Russia and the Baltic travel blog

Art class

"Smartie Church"

Junction of Oka and Volga Rivers

Nizhny Novgorod - May 15

This city has a wonderful location at the junction of the Volga and Oka rivers. A pretty brick Kremlin (fort) sits on top of a steep bluff. Much of the commercial heart of the city appears also to be high up on top of the cliff while the industrial area is down near the rivers.

On the first evening, we went down a looong set of stairs to an interesting street that has been well restored and has several recommended restaurants. We went to one that was known for Russian food, particularly for local freshwater fish. Ruth and Grammar ordered sterlet, a Volga delicacy. It was delicious! They will read menus more carefully in the future because the price listed seemed reasonable but was per 100 grams. The generous portion cost a generous price!

It seemed a super long distance for my little legs and everyone else's sore legs, to climb back up the cliff to our hotel after dinner.

May 16 State Bank of Russia

In the morning, we set out along the rampart towards the Kremlin, which appeared to be at the same elevation as us. A very persistent Russian woman attempted to give us directions in a torrent of Russian. The less we understood, the louder and more emphatically she spoke. I am sure we did not follow her directions but we did reach the Kremlin.

The Nizhny Kremlin is much smaller (and more peaceful) than the one in Moscow. There was no security; we just wandered in. There were large administrative buildings painted creamy yellow with white- trimmed windows and doors. There was a multi-domed church at one end of a grassy quadrangle and behind that, a war memorial with a perpetual flame, guarded on a quick rotation by young cadets.

Grammar spotted a wooden guard tower that she wanted to sketch. As we approached, we saw that a high school class was already drawing it; so Grammar sketched the tower AND the kids.

After seeing the Kremlin, Grammar and I wandered along a major pedestrian street, attracted by the sound of a brass band. We found it set up in front of a large stone building that Grammar thought was a church. There was a very long line of people snaking all the way up the road, waiting to go into the building; so we kept going. On our way back down the street after coffee, there was no line and we went in. The building was the State Bank of Russia. The interior, particularly the second floor, was extraordinary. Beautiful ceramic tiles ran up the edge of the stairs and large ceramic-clad posts were at very turn in the stairs. The walls were covered with great murals of the main sights of Nizhny and the ceilings had flowing, colourful designs. The Great Hall had two long rows of tellers' stations and more flamboyant walls and ceilings. As we got to the end of the Hall, the guards started shooing us all out.

Outside the bank building, Grammar started talking to four young American Mormon missionaries who were based in Moscow (apparently the most expensive place that the Mormons have a mission in the world). These young people had come to Nizhny specifically for the bank's opening. Apparently it is open once a year on its anniversary (101 this year) and only for one and a half hours. Weren't we lucky! [101 years ago, the bank was founded on the 200th anniversary of the Romanovs' rise to power.]

On our way back to the hotel, we saw lots of families flying kites in a competition. All of the kites seemed to be plastic, store-bought ones and some of them went very high. As we were close to the hotel, we retrieved Ruth and Andrew and sent them out to watch the kites.

May 18 " Smartie Church"

Our train was not scheduled to leave until evening; so we had time to rush around and see anything we had missed. I really wanted to see the "Smartie Church". This pretty church is down below the big cliff. It has one large dome and four slightly smaller ones. Instead of being gilded with gold like many of the domes, these ones appear to be covered in giant smartie candies. Red, gold and green bands of smarties spiral down, following the shape of the domes. They are wonderful and look yummy. Grammar did a drawing and while she was there, two other artists came and started drawing too.

When we entered the church, we saw a complicated gold ikonostasis - Baroque style said Andrew, who was also in the church. After lunching together (really good Turkish food) R and A sensibly went back to the hotel while Grammar and I explored some more and completely knackered ourselves. We were moaning pathetically when we reached the hotel.

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