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The provincial capital – Nizhny Novgorod
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Wed 29 May ’13 – day 18  In Soviet times the city was called Gorky and was closed to foreigners; because of this the dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov was sent into internal exile here.

Before going down to breakfast I put out the sign saying that I had laundry to be collected and the when I returned to my room the maid had just picked up the bundle and we passed in the corridor.

I asked the receptionist for the address for either DHL or FedEx as I have more guidebooks and pamphlets to send home; she was not sure what I mean but gave me a map with two points marked on it – neither were any good.

The weather forecast was very good and I set off for the post office following the directions in my Lonely Planet guide; it was quite a distance, made worse by the very poor standard of the pavements and roads.  The buses that passed by looked very ropey and most had certainly seen much better days.

At the post office I used sign language to ask where the box for international mail was and it appeared that all mail goes in the same box.  Having put Great Britain in Cyrillic script on the first line of each address, I will now have to wait and see how long it takes the postcards to arrive, that is if they actually do.

While searching for the DHL office I came across an internet centre and with the help of an English speaking young lad who got me what I wanted, I was able to go online.  Here I have to pay for a set number of minutes before logging on.  I answered all my e-mails and sent a few giving an update on my progress and after a Google search I found an address for the DHL office.

Having walked some considerable distance I eventually found the DHL office but it was closed for lunch, so I set off back to the hotel to collect the things that I need to send home.  I missed my turning and so had to work out where I was, then to make things even worse it started raining and I hadn’t got my brolly with me.

When I finally arrived back at the hotel my feet were aching, my legs were sore and I was soaked, so I striped off and hung all the wet clothes over the (small) bath and then went to bed for an hour.

Feeling slightly better I put on dry clothes, packed what needs to go and then with my umbrella up set off to go back to the DHL office.  It took ¾ hour to walk there through the intermittent drizzle, but when I arrived the lady who spoke good English helped me to get all the paperwork completed and the items boxed up.  It cost over £100 but at least the package will get to its destination; the guidebooks advise that this is the way to send items out of the country as the Russian post office is very inefficient.  All the Russian companies, including Real Russia, send their mail this way.

Walking back from the DLH office I saw a sight that could sum up modern Russia; on one side of the road was the Armani store for the haves, and across the street was a wooden house which would be typical where the have not’s live.

I found a shop selling postcards which actually have a picture showing my hotel on them, so a buy ten to send to family and friends.

By the time I returned to the hotel I was covered in midge bites as the damp conditions and high humidity has allowed swarms of them to emerge.

It took ages to drop off to sleep and I have to make considerable efforts not to scratch the bites as they are everywhere.

Thu 30 May ’13 – day 19  I didn’t seem to have any sleep at all, but I awoke feeling refreshed and having showered and treated the bites sorted out the clothes that need to go to the laundry.

The dining room was full with people having breakfast and I just had three small pieces of bread with some cheese.

Once the laundry had been collected I set off for the post office to buy some stamps.  Unlike the UK, here the person at each counter only performs one function – whether it’s for paying bills, sending parcels etc and there is just one counter where I can buy stamps.  Having got what I needed and posted the cards I walked around to the internet office where I bought an hour’s on-line time.

I sent an e-mail to my sister advising her that a parcel is on its way with DHL and then asked my niece to send me a news update as it feels as if I am travelling in a black hole because I have no knowledge of what was happening outside my immediate vicinity.  Finally a long e-mail to Yuriy about arrangements later on my travels – I will await his reply.

It is hot, 28 degrees, as I set off for the local Kremlin; it’s well preserved and has lots of old military hardware on display.  There was also the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a sight that can be seen in virtually every city in the country.

  

There were good views over the Volga and the river station; from here boats ply their trade and can reach the sea to the north via Moscow and St Petersburg, then to the south the Caspian Sea.  In summer it is possible to take a cruise almost the whole length of this might river which at 3692km is the longest in Europe.

Outside the Kremlin was a monument to Valery Chkalov a Russian test pilot who was pioneered the polar air route from Europe to the American Pacific Coast when he made a 63-hour flight from Moscow to Vancouver, Washington State, United States via the North Pole in Jun 1937.

Private enterprise was alive and kicking because as there were no public toilets in the vicinity of the Kremlin an entrepreneur had located Porta-loos.

You can’t stop for an instant otherwise the midges would start biting.

I bought an ice cream, it’s not bad but took some time to consume was it is frozen solid.

The main shopping area was a pedestrian precinct and all the way along it were life-size sculptures of people dressed as they would have been around the time of the revolution.

     

Luckily the city centre has not been redeveloped and so lots of the older buildings are still in existence; this has ensured that the pedestrian precinct had a very pleasant facade.

 

I saw a poster that made me smile as one of my rugby colleagues was nicknamed ‘Hes’.

I stopped for a bite to eat even though I have not been particularly hungry on this trip; however the last thing that I had had to eat other than the bread and cheese for breakfast was a snack at lunchtime in Vladmir.  I ordered the local equivalent of a Chicken Caesar  and when it came the dressing was more like mayo that a proper sauce; the dark beer was pretty good but for dessert I was served the strangest Apple Strudel that I had ever had – it tasted OK but just looked weird.  A cappuccino completed the meal and I was full.

Like most Russian cities Nizhny Novgorod has a tram system and these ranged from the modern to the ancient.

Having strolled back to the hotel I paid for an extra nights night’s stay as my train does not depart until late tomorrow evening; this meant that I can leave my luggage in the room and have a shower before I set off for the station

I thought about going out to see if I had any e-mails but can’t be bothered; so I read up on Mongolia in the Lonely Planet guide and try and work out where I will be going on my trip around the country – some of the places are on my map, but others are not.

As soon as my head touches the pillow I went straight off to sleep so I must be tired.