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Romantic Journeys

Novgorod, one of Russia’s Oldest Cities

The world truly is getting smaller. Finding a romantic place to journey which is really going to have your friends and family on the edge of their chairs during the telling, is getting more difficult every year. Our jaded neighbours and relatives have seen it all. Or have they? The traveller should be prepared to view monasteries and churches, but also be historically receptive.

Church of St. John the Baptist

Close enough to St. Petersburg to make the side trip worthwhile, Novgorod lies right in the middle of what is sometimes called White Russia. Often referred to as the cradle of Russian culture, it is the gateway to the East. Novgorod is one of Russia’s oldest cities, and developed into an important centre in the 11th century, embracing both sides of the River Volkhov, with the Cathedral of Sophia on the left bank and the trading quarter on the right. The Volkhov is discharged from Lake Llmen, four miles away, and this region has some recent historical significance, as do the Valdai Heights. Here battles were fought in the Second World War. The soldiers who survived the first Russian winter were given a medal; nicknamed the ‘frozen meat” medal. It came with a ribbon; a thin black stripe in the middle, then a bit of white to the right and left. The German infantry invented a jingle about it which roughly translates: “Black is the runway, white are the snows, and right and left the Red Army grows”.

St. Sophia’s belfry

Today, Novgorod is a medium sized industrial town. It was at one time the main commercial port for lynx and sable furs, beeswax, timber, grain, hunting falcons, and walrus ivory. Now machines, electronic equipment, furniture and glassware are manufactured here.

The church of St Sophia is topped with five domes, and the west portal is famous for its Novgorod bronze door, which was made in Magdeburg, Germany in the middle of the 12th century. It consists of a number of bronze panels divided into twenty six sections with scenes of the Old Testament and the life of Christ in bold relief.

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