A non-skiing post, since I'm no longer on sabbatical.
However, I am just back from Nizhny Novgorod (AFAICS the editor here does a good job of transliteration from phonetic English to Cyrillic) It was a bit of a shock coming from lovely, sunny, 15C weather in Bristol to 2-3C with rain and lots of piles of snow in Nizhny.
Here's a panorama of the Волга (Volga) as seen from close to our hotel. Note that the river is still partially iced over. I didn't see any Volga boatmen, but did see the hovercraft that acts as a ferry . It seems a sane way of coping with mixed ice and water.
|Panorama of the Volga looking north-ish from Nizhny.|
I was hardly immersed in Russian, but you do soon get your eye in for the Cyrillic, and then you start to recognise lots of French, German and even English words... "СТОП" (STOP), "РЕСТАУРАН" (RESTAURAN), "ФРУТТИ ДИ МАРЕ" (FRUTTI DI МАRЕ), "ЭТАЖ" (ETAGE, as on lift signs etc.) Going round with Arch Robison, who had taken the time to actually learn the script first, meant we could also read the sign for "Стриптиз"(which we didn't sample!)
|The church across the square from our hotel|
The snow melted significantly during the week I was in Nizhny, and there was even some sun at the end of the week (even if a black cloud then came over and it snowed).
The central pedestrian shopping street in Nizhny has lots of global brands, which can be confusing. Arch had trouble with the "Ecco"shoe store since he thought it was in Cyrillic. There was even an Аксессориз.
There's an interesting mix of completely run-down buildings, some still wooden (or, at least, pretending to be), restored old buildings and completely modern ones.
|Nizhny region branch of the state bank|
When Nizhny was Gorky it was a closed city, and Sakharov was exiled there; his house is now a museum (Nizhny Museums).
It's a real pity that obtaining permission to go to Russia is still so hard. If it was made trivial, then I could see Ryanair and EasyJet flying there.