Veliky Novgorod (The Great New City)

The Great New City. What a fantastic title! Well, Novgorod isn’t new and if you’re considering great to mean big and busy, you’re wrong again.

In fact, Novgorod is an old city established in the 9th century AD. Today it survives as a little city with a calm lifestyle and a whole host of history in and around its borders. Most well-known of Novgorod’s sights, The Cathedral of St. Sophia is the oldest existing cathedral in Russia, built in 1050. While she may not look like much compared to the gaudy splendor of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, at the time the cathedral was a clear sign of Novgorod’s wealth and economic strength. And in the inside is gorgeous. You’re not supposed to take pictures, so I had to be sneaky and could only take one picture, but imagine the entire interior of the cathedral covered in icons and painted patterns. It’s an otherworldly feeling.

The Cathedral of St. Sophia sits inside the walls of Novgorod’s кремель (fortress), and you can be sure that there’s more than a church in the fortress. It’s actually a really lovely area in which couples walked around and enjoyed the statues and the buildings within.

While in Novgorod, I also visited a monastery. There was a monk who asked me and my friends why we had come. Education…for?…Russian language…for?…a job. He didn’t seem satisfied. “While you study for your exams,” he said, “Remember that there is an exam at the end of our lives. We are not more spiritual than you, but we have chosen to study before you.” I don’t think he was as deep as he thought.

Even so, his residence was incredibly peaceful. After living for so long in a city, I’ve forgotten what nature sounded like. Ravens cried from the trees, sparrows scuttled between branches, and supposedly there were foxes and hedgehogs in the woods. Sadly, I didn’t see any.

Later, I took a trip to an exhibit on ancient wooden villages, or something like that. I was pretty bored. So ancient Russians made wooden homes and wooden tools. Great. But again, the nature was incredibly beautiful and relaxing. Instead of taking a photo of the village, I took a photo of the river. I thought it was more interesting.

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