The bus from St Petersburg
arrived in Pskov by simply becoming part of the traffic on the main street, where the flow was not very heavy but it was Constant. Before our heroes realised the situation the bus had gone well past where they should have alighted. The driver agreed to drop them at a place where it was convenient to find a taxi. They crossed the main road to a parking area where two taxis were waiting. The driver of the first grabbed their bags and shoved them in the front seat. He indicated that both should get in the back seat from the right side. Boris slid across, but had to climb over a large 12 volt battery to get seated. The driver went about trying to start the vehicle. Boris had illusions of him getting out and hitting the engine in strategic places with a large hammer or an oversized shifting spanner. Finally the engine farted and all were on their way.
While Boris has illusions of speaking Russian, the driver could not comprehend any description of the hotel or the street. It is strange that the hotel name is only in English – The Old Estate Hotel & Spa.
Finally the driver was shown the phone number and he rang the hotel for instructions. Soon he was a happy fellow and switched from confused taxist to a tourism salesman selling the virtues and talking endlessly about the sights of Pskov. The fare was 150 rubles. Boris and Timofei were surprised they had not been ripped off.
At dinner that night our heroes were the only patrons in the hotel restaurant. Perhaps all of Pskov had known Timofei and Boris would be present and it was wise to stay away. The meal ended with a grand cheese platter. It consisted of an aged cheddar, something like an edam, a camembert and a blue brie – it was definitely blue and definitely soft. Some were skewered with plastic toothpicks. With the cheeses were nuts and fruits. The waiter, Denis, explained an exotic fruit, appearing to be an orange gooseberry, was a physalis. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physalis)
Denis tried his best in all things. He was a pleasant fellow. And he
struggled a little with Timofei’s English and marginally less with Boris’
After breakfast (there were two other people in the restaurant) on the
following, the duo checked out of the hotel and proceeded to find the
landmarks in the town of Pskov. The Mirozhsky Monastery was illusive and according to Timofei would be just around the next corner. Alas it was not. His compass was broken. (It was at the other end of town, in the
Thankfully the Krom (old kremlin in Pskov) was obvious and easier to find. It is situated in a manicured park, across a creek, and beside the Velikaya (Great) River. It provided good defences in the past, especially against the Teutonic Knights. Restoration works had commenced in 1952 and are continuing. Timofei
had to tell Boris that 1952 was the year, not the hour. Boris remarked that they had not done much. Some people!
The duo made their way around the grounds of the Krom and up onto the battlements. At the kremlin office, Boris made enquiries about a toilet, and was pointed to the kino theatre next door.
For the sum of 20 rubles, he could make use of a half-height cubicle, affording no privacy, nor protection from Timofei’s camera.
Upon completion of their duties, they made their way to a cafe, where tea could be bought for 40 rubles.
After the comfort of the pause, and being entertained by an Italian movie dubbed into Russian, and without need of dialog, they left to explore the town further, especially across the River Velikaya. They saw shopping centres, specialty shops, strangely decorated cafes, churches and more churches, and a post office where it was not possible to get any service. They had roamed far and needed to get a bus back.
Boris alarmed an old woman when he asked which bus they could catch to Ploshad Lenina. Finally a No. 17 arrived, an everyone with the aid of elbows got on the bus. The woman ticket collector advised that Ploshad Lenina would be three stops, and the fare was 18 rubles each. When the bus lurched to a halt at the next stop, the ticket collector advised that it was two further. A Russian paratroop sergeant, dressed in camouflage uniform but displaying all insignia as well as wearing a tightly fitting powder blue beret, standing at the back, observed Boris and Timofei with suspicion. Little did he know that his suspicions were well-founded.
At the bridge over the Velikaya, the bus waited for sometime. However, the paratrooper has made his way through the crowd, and he was adjacent to the exit door. The ticket collector advised that is was next stop. The bus came to a stop opposite Ploshad Lenina. The paratrooper was first off and then waited at the pedestrian crossing for the lights to change, and then made it to the bus stop with more time to wait.
Boris and Timofei leisurely returned to the hotel, stopping occasionally to look at archeological digs or burned out buildings.
They had time to kill.