Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sleeping district

Have you ever fallen in love with a place before you'd been there? That's how I felt about Nizhny Novgorod- I loved the city for years, just from the sound of its name. (All those consonants!) I would read on the internet about how the Oka river divides the city into two parts, how a Kremlin of red bricks is perched on a hill above the Oka, and just how awesome the place was in general.

This city was actually our original destination. D got a job offer at Intel in 2010 and I startled hustling, calling up random English schools on Skype for interviews. For a brief moment, it looked like everything was going to come together... and then it all fell apart. It was a huge disappointment at the time, but we moved to beautiful Kharkiv a year later.

Nizhny Novgorod had always been in the back of my mind since then. I love Kharkiv, and Nizhny seemed so similiar- a large city with lots of universities, strong IT presence, factories with military ties. How could this not be a magical romance?

You can probably guess where this is going. A match on paper is one thing, but in the end, we haven't "clicked". It's still SUPER SUPER COOL to be here, but it means this love story I dreamed up is coming to an end. There is one special part of town, though, that I want to share with you.

Sveta planned an afternoon for us in her neighborhood. There's not much free time in the program here, and most of our school activities are on the upper side of the river. Going to Sveta's place was the first time I'd crossed to the lower side since that airport ride with Anatoliy. People put out a vibe that the upper side is the "better" side... which may be why a lot of the excursions are held on this side... but I'm totally digging the lower side of the city. It felt much more like home. Take a look and see what you think-

The "snack" at Sveta's apartment.
The Church of Our Lady of Smolensk + Church of Our Lady of Vladimir. #171 out of 261 things to do in this city on Trip Advisor!
We saw a dog watching us from one of the top windows here.

It was evening already. Crowded marshrutkas loaded and unloaded passengers. People brushed past us on their way home, or stopped at a kiosk to buy vegetables. The Russian term for these residential areas is спальный район, sleeping district, and I like this part of the city way more than its much-advertised downtown.

We walked to a main road. In the distance were two huge structures- the Seventh Heaven shopping mall and, across the street, the new stadium being built for the upcoming 2018 FIFA tournament.

Behind the shopping mall is exactly what you'd expect to find behind a Russian shopping mall. (Right?) This.

It was a 2015 gift from Hungary to the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Sveta told me that the governor tried to have the statue removed, since he felt it looked too much like him. You can be the judge of that.

Our walk ended then, because I'm a wimp and I had to take a marshrutka back alone in the dark. But this part of the city stayed in my heart. There's absolutely nothing fancy about it, yet it's so my kind of place. And I haven't seen a single English language school here except for one Oxford school downtown, so maybe that's good/bad for work possibilities. Now I'm stuck back on the upper side of the city, but what felt like un-love at first sight is more of a you're-kind-of-cute-after-all.


  1. Aw. I hope I don't have high expectations for NN. I really want to visit.

    I love how the governor himself thought it looked like him. I think it sort of resembles him but the nose is too big. It reminds me of that statue in Seattle.

    Do you have 2GIS? It's a life saver in Russia!

    1. Haha, you are so talking to the wrong person ;) I finally got a smartphone for coming here, but it rejects all Russian sim cards so it's nothing more than a temperamental camera. But I did see this 2GIS thing on someone else's phone. It lets you get directions offline, right? That sounds like a very smart move. It feels like tech is moving so fast now and I can't keep up! :p I'm still walking around with a hand-drawn map and asking people for directions.