over an hour there, till it closed at 5PM. One of the highlights for me was a collection of Japanese netsuke. My husband lagged behind a bit and had a great conversation with a very nice Russian gentleman who worked there.

Monday, Feb. 6: The Kremlin! I woke up wondering if maybe I should have reserved tickets for the Armoury. We looked it up online and were panicked to see that, apparently, tickets were not available. Uh-oh! I called the front desk and they checked, as well, but…no tickets! What to do? I didn’t want to save the Kremlin for our last day in Moscow since I heard it can close inexplicably, so we decided to go as planned and see what we could see. If we couldn’t get in to the Armoury, we’d make a reservation for our final day in Moscow. After breakfast, we walked to the Kremlin ticket office, arriving at 9:30AM, and immediately got tickets, including a 10-11 entry time for the Armoury. Go figure. Relieved and excited (THE KREMLIN!), we joined the crowd in line for the security check. It was a cold day, (0-10F), so we hustled through Cathedral Square (Wow!), and continued to the Armoury.

I love the free coat checks everywhere in Russia! I stopped at the restroom to shed my long underwear, then picked up audio guides and headed to the “Start of the Tour.” The Armoury is overwhelming - room after room of gold, silver, pearl, and gem-encrusted “gospels” (bibles), goblets, platters, armor, thrones crowns, and other extraordinary objects, including Faberge Imperial Eggs. During one trip back downstairs to the restroom and gift shops, I bought a guidebook. Along with the audio guide, this was very helpful, and also now serves as a souvenir booklet since photos aren’t allowed.

We took a break at 1PM for the Diamond Fund. The crowd there was minimal; sometimes I was the only one at an exhibit window! Heaps (literally) of diamonds, jewels, crowns, scepters, bricks and nuggets of precious metals - mind-boggling! The audio guide rental woman was so kind; we had joked with her on the way in and, when we returned the headsets, chatted with her again. She reached under the counter and gave us a hardback book on the Diamond Fund. We were touched. I gave her a Maine-themed keychain I had in my purse (a small gift kept on hand for such occasions).

After the Diamond Fund, we continued with the top floor, where there are carriages, clothing, and personal items of the Tsars and their families. I think, in total we spent at least 3-4 at the Armoury.

Cathedral Square…aside from the handouts we got at each church and the info in our guidebook, we were a little in the dark about what we were seeing. In hindsight, it might have been nice to have a guide, but I also appreciated being able to go at our own pace. We went into all the churches except the one where the Tsars are buried; sadly, it was closed, as was Ivan’s Bell Tower. We moved on to the Tsar’s Cannon and Bell, but, by that point, the sun was down and it was getting really cold, plus I think it was closing time. Reluctantly, we headed out.

Scrapping our original idea to visit the Historical Museum that evening, we went to dinner, detouring to check out the exact location of the metro station we needed to find for our early morning trip to Vladimir. Alexey, whom we had met on the train from Sergiev Posad to Moscow, had recommended we try Taras Bulba, the Ukranian chain restaurant, and had texted me names of dishes to order. The meal was cheap and tasty, and the restaurant had a cozy atmosphere.

I’ll continue with Vladimir/Suzdal in the next installment!

37 replies to this topic
Moscow, Russia
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222 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Great report, please go on!

Westbrook, Maine
Level Contributor
645 posts
36 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Thanks, Marassa, and thanks for all the help! Many times I thought of your advice, and it helped me a lot!

Westbrook, Maine
Level Contributor
645 posts
36 reviews
3. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Part 2 - Vladimir and Suzdal

Tuesday, Feb. 7: I woke up at 4:30AM, nervous about catching our 7AM train. Since we were overnighting in Suzdal, taking only one small suitcase, we had decided to splurge and keep our room at the Budapest, so we could just leave all our stuff in the room. However, since we were up early, with time to pack, and since the room was going to cost $190 (at least $50 more than our other nights there, which has to do with demand for the room, evidently), we opted to check out. We had to leave before breakfast, but I had stored croissants, fruit, and yogurts from breakfast the day before, so we could eat on the train. We left our extra luggage in their storage room, left the hotel at 5:50am, took the metro from Trubnaya to Kurskaya, and walked to the nearby Kurski train station. There was decent signage, in both languages, but finding the exact platform was a little trickier. Asking people along the way, we found the platform. It was pretty early, but there was already a line of passengers getting tickets and passports checked. The hour and a half trip flew by because I slept most of the way.

