That said, I've decided to start in the middle. In between Moscow and St Petersburg, we had a night in Pskov (and a night on a sleeper train getting there). It's not a big place and not a lot to see, but still quite beautiful and quite like I expected from non-big-city Russia. It felt a lot poorer than the big two, probably because it is.
We didn't just stay in Pskov, we also neared the Estonian border to take in the Pskov-Caves Monastery (real name Monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos) and a family's banya near by.
A random fact about the full day in Pskov - I got served tomato and cucumber salad four times that day! Four times!! Once for breakfast. Once for lunch Twice for dinner (entree and main). Not sure if I've mentioned it here but I'm not really a fan of fresh tomato or cucumber.
Here's some pics from this part of the trip...
Platform 3 for us - with our destination plastered along the side of the train.
And off to the Monastery. Churches and religious buildings in Russia were full of colour and bedazzling, unlike most of the rest of the architecture.
Banyas are the Russian version of a sauna. They're not as dry as a sauna, nor as moist as a steam room but they are amazing. You thrash each other with birch branches and they have that nice woody smell. We broke up our banya time with dips into this lake. I loved the contrast here - for as hot as the banya got, this was probably the coldest water I've ever swum in!!
Whilst not as glamourous or with as much to see as the big cities, I was really glad for this brief stay in country Russia. The banya was certainly the highlight. The tomato and cucumber salad was the lowlight.