May 2013 – Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

View of Annunciation Monastery and other churches along the Oka River

Nizhny Novgorod was not orginally on our travel radar, but a number of circumstances led us to spend a couple of days here – first, our couchsurfing hosts in Yaroslavl raved about it as a really beautiful town and second, we had trouble purchasing train tickets to Novosibirsk on our desired dates and had a few days to spare with no plans and no desire to stay in Vladimir. We were destined for Nizhny.

Nizhny is a really beautiful town set at the confluence of the Volga and Oka Rivers. We spent most of our two days here ambling along the river banks and also on the hillsides above the rivers. As with many of the Russian cities, Nizhny has a very nice busy pedestrian mall lined with shops and eateries. We stopped at an Italian restaurant called Biblioteka that made fresh pasta – a delightful splurge for us.

View of Volga and Oka Rivers

Kremlin
The Kremlin at Nizhny is set high on a hill, an instantly obvious place for a fort and one of Russia’s most imposing defensive structures.  The Khan of Kazan apparently thought the same and he hurriedly attacked while the Nizhny kremlin was under construction, but its fortifications were already too strong and the Khan was defeated.

The Cathedral of Archangel Michael sits on the hillside along the northern part of the kremlin with wonderful views out over the two rivers.  Most of the buildings within the kremlin walls, however, are administrative type buildings that mostly house offices now though one houses the very nice Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum.

Nizhny Novgorod State Art Museum
We had a bit of difficulty trying to buy tickets to visit the art museum, as rather than attempt an alternative communication method the cashier insisted on speaking in progressively louder Russian to us as if we’d suddenly realize we’d always known the language and respond in kind.  Luckily, a young teenage boy came by andwas enlisted as translator. We ended up with tickets to see the entire museum including all special exhibits. There were works from the 1700s-1900s and a section with Russian art from the early to mid 1900s that was quite enjoyable. We ended up spending several hours perusing the museum.

The Rainbow Candy Cane Cathedral

The Church of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos
As Angie had dubbed the Chesme Church in St Petersburg ‘The Candy Cane Cathedral’, so came this church with the swirled multicolored domes to be known among us as ‘The Rainbow Candy Cane Cathedral’.  The domes were very colourful and as Angie said, ‘the view of it could only make you smile’.

We had a late train out of Nizhny heading towards Novosibirsk some 40 hours away.  While we waited, we experienced another instance of Russian hospitality.  As we sat in the train station waiting room, the man across from us began speaking to us in Russian. After we indicated that we didn’t understand, he looked a bit surprised and sat quietly pondering before asking us where we were from.  He looked confused when we said ‘Australia’ and so Brett showed him the map on the tablet. That was the extent of our conversation.

About 10 minutes later, he got up from his seat and returned with a small Nizhny Novgorod magnet, which he handed to us and said ‘present’.  The magnet had the Nizhny Novgorod Coat of Arms symbol with the deer and antlers. It’s unfortunate we could not communicate more than our Russian attempt at ‘thank you’.

Chillout Guest House

The Chillout Guest House was our place of residence while in Nizhny. We were unable to locate a couchsurfing host, but this hostel served us well. It is located in the historic area and near the bottom of the Kremlin hillside, so it was nearby all the locations we wanted to visit. We were able to get a room for a reasonable price, especially by taking the room without a window. It was a modern, quiet hostel, which we appreciated. The staff spoke very little to no English, but as usual, we were able to communicate via Google translate or hand gestures.

Click here to see our Nizhny photos

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