Arriving in Vladimir, it was -7F! We stayed in the train station (after using the very basic facilities), slightly paralyzed by the dread of going outside, and also because my prep was a bit lacking and there was no tourist office in sight, or anybody that appeared to speak English. I put on pretty much every layer of clothing I had (sock liners, Smartwool socks, winter boots, silk long underwear, thermal long underwear, turtleneck, sweater, down vest, down coat, hat, mittens, and scarf), stored our bag (surprisingly easy, with a super nice attendant who spoke English and assured us the storage room would be open until later that evening), and walked across the street and up the hill in the direction of the churches I had familiarized myself with the map, so I knew the distances were walkable. There was an easy-to-follow path, plus you could see the gold onion domes glinting in the morning sun. So pretty! Walking alongside and old city wall, we reached St. Demetrius’ church, which wasn’t open, unfortunately. The famous carvings were stunning, but we were too cold to linger, so we continued to the Church of the Assumption, which was open and warm inside. After a short visit there (fairly modern interior, but I understand there are some old icons of interest, which we somehow missed), we headed towards the medieval Golden Gate. Reaching the main street, we saw - cue the angelic choirs - McDonald’s! Sustenance, WiFi, and heat! Unfortunately, to get on the free Wifi, a Russian phone number was seemingly necessary. Later, we found ways around this, namely, getting someone’s phone number to use.

After we had thawed out, we walked the fairly short distance to the Golden Gate, which is in the middle of a traffic circle. We climbed up onto the still-existing rampart, which gave us a great view. Then it was time to return to the bus station (across from the train station) and figure out how to get to the neighboring town of Bogolyubovo (pronounced “buh-guh-LOO-buh-vah”). All local buses in Vladimir cost 18r. We got tickets and walked out to the platform, catching a bus right away.

Arriving in Bogolyubovo about fifteen minutes later, we got off when we saw the blue domes of the monastery. We decided to go directly to the nearby Church of the Intercession and see the monastery on the way back, if we had time. Walking along the street, I cursed myself for not bringing printed directions, and started looking for a church across a meadow, as I’d seen in photos. Within a few blocks, we stopped at a convenience store to ask directions, which consisted of me holding up my phone with a screenshot of the church. It worked! After nodding to a lengthy series of directions in Russian, and aiming ourselves in what we hoped was the right direction, we (miraculously) came upon a raised pedestrian bridge I immediately recognized. I knew we were home free! Once up on the bridge (which crosses railroad tracks), we could see the church in the distance, as well as a beautiful view back towards the monastery. I had heard there might be a sled waiting to take tourists to the church, but we didn’t see any (although we did see some hay bales). Even though it was pretty far (a kilometer or two) and it was REALLY COLD, the walk was magical! Imagine a vast snow-covered meadow with a tiny, picturesque church in the distance. Luckily, there was a path plowed, so the walk was easy, without us having to plod through the deep snow. The church wasn’t open (and we did check the other building, as directed in one of the guidebooks). After tromping around in the snow and on the frozen river, taking lots of pictures, we trekked back across the meadow (still no sled!) and across the street to a bus stop. A bus came almost immediately and, before boarding, I asked a woman if the bus were going to Vladimir. She assured me it was. Mysteriously, after what seemed longer than 15 minutes, and despite looking as best we could through the frosty windows – the buses didn’t have much heat - for the station, we ended up somewhere on the outskirts of Vladimir. Everyone else on the bus got off. The driver looked back at us as if to say, “What are you still doing on this bus?” Oops. After a discussion with another driver, he directed us to another bus, which took us back to Vladimir, and that driver told us to get off at a certain spot and take a tram back to the main bus station. It all worked out, but we still don’t understand how we went astray!

