Novgorod is one of Russia`s oldest cities and has, through its centuries of existence, played an immeasurably important role in Russian history and the development of Russia as a state. The Derzhavin Institute often leads day trips to the city as part of its cultural programme so if you`re studying here now or going to be studying at the school in the future, you may have the opportunity to travel there (for students of the school at the time of posting the next trip will be on May 19th 2018). Novgorod is a considerable distance away from St Petersburg however; the two cities are over 165 km apart. This often leaves students wondering whether it is worth their time to travel there or not. If this sounds like you, then read on; the points below will help you make a decision.
What makes Novgorod special?
As noted above, Novgorod is one of the oldest cities in Russia; the city is first mentioned in Russian written documents in 859. Novgorod was the original capital city of the Rus people under the first Grand Princes of the Rurik Dynasty and, even after the formation of the Kievian Rus (a conglomeration of princedoms lead by the Rurik dynasty from which modern Russia formed) in 882, the city remained a spiritual centre and was the second largest city in the new state. Over the years, Novgorod grew in power and became largely independent of the rest of the Kievian Rus. The Novgorodian Republic that formed from this foundation was still ruled by Princes, but they were frequently invited and dismissed by Novgorodian nobles, leading Novgorod to be described as the first example of Russian democracy.
How will we get there?
If you travel to Novgorod with the school then you will go there by train; the journey takes 3 hours there and another 3 hours back. Normally trains to Novgorod take 4 hours but trips through the school always take Lastochka (Ласточка – Swallow) trains. These trains, which were built for the Sochi Winter Olympics, are faster and more comfortable than the normal trains that travel to Novgorod and cost only a tiny bit extra. This means a shorter more comfortable journey for you and, most importantly, more time looking around the city.
What will we do?
The first stop on your tour around Novgorod will be the city`s very own Кремль (Kremlin). That`s right, Moscow isn`t the only city in Russia that has a Kremlin, in fact the fortifications you`ll see in Novgorod are even a few years older than the famous walls of Moscow`s central fortress (the former were finished in 1490, the latter in 1495). After a quick tour of its walls and towers, you`ll head inside the Kremlin to Собор Святой Софии/Софийский Собор (the Cathedral of St. Sophia). This is the oldest church in Russia, and the third oldest building of any kind in the country. Despite its name the Church was not named after a female saint, but was, like the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople, named after the Greek word for wisdom, meaning in this case the wisdom of god. Stepping outside the Cathedral you will see Пмятник Тысячелетия России (the Millennium of Russia Monument). This huge bell-shaped monument was built in 1862 in celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the arrival of Rurik, the first ruler of Rurik dynasty, to Novgorod. Around the monument you will see depictions of various famous figures from Russian history, including former Tsars, artists, and priests. The giant structure is topped by an angel holding up a cross, which represents the Orthodox Church, and a kneeling woman, who represents Russia itself.
Once you`ve thoroughly explored the wonders of the Kremlin you`ll be taken out to the banks of Река Волхов (the River Volkhov) which runs down the fortress` eastern wall. From here you`ll have a wonderful view over Ярославово Дворище (Yaroslav`s Court) which was the political and economic heart of Novgorod in the middle ages. After a quick break for lunch you will travel a small way outside the centre of the city to Музей деревянного зодчества “Витославлицы” (the Vitoslavlitsi Museum of Wooden Architecture) where you will have the chance to see real, authentic examples of traditional Russian wooden architecture, some of which date back to the 1500s, as well as get a glimpse of the everyday life of Novgorodian peasants from that time period.
What will we eat?
On such a long trip you`re sure to be wondering about where and when you`ll eat. In the morning you`ll be able to have breakfast on the train and in Novgorod itelf you`ll have a late lunch in Cafe Telegraf (https://vk.com/telegrafcafe). The price of these meals are included in the price of the excursion but you might still want to bring extra money with you for drinks, snacks, or souvenirs.
When will we get back?
You`ll arrive back in St Petersburg at roughly 21:00. If you`re planning on going on the trip on May 19th 2018 and you love museums, then this is excellent news for you as it means that you`ll still have a chance to take part in Ночь Музеев (Long Night of Museums). Keep an eye on this blog for more on that...
If this sounds interesting to you then don`t forget to sign up for the trip on the sheet in the students` hall well in advance. And remember, the more people who come on the trip the cheaper it will be, so make sure you invite your classmates.