The mayor of the Soviet city of Novgorod caught his first glimpse of American life, its people and especially those odd-looking creatures that seem to populate its sidewalks.

"What is this yellow pump?" Alexander Alexandrovich Buzin asked through an interpreter."A fire hydrant," replied the tour guide with a smile on his face.

For Buzin, a Communist Party member who has been mayor since 1987, there were endless mysteries to unravel Saturday in Novgorod's sister city in the United States - Rochester, N.Y.

Between stops, he plunged into a barrage of questions. Who cleans the streets? How many private cars are there in Rochester? Are they registered with the police?

The arrival of Buzin and two other Novgorod residents marked the culmination of more than a year of correspondence between residents of the two cities. The Soviet delegation was greeted at the Rochester airport Friday by Mayor Thomas P. Ryan Jr., who extended an invitation to the Novgorod residents in February 1988.

"I hope they will see what America is really like," said tour guide Gene Oliver. "Over the years, there have been so many lies told to them. They need to see it like it is."