Happy to be back on track, we picked up our bag at the train station (the storage room was still open, as promised; cost: 150r), ran back to the bus station, grabbed a couple tickets for Suzdal, and boarded the next bus, which was leaving momentarily. When some people looked at us as if we were doing something slightly wrong, we realized there were seat assignments and we were in other people’s seats. Oops again! We offered to move, but they kindly offered to sit elsewhere. Forty minutes later, in the pitch dark and freezing cold, we arrived at the Suzdal bus stop, which is about a half mile from the town center. I had heard you could show the driver the name of your hotel in Cyrillic and he would drive there and drop you off. That didn’t seem to work, at least on this night! Lucky for us (and probably usually), there were two taxis waiting. Yay! In less than two minutes, we were checking in at our nice, cozy Suzdal Inn! We were offered a homemade cherry cordial. Awwww!

Our room was smallish, but adorable, with a small table and chairs and modern bathroom. We were starving, so freshened up quickly and came back to catch dinner. So happy our hotel had a restaurant! Next to a crackling fire, we had a wonderful supper of cream of broccoli soup, salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh dill), pork medallions, fried potatoes, two beers, and a vodka shot, all for a reasonable 1597r. Need I mention that we slept very well!

Wednesday, Feb. 8. Breakfast at the inn was very good: porridge, blinis, bread, meat, and cheeses, and hot drinks. We decided, after looking at walking distances to various sights, to ask Leanna, at the front desk, to help us. She suggested we book a Russian-speaking taxi driver (fastest to find and less expensive than having an English-speaking guide). We had a brief chat about what we wanted to see, and then spent four hours (1000r per hour, totaling about $80) with Alex, our very accommodating driver. We toured the Kremlin, tried to visit the wooden architecture museum (which was inexplicably closed), stopped at all four monasteries (St. Euthymius included a museum and a prison), and finally, climbed the bell tower. It was locked, but Alex somehow came up with a key. He let us in, and we were on our own to climb in the dark (with cell phone flashlights), till we got to the open part with bells and pigeons. What a view! We could see the whole town, with the snowy river winding through it, and all the monasteries. From taking my hands out of my mittens to take photos, my fingers super cold, so we came down and headed back to the hotel.

Oh, I should mention we finally got to take the sleigh ride, the much envisioned Dr. Zhivago moment, which was really fun as we careened through the streets and onto the frozen river, all to the accompaniment of our driver singing. I’m embarrassed to say I was so excited, I forgot to negotiate a rate. We ended up paying about $30 for ten minutes or so, when, (according to what Alex told us afterwards), we should have paid about $10. Oh, well, what can you do? We also spent some time photographing the beautiful traditional wooden houses of Suzdal.

Back at the hotel, I realized we still had time for the banya, so I asked about it, and found out we could have done it had we given them at least four hours’ notice. My fault for not thinking ahead! I was disappointed, mainly because I had wanted to have the experience of dunking in the icy pond. (Cutting the hole in the ice is part of the preparation time.) Ha ha, maybe it’s a good thing we couldn’t do it. ;-) We contented ourselves with a relaxing lunch, including homemade radish vodka, courtesy of our hosts. We had the best time chatting with our waitress and Leanna, and then hung out in our room, packing up and resting, with no charge incurred for the (very late) check out. We splurged again and arranged for Alex to bring us to Vladimir for our 8PM train. We got back to our Moscow home-away-from home, the Budapest Hotel, around 11PM or so, stopping for pizza take-out on the way.

(To be continued!)

Queensland...
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4. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Loving your TR. Thanks for sharing, lots of great tips.

Moscow, Russia
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5. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Another voice of appreciation! Please go on with your excellent report!

Westbrook, Maine
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645 posts
36 reviews
6. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Thank you, chatncappuccino and Vasily_from_Moscow! Here is the next installment!

Part 3 (Moscow, Novgorod, Train to St. Petersburg)

Thursday, Feb. 9: We were tired from our whirlwind trip to Vladimir and Suzdal, so slept in a bit. It felt good to be back on familiar ground after the adventure of the Golden Ring towns. After only a few days, we had started to feel at home at our hotel and in Moscow. After breakfast, we took the metro to the State Tretyakov Gallery. Surprisingly, considering it was February, there was a long line, maybe because the museum was open late that day. There also seemed to be quite a few school groups.

I knew the Tretyakov was the premier place to see Russian art in Moscow, but I had no idea the collection was so extensive. My husband “lost the will” after a couple hours, but there was free WiFi and he found an outlet to charge his phone near the coat check, so he was happy to wait. I’d come back every once in a while saying I needed another hour, another half hour. I was familiar with some famous works by Repin, Surikov, and Vasnetsov, but had the pleasure of discovering Shishkin, Vereshchagin, Nesterov, Polenov, Kramskoi, Perov, Levitan, Korovin, Makovsky, Kuindzhi, and (especially) Vrubel and Serov, whom I loved.

(If you’re an art lover and have a limited time, it might be worth doing some advance planning work so you can target some of the more important works. (The floorplan is online.) If you have more time, I suggest a couple visits to fully enjoy this museum.)

We took the metro to meet our friend, Alexey. Chatting away, we walked down the New Arbat Street, which has a lot of interesting Soviet-era buildings, including (at the end) the Open Book and the White House. Across the river is the Radisson, one of the impressive “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers. Our plan was to have a drink in the lounge at the top, but we discovered the entire room had been previously booked for a large convention. We were able to go in for a few minutes to check out the stunning views. Very glam! Then Alexey had to get to a business meeting, so we said goodbye and walked the Old Arbat Street to the Arbatskaya metro station.

Friday, Feb. 10: On our last day I Moscow, I’d hoped to go to VDNKh, the New Tretyakov, and Sparrow Hills, none of which came to fruition. It turned into a catch-up day instead. First, we stopped by a market stall in Red Square for a specific matryoshka doll (silly political one) my sister wanted that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else. Then we took a “do-it-yourself” metro tour, based on Alexey’s recommendations. Then we headed over to the New Tretyakov on Krymsky Val, which I thought would be open late, but it turns out I had the days mixed up and it closed at 5PM. So much for Malevich’s original “Black Square!” We decided to walk along the river in the direction of our hotel and see how far we could get without having to hop on the metro. We wandered through Muzeon Park to see the leftover Soviet sculptures, passed the giant statue of Peter the Great, and then came upon a little noodle bar (with a bathroom and free WiFi). After warming up and grabbing a snack, we continued, finding it a little confusing trying to cross major arteries. In a half hour or so, we found ourselves opposite the Kremlin, on the south bank of the river. As we walked east along the bank, the views of Cathedral Square got better and better, reflected in the river which was had huge chunks of ice floating in it. The Radisson cruise boat went by and I thought, “Why didn’t we do that?” We crossed the river and ended up below St. Basil’s. We took our final walk through Red Square. Back at the hotel, Boris, a bellman I had given some hand-warmers to, surprised me with an original pastel he had done. (He is the artist who created the image of the hotel on its business cards.) Then we had to catch our overnight train to Novgorod. We took the metro to the Leningradsky train station, getting there early to grab some food for the train. (There weren’t a lot of choices; I recommend getting something beforehand.) On the platform, we struck up a conversation with a woman from Novgorod, and she gave us some great sightseeing tips.

I could not have been happier with the overnight train. The conductor was a cheery, helpful woman. She spoke little English, but was very welcoming. Our first-class cabin was comfortable and modern with pleasant lighting, nice linens and towels, outlets for charging, and a clean bathroom (with hot water) down the hall. We got a good night’s sleep and were up in time for our 6AM arrival in Novgorod.

Saturday, Feb. 11: It was cold and dark, but I knew the Volkhov Hotel was an easy, 15-minute walk from the station. We checked in and were able to get into our room – another benefit of off-season travel! Funnily enough, I had accidentally booked the Newlywed Special rate, so we were amused to find towels made into entwined swans on the bed, and a bottle of champagne, flutes, and chocolates on the desk. Pretty funny!

We were starved, so opted for the (ever-bountiful) buffet breakfast. We walked the short distance to the tourist office and, with some helpful advice, came up with a sightseeing plan for the next two days. Armed with a map and bus schedule, we caught a bus right across the street and rode about 20 minutes to the St. George (Yuriev) Monastery outside town. It was a gray, cloudy day, but somehow that just enhanced the monochromatic tones of the monastery. We spent about 45 minutes there, then walked back out to the street and over to the wooden architecture museum, which is a 10-minute walk. Since we hadn’t been able to visit the one in Suzdal, we were excited to have another chance, and spent about an hour or so walking around and going through some of the houses which had period furnishings. We caught the next bus back to Novgorod, and my husband opted to go back to the hotel for a nap. I’m the never-say-die sightseer, so I walk around the walls of the Kremlin and across the river to Yaroslav’s Court.

