So, the first time we were in Novgorod was the last day of March and the first day of April. It was, um, chilly, as you shall see.
We got to the bus station pretty early in the morning, and while we didn't have long to wait, we were wonderfully entertained by the our 2 little ones, who always enjoy each others' company!
After checking into our hotel, we walked back towards the town's Kremlin, which basically is the fortress protecting the center of town, and saw this "lovely" bit of architecture. It was so ugly, we had to get a picture with it. It's some kind of arts building, we think. The orange banner at the top said something about "God's Daisies". We never did ask anyone about it, so we didn't figure it out completely.
The brick wall behind us is the Kremel of Kremlin of Novgorod. Kremlin is often used to refer to the Russian government, but the word basically means fortress, or walled-in area for protection, which is what this Kremlin was designed for back oh, over 1000 years ago! I think I forgot to mention that Novgorod, which means new city, is 1,150 years old!
We were able to walk around inside the Kremlin, which was really muddy and wet from snow and rain and more snow, but inside were some really remarkable things!
This is The Church of St. Sophia. Ok, I think that was the name, we referred to it as Sophia's, so I can't remember with great certainty, sorry. Originally the church was decorated on the outside with frescos, like you can see in the middle of this picture. When work began to restore the church, it was redone with the white facade that you see now, mostly because of cost. The inside was being restored while we were there, and the paintings on the inside were lovely! We weren't allowed to take pictures, though.
This was also the church where Thomas got to practice the good ol' Russian tradition of proving your point. Naturally we had Isaiah in the stroller since he can't walk and he's getting heavy! Thomas overheard some women in the church complaining about these tourists, don't they know they're not supposed to bring a stroller into the church! The women didn't realize that we spoke Russian, and you should have seen the shock on their faces when Thomas said, Excuse me, but he's an invalid* and he's heavy to carry, so we have him in the stroller. Don't you think God allows invalids in His house? Those Russian women couldn't back down fast enough!
*invalid is the literal translation for the word that Russians use to describe anyone with a disability, so we're pretty used to saying that now, though it took some getting used to at first.
The doors behind Thomas were captured during a battle and brought to Novgorod. I think they were originally in Finland. (This is what happens when I wait too long to write a post!)
Several of us were in desperate need of "facilities", so the joy on Thomas' face is not really as fake as it might seem in this picture. :) The sign reads toilet in Russian, and WC means water closet, for those of you not familiar with the British term. This bathroom only cost 5 rubles, quite the deal, another reason for excitement.
Have I mentioned how much I like our friends? They really are a fun family, and I feel so comfortable with them. I learn a lot from them, too, like how to clean mud off a toddler who keeps falling down because she has to walk in bulky winter wear--what else could all that snow be for?
Also inside the Kremlin is this monument. This is the Millennium Monument to honor the most influential people in Russia during her first 1000 years. I would tell you some of the people on there, but there really are a lot of them, and it would take too long right now. I'll save that history lesson for another time.
And this is the beach on the bank of Wolf River. Looks like lots of fun, doesn't it? I'm sure it's better in the summer. This is where we were standing when Aaron was pointing out something to us across the river that he wanted us to go see, and Danielle made my favorite statement of the whole trip, "Is there anything we need to see over there that we can't already see from over here?" That will help you understand how cold we were getting at this point!
But we crossed the river anyway. Here's looking back at the Kremlin. You can see the white tops of the buildings and one gold dome inside the walls.
I don't have that many pictures of me with Danielle, and I really like this one, so I thought I'd share it with you, too.
Before seeing those things over there we stopped for a bite to eat and a chance to warm up. I'm not sure what's up with Isaiah in this picture, but he was getting pretty tired.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel. This picture makes it look like we got a light breakfast, but don't be fooled!
Something got lost in translation with our waitress, and she kept bringing plates of food! We began to run out of room on the table! I think this picture is absolutely hilarious because not only did Aaron capture how much food we got, but he also caught us all with bulging cheeks while we were eating it!
Our second day brought rain, followed by wintry mix and then just plain heavy snow! Lydia was prepared with her cute umbrella.
We were able to visit the wooden village in Novgorod, which is where it started to snow pretty heavily. Before visiting the village, we visited some souvenir stands, that during the spring and summer are pretty happenin' places. The lady standing near Thomas is a babushka we met on the bus on the way there. She hung out with us for part of the day.
We picked up a few souvenirs and headed across the street to see the village. It was really quite impressive, but Thomas, Isaiah and I didn't get to see too much of it. I got to practice saying in Russian, Excuse me, but my son has pooped. Do you know where I can change him? This practice took up most of my time in the village, so all these pictures are thanks to Aaron. (You'll get to see some of our pics from our second trip, when the sun was shining!)
After trekking through pretty mucky paths, we decided to dry off and fill up at this beautiful restaurant.
The kiddos entertained themselves and us as we waited for our food.
When we finished eating we noticed that the snow had stopped! We headed up the road to this monastery.
This is inside the walls of the monastery, on the slippery, mucky path leading to one of the churches inside built a really, really long time ago. This is right before I took a nose dive. Well, more like a knee, hip, hand dive; but it seemed to amuse the tourist group behind us. I'm here to entertain!
And I didn't get many pictures after that, but the sun came out as we waited for our bus! We had a great time, and wore Isaiah out with all the outside time. Sorry this last picture is so blurry, but the bus was pretty bumpy; I just had to share the love, though.