If your visit to Russia includes St. Petersburg only, you have to take into account, that it is the most European Russian city. It is no doubt unique, beautiful, and fantastic – there are no words to describe how fantastic, but we can not deny that it is Europe rather than Russia. It is also relatively young. If you want to see a real Russian city, a city with Russian architecture, Russian spirit and traditions, if you want to feel the atmosphere of ancient times – then the best place to go is Novgorod.
The name Novgorod means "New City", but today it's in fact one of the oldest Russian cities with the oldest Russian cathedral on the territory of our country. This cathedral – St. Sophia, which of course bares some links to St. Sophia in Constantinople, strikes everyone by its very special kind of beauty – simple and strong, with its own inner energy and power. It has perfect proportions and bares some kind of ancient spirit and something very Russian in the appearance. When you enter the cathedral (it's in operation now), you find yourself in the 12th -14th centuries and you will be really shocked by the images of Russian saints literally watching you from the walls.
The History of Novgorod is very rich and tragic, and you will hear a lot of stories about it from your guide, who will no doubt mention the most famous and really unique thing about Novgorod – they used to have a republic in the 12th -14th centuries! At that time the citizens invited princes to rule them but those princes could be dismissed by the so called "veche" – a kind of ancient parliament. Nowhere else in Russia anything a bit like that ever happened.
The tour to Novgorod will take the whole day. We will start our way from your hotel at 7am or 7.30am and by 11am we will be in the centre of Novgorod. After a quick breakfast or just tea we start our tour program which includes:
- the tour of the Novgorod Kremlin including the monument to the Millennium of Russia and a visit to St. Sophia cathedral;
- a walk around the Market side of the city, where you will see many churches dating back to the 12th -14th centuries, which were commissioned by merchants;
- Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior on Ilina Street, a real masterpiece of the 14th century architecture. Inside this church you can see the only surviving frescoes painted by the legendary Byzantine painter Theophanes the Greek*;
- visit to Folk Art Center, were artists themselves conduct a tour for you around one or several workshops, or you can order a master class of one of the arts**;
- lunch time;
- Yuriev monastery and its main church – the St. George cathedral (12th century). This monastery was both – a monastery and a fortress – so the cathedral looks very unusual, combining elements of church traditions with severe, military like features in its architecture;
- Museum of Wooden Architecture "Vitoslavlitsy". It is a museum under the open sky, where authentic Russian wooden buildings dating back to the 16th-19th centuries are displayed. You will have a chance to go inside a real Russian "isba" – a Russian peasant log house- and get an impression of the lifestyle and traditions of the 18th-19th century Russian peasants. You will also see several wooden churches from this area and a windmill. After so many magnificent and aristocratic palaces in St. Petersburg it will be so nice to feel the real life of an ordinary Russian peasant for a change.
We will leave Novgorod about 5pm and will be back at your hotel by 9pm. We may also include lunch at your request.
You can find more information about Novgorod here.
* When it rains or the weather is just bad, this church is closed and then we can visit the Holy Sign Cathedral which is nearby and which also has very interesting decoration inside.
** It's optional but highly recommended! You will not only enjoy creating items with your own hands but also get an unforgettable experience from communicating with artists from Novgorod.