Saturday, September 26, 2015

Get me outta here!

Years ago, I met a returning MacArthur scholar on an airplane to the USA from Russia. She had spent her time studying in the historic Golden Ring cities near Moscow, and told me that most of all, she enjoyed Nizhny Novgorod. Naturally, I wanted to go there in spite of the city’s lukewarm description in my guidebook. I was not so sure, however, when we arrived this morning. In fact, my first thought was of escape.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t escape because we had already bought our onward tickets, choosing seats on the fast train departing late afternoon. We had to make the best of our seven hours. While Carrie may have preferred a taxi to the town’s kremlin (fortress), I guided her to the bus stop, surprisingly far from the train station. The trip to the bus stop did nothing to dispel our doubts because almost everything in Nizhny Novgorod is crumbling, if not dilapidated. Our bus qualified for “dilapidated,” though it got us where we wanted to go. We started in Gorky Square so we could walk up a pedestrian avenue to the kremlin. We enjoyed a pleasant walk, generally among pretty buildings in mild disrepair. It appeared that the whole street might have received major renovations just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that few funds had been directed to the city since then.

When we reached the kremlin, we bought all-inclusive tickets allowing us to walk around the top of the wall and visit the towers. Each tower held a little museum, but unfortunately, the museums didn’t compare to the museums we’d just visited in Kazan. The first museum amused us because we imagined that the museum guides filled the space with stuff they’d found in their basements and back yards. After a couple of these museums, though, we merely glanced in the next ones, focusing on our walk on the wall.

We didn’t get to walk all the way around the wall because the section along the riverbank was collapsing. It had not yet collapsed, but when we saw it from the outside, we agreed with the decision not to allow people to walk there. Fortuitously, we found an excellent restaurant not far from the wall here, and came back for a delicious lunch with an excellent view.

The best parts of today have been our train rides. So far, each train has been better than all previous trains. Last night we took a sleeper from Kazan to Nizhny Novgorod. Our compartment had an electrical outlet, storage cabinets, excellent beds and linens, and other superior features including gleaming bathrooms. Now we’re in a snazzy train called a Sapsan, rocketing toward Vladimir at 142 km/h. The very attentive staff has taken every opportunity to feed us and give us small non-alcoholic beverages. Everything is grand.

Last picture of the day: Blogging. ~~ From 2015-09 Beijing-to-Minsk

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