I found the scene to be picturesque - grey skies, snowy landscape, bare trees, crows (or maybe ravens?), the red brick walls of the Kremlin, and families sledding in the moat. Along the way, I passed a beach (not exactly beach weather!) and a giant Soviet monument to the “Memory of the Great Patriotic War.” Across the river, I went into St. Nicholas church which had some old frescos in the basement - one fragment of Lot (with some kind of pestilence!) and his wife was pretty interesting. The ladies there were helpful, making sure I had English translations, and pointing out an exhibit of local children’s drawings of Novgorod. Again, I experienced the pride Russian people have in their heritage, and their appreciation of visitors who are interested to learn.

Back at the hotel that night, we were too lazy to research other options for dinner, so we ate in the hotel restaurant, treated to performance by a quirky DJ/singer, complete with disco lights.

Sunday, Feb. 12: We walked to the Kremlin, wanting to catch some of the music at St. Sophia’s morning service (10-12). We made sure to look for the stone pigeon that sits high atop St. Sophia’s. Legend has it that when Ivan IV (the Terrible) killed the 60,000 inhabitants of Novgorod, a real pigeon, looking down at the carnage, was so distressed, it turned to stone. Of all the rulers depicted on the Millennium of Russia in the Novgorod Kremlin, Ivan IV is, not surprisingly, absent.

After leaving the service and walking past the bell tower, we continued to the Museum of History and Art, which was excellent! Between the audio guide and the Google Translate camera app on our phones (to hover over the Russian exhibit captions, works without WiFi), we could pretty much understand everything we were seeing. The history of Novgorod was presented, chronologically, and exhibits included artifacts from everyday life, as well as an extensive collection of icons. We spent about two hours, and could have stayed longer. We had time for a quick run through the Faceted Palace, and then had to pick up our bags at the hotel and get to the train station.

Since the Lastochka train to St. Petersburg was considered a “suburban” train (evidently, this designation changes seasonally), we hadn’t been able to book tickets online. We walked up to a ticket window and said “St. Petersburg?” The woman smiled and held up a sign in English with written directions to the correct window, which she pointed to. After picking up the tickets, my husband went off in search of the platform and while I settled into the waiting room. The woman next to me, overhearing our conversation, said, in perfect English, “You’re traveling to St. Petersburg for the first time?” Turns out she had previously lived in the US and Canada. She offered to walk with us to the platform, and we ended up sitting with her on the train. Since Maria lived close to our hotel, we rode the metro together to Admiraltyskaya, and then she walked us to our hotel. We exchanged contact info and made plans to get together on the weekend. Another new Russian friend!

We checked into the Comfort Hotel. Our room was okay; not as charming as we had hoped, and a bit cramped. We unpacked, expecting to spend the next nine nights there.

(To be continued!)

Moscow, Russia
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for Moscow
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7. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

I fairly hope you haver enough drive to cover the coming 9 nights in St. Petersburg with same style... Thanks for sharing!

New York
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8. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Thank you for a fascinating and informative TR. There were cliffhangers, but always a happy ending. Like I said before if you come with a positive and friendly attitude ppl will respond in kind.

Too bad you missed the new Tretyakov - there is much more to Russian avant garde than the handful of usual suspects known abroad.

The old Tretyakov gallery showcases so much talent - and all thanks to one guy Tretyakov who single handedly supported Russian art when there was not much market for it, and gave it all back to the city. What a guy.

BTW him and Riabushinsky whose mansion you visited and many tycoons of the day were from the persecuted "old believers" church. Hope you found the secret chapel in the mansion.

Westbrook, Maine
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36 reviews
9. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

Thank you, Vasily_From_Moscow! I'm working away at it and will post. I wasn't sure people would want all the detail and anecdotes, but my hope is there will be parts that help someone else on their trip planning. Stay tuned!

Moscow, Russia
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12,254 posts
222 reviews
10. Re: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb

> I wasn't sure people would want all the detail and anecdotes

They would! I personally am enjoying every instalment.

Reply to: Trip Report - Moscow/Vladimir/Suzdal/Novgorod/St. P in Feb
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