Tuesday May 21. The vessel set off about 2.30pm and sailed the Moscow Canal to Uglich. Our path was roughly northwards and we went through 6 locks on the way. These are much larger and deeper than the ones we experienced on the barge trip. They were reminiscent of the ones our freighter had to negotiate in Hamburg.
The ship is amazingly stable, quiet and smooth when we are underway, almost no sense of movement at all unless one looks out the window, yet we travel at a surprisingly fast rate.
On Wednesday we arrived at Uglich at 2pm. Shore parties set off to walk to the Kremlin, through town and turn right. CS and PP were a little surprised to see how run-down many of the town buildings were - particularly the houses, it seemed to us that needed resources may be lacking in small provincial towns. Our guide indicated that the town's main industry had been watch making but recently they have found that they cannot compete on price with Asian made equivalents and this depressed the local economy significantly. Now they rely on tourism. She told a joke about Kruschev saying to
Bell tower of the church is all that's above water since the reservoir lake was formed.
an American that Uglich watches were far better than Swiss and when asked why he replied, they are bigger - and faster! Boom boom.
The Kremlin is small and tidy, as they seem to be and contained the church built on the spilt blood of Ivan IV's youngest son, Dmitri. We were told about the controversy over how he met his end. Clearly the folk of Uglich never believed that he accidentally cut his own throat while having a fit and are firmly in the 'Godunov did it' camp.
Some people then went to a local home to meet the family there and try their home made vodka. CS and PP chose to explore the town instead.
The group was still having trouble securing tables in the dining room reasonably proximate to each other but Julia and the management tried very hard to be helpful. A table of 14 was out of the question but they made a close table into a six for us. We still had to be sure to have someone ready when the restaurant doors opened so we could nab that table. After dinner a number of
us adjourned to the sky bar to hear live music provided by Edgar and Marisa from the Philippines.
