Annie’s Escapes’ summer intern, Alissa, recently returned from spending a semester in Russia, and provides a guest blog about an intriguing destination that most Americans know little about:
When most people think of traveling to Russia, they automatically think of Moscow or St. Petersburg, but I would challenge everyone to think outside the box when it comes to Russia. In this case, what about a trip to Nizhny Novgorod?
The fourth largest city in Russia, Nizhny Novgorod is located right on the banks of the Volga River (perfect for a river cruise). The city is made up of two large regions, the Upper City and the Lower City, divided by the Oka River. It is said that the city is built on hills, and that it is. The Upper part is the oldest section of the city set up on a giant hill, where you can go to the embankment and see miles into the distance. The Lower City is newer and less expensive to live in, but still very historic. As a city, Nizhny offers more than 600 unique historic, architectural, and cultural monuments in the city, which gave UNESCO a reason to include it in its top 100 cities of the world which are of great cultural and historical value.
Wondering how to get there? The most exciting and cost effective way to get into Nizhny Novgorod is to fly into Moscow and take an overnight train into the city. This will enable you to add on a few days in Moscow if you so desire, and the overnight train is an efficient way to travel through Russia. For less time but a little more money, you can also fly right into the city, as it boasts a decent sized international airport.
Nizhny is a great walking city. I would recommend starting off at the Kremlin, a castle-like government center with interesting museums. There you will also find the “Eternal Flame,” as well as picturesque gardens. Then head down the main shopping street, Prokovskaya, where you can find all sorts of Russian and European delights, from souvenirs to the simply strange. At the end, loop around to the embankment, a system of walking paths which connect multiple parks overlooking the lower region. Be sure to bring your camera to capture breathtaking views of historic churches, monuments, and natural scenery.
Be sure to catch an inexpensive but brilliant ballet performance at the Nizhny Novgorod Opera and Ballet Theatre. You will surely be blown away by the talent. Afterwards go for dinner at “Eater,” a delicious Russian style buffet restaurant. You need to try the Borsch, which is signature savory red root soup.
Nizhny Novgorod is also within an hour’s drive of many wonderful sites. The town of Gorodets is known for handcrafting matrishka nesting dolls. You can get a tour of the fun and interactive Gorodets Cultural Museum, or walk down the historic streets featuring intricately carved wooden homes. The town of Chkalov is named after a world renowned Russian pilot who flew from Moscow to Vancouver via the North Pole. Check out this quaint village for its unique history, museums, and views of the Gorky Lake.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Nizhny Novgorod region multiple times, and hope to go back many more times.
– Alissa Graham