Nizhni Novgorod, 12.06.2019
Today I woke up late and decided to grab a coffee on my way to see the Kremlin of Nizhni Novgorod, hoping to see a bit of the old city center too. Last night I had reached the city after sundown. The Soviet suburbs were a bit rough compared to the Golden Ring experience, and I barely managed to grab a steakburger in black bread (interesting combo) in the last open restaurant I found near the hotel, before they shut down the place. Burgers seem to be a thing in Russia right now.
At the coffee bar the girl taking my order read a few questions in English from Google translate on her phone, and I managed to explain the basics (where I’m from, where I go, what I want – coffee). Reaching the Kremlin shortly afterwards I noticed a lot of people on the streets, kids playing in a small park in front of the Kremlin. A lone protester held a big placard, on which I read in Cyrillic only “Putin” and “reforms”, and he was being recorded by a friend while standing in front of the Kremlin, nobody paying attention. Once inside the citadel, I noticed a whole display of tanks, artillery, a plane and a submarine turret, on which kids were happily playing as if this was the most obvious thing to do. Nearby the souvenir stands sold wooden pistols and machine-guns, apart from the more usual stuff. Further towards the Volga river, past the building of the Soviet communist party (the tourist map of the Kremlin still described it that way), a huge memorial to the WWII heroes with an eternal flame and a T-34 tank overlooked the river. As I’m getting used to the same setting in different size, depending on the village or city it’s in, I left, as there wasn’t much else to see.
Walking down Alekseevskaya street, the crowd got even bigger. I sat down for a quick lunch, when suddenly a group of people started coming around the corner holding a big Russian flag, several meters wide, and without an end. As more and more people, in folklore dresses kept coming, the flag became a huge thing being carried down in a procession on the main street through the old town. Then a military band started to follow, playing music, followed by more bands, each playing a different tune. The whole procession lasted over half an hour and occupied the entire street. I asked the waitress what was happening. “Russia day.”