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Pole to Pole

Day 32: Novgorod to Dno

Novgorod, USSR 
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The Russian Kissing Dance - not recommended after crayfish and vodka.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt appears that Novgorod has not been altogether faithful to Watford, for when I go to inspect the silver birch tree planted on 9 September 1983 to symbolize the accord between the two great cities, I find the place positively littered with tokens of friendship. There are trees from Nanterre and Bielefeld, Uusikau Punki in Finland and Rochester in New York.

The ceremony is to be held outdoors, in the most prominent part of old Novgorod, with the domes of Saint Sofia rising behind. A folk group has turned out and a bulky but impressive sound system has been erected and tested. I am wearing a jacket and tie, for the first time on the journey, and clutching the Watford glass decanter inscribed 'Presented to the People of Novgorod, August 1991'. The only element missing is the Mayor of Novgorod. A couple of lads with hands in their pockets observe our discomfiture with polite interest. It turns out that one of these lads is the Mayor of Novgorod.

He delivers a shirt-sleeved speech in fluent English, extols the benefits of free enterprise in Novgorod and hands over a beautiful but delicate ceramic dish, which will be lucky to reach Kiev in one piece, let alone Watford. He then goes back to running his city, leaving me with the athletic folk group, who are anxious to involve me in a Russian Kissing Dance. This is a particularly frenetic activity for which a jacket and tie and a set of loose bowels are not helpful.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 32
  • Country/sea: USSR
  • Place: Novgorod
  • Book page no: 70

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