> Veliky Novgorod
A BEWITCHING CITY
Veliky Novgorod! More than a name, it is a profession of faith: the name given by its builders to Russia’s vast new capital city in the 9th C.
The town grew up around its Kremlin (citadel), the most ancient in Russia, an oval red – brick fortress on the banks of the Volkhov River, surrounded by a large moat.
Russia’s decision – making centre at the time, Veliky Novgorod is also the site of Saint Sophie’s cathedral which towers over the sixty or more churches of the fortified city. It contains a unique range of religious buildings and paintings that have been superbly maintained and restored, from monasteries to chapels, and the magnificent Church of the Transfiguration of Our saviour of the 14th C with the unique frescoes of Theophanes the Greek.
Also in the Kremlin, hedden away in the ancient, secluded administrative buildings, is a truly astonishing and exquisite collection of impressively large icons, probably the finest in Russia. The collection alone is worth the visit.
The museum, with its archaeological and historic treasures, the concert hall where the Rachmaninov festival is held, the Monument to Russia’s Thousand Years….are amongst many other fascinating discoveries hidden within the walls of the citadel.
Only a stone’s throw away, you can go for a stroll in a shady wood, through a large, undulating area full of wooden buildings collected from all over Russia and rerected here in a delightful exhibition, a reconstructed village of traditional dwellings, log churches….a fascinating walk, but above all a voyage in time. Not to be missed…
The Volkhov River that divides the town in two is also a watery highway where you can hire small boats that will take you down to the lake where you will discover even more romantic and magical aspects of this ancient city: tradition has it that a kiss exchanged on your first trip on the river will lead to exciting, highly promising if not magical adventures!!!
But magic is everywhere: in the long sunlit nights in June, when the sun goes down it lightly caresses the earth, turning the sky a magnificent theatrical red, sliding gracefully along the horizon from west to east, never sunset. Then it rises again with the new day, pale and wan as if overcome by its exploit!
The snow also falls on two very different occasions in Veliky Novgorod: quite naturally during the mild winters in the region – everybody knows that snow. But the other snow, the showers of pollen that fall from the city’s hundred’s of poplar – trees in June, will more than delight you.
Magic, surprise, romance, a very gentle way of life….there are the main attractions of this historic, very Russian city. It is only natural that UNESCO should class Veliky – Novgorod as part of our World Heritage. You too will count it as one of the most sublime cities you have ever visited.
THE NOVGOROD KREMLIN
The Kremlin, or Detinets as it was called in ancient times, was the nucleus and the heart of the town. The chronicles first mention it around 1044. Over the centuries, it became the religious, political and cultural centre of Novgorod Land. Rebuilt at the end of 15th C in order to improve the fortifications, the oval – shaped stone citadel is situated on the banks of the Volkhov. Its powerful medieval appearance still fascinated us. Of the original 13 towers, only 9 have survived. The highest, Kokui, is 41 meters (135ft) high. In ancient times, it served as a watch – tower. Today it is open to visitors throughout summer. From the top, one has a magnificent view over the city and the surrounding area. All Novgorod’s most famous sites are in the Kremlin. The tower itself is open from 10am to 6pm every day expect Mondays and Thursdays.
CATHEDRALE OF ST SOPHIA – THE WISDOM OF GOD
St. Sophia’s cathedrale is the oldest dressed stone church Russia, built in the Kremlin between 1045 – 1050 in the reign of Prince Vladimir. It has seen many historic events, in particular during the period when the town’s treasury was kept there. The vestry holds many beautiful silver and gold objects and some fascinating embroideries; it has a rich library of the ancient hand – written books in an upper gallery. One can still admire many 11th and 12th C frescos, including the unique “Constantine and Elena”, and the superb iconostasis (screen) with its numerous 15th to 17th C icons. The Cathedrale is adorned with 12th C bronze gates cast in Magdebourg, decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. It is open for services, but visitors are allowed daily from 2pm.
ST. SOPHIA’S BELFRY
First mentioned in the 15th C, it has been rebuilt many times and is now a mainly 17th C building. Its bells, cast in the 16th – 17th C are on display near the belfry. From the top there is a superb view of the opposite bank of the Volkhov and the southern outskirts of the town.
MONUMENT CELEBRATION RUSSIA'S MILLENIUM
Erected in 1862 to celebrate the Russian State’s firstthousand years in the heart of the Kremlin, it commemorates Veliky Novgorod’s important role and its impact in the creation of the Russian culture. Many major events and historic figures in Russian history are shown. The monument is crowned by the figure of a woman, symbolising Russia, kneeling before an angel who is diving her its blessing.
OLD RUSSIAN ICON – PAINTING
A fascinating collection of 11th C Russian icons can be seen on the first floor of the former court building in the Kremlin. It includes the oldest surviving Russian masterpiece, an 11th C icon of St Peter and St Paul. The pride of the collection are masterpieces by 12th C to 15th C icon – painters of Novgorod school. Open from 10.30 am to 6pm every day except Tuesdays and the last Thursday in every month.
ST GEORGE’S MONASTERY
Founded in the 12th C, at the point where the Volkhov River leaves Ilmen Lake, this monastery is in a superb natural site to the south of the town. The main church, St George’s Cathedral (1119), is a harmonious, well – proportioned building that seems to have been carved out of a single rock. It contains fragments of several 12th C frescoes. During World War II, the monastery was used as barracks by the Spanish Blue Division. Today it has returned to its original monastic life.
Vitoslavlisti, the Museum of Wooden Architecture, near St George’s Monastery, is a favorite spot for the people of the city. The museum’s name comes from a former village on the site which disappeared in the 19th C. A number of 16th to 19th C wooden buildings have been brought here from else where in the region, giving them a second life. They include churches, chapels, peasant houses, mills, barns…. The household utensils, dishes, furniture, tools, clothes, on display give visitors a good idea of the Novgorod peasants’ everyday life and work. Several annual festivals, during Svaytky (Shrovetide) and at Christmas – time, are held as are summer folklore and arts festivals, and the famous bell – ringing festival. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
It is situated in 132 km south – west from Veliky Novgorod at the Valdai Lake in the splendid picturesque location. To preserve the unique nature of the Valdai Hills the Valdai National Natural Park was created in 1990. It offers a wide range of tourist routes that give an opportunity to enjoy authentic natural scenery, architectural and historical sights. Valdai is the birthplace of the Russian rivers that flow from here to the Baltic sea and south to the Caspian sea. 300 lakes and rivers, the wonderful fishing, the hills covered with the pine forest, the granite boulders – the traces of the Ice age – to discover in Valdai!