Velikiy Novgorod – May 10

I slept until noon, and could have easily gone on for a couple of hours more, if it wasn’t for Roodzji (the red cat) who exhorted me to get up by purring loudly into my ear and playfully biting my finger. After a small brunch that Margo and Sacha had made, we introduced them to some Brecht&Jules style coffee, which they surprisingly seemed to like.

Last night Sasha hadn’t been sleeping for over 24 hours, so he looked a bit grumpy. But this morning we caught him actually smiling occasionally. (Russians occasionally smiling are actually euphoric.) He told us that Avtostop wouldn’t work in Russia, that he tried it himself once and he had been standing by the side of the road for several hours before he finally decided to take the bus. He told us that if we were up for a real adventure, we should come back to Russia this summer and join them on their yearly hiking trip in the Mountains to the North.

Sasha had to leave for work so we were alone with Margarita again. I was a bit afraid that it would be hard to communicate, because she had let other people translate most of what we were saying up until this point. But it turned out that, now that there was no-one to help her, she had almost no trouble expressing herself and we had some interesting conversations during the private tour she took us on. Margo turned out to be a very open minded girl. We walked past some places she had designed, had a quick walk trough the historic center of Velikiy Novgorod, and finally we took the bus to Vitoslavlitsy. The bus ride there was interesting because we drove trough the swampy suburbs of the city. Most of the decayed wooded houses still showed the remains of beautiful detailed decorations, indicating that this must have been a wealthy district long ago. We drove past a large rickety graveyard before the bus stopped at Vitoslavlitsy; a wonderful open air museum where they had rebuilt the original houses and churches of Novgorod throughout the ages. We could go in the houses and see how people lived in Russia, over 500 years ago. It was thanks to Margarita that we had the opportunity to see this park, that any other European tourist would have missed without doubt.

When we got back, Brecht and me proposed to treat Sacha and Margo for dinner. Lena and Tanja, two of their friends, also joined us and we visited an Italian restaurant with some very delicious pizza’s.

On our way back, we indicated that we wanted to go to bed, so we wouldn’t have to try and hitchhike trough another hangover day. Margo, Lena and Tanja decided to go for a walk and Sasha joined us on the way home. “Now, let’s get drunk!” he said. We told him we were serious about going to bed early, but he didn’t want to hear about that. He knew a Russian trick to not get a hangover: after being completely wasted and right before you go to bed we should eat 8 pieces of charcoal and drink half a liter of water each. He claimed the charcoal would clean the body from all toxins while you are asleep. We weren’t really fond of that idea, and after some more arguing and acting like we were two pussies, Sasha finally gave in.

Back home, he talked some more about their hiking adventures and he again expressed his hope that I would join them next year. He explained we should go in the end of July if we wanted to see the midnight sun, that he would take care of all the necessary equipment and that we would need to make fire regularly to keep bears away. He also claimed the cheapest way to travel from Velikiy Novgorod to the mountains was with a company that flew exclusively with old sovjet planes. I told him I’d think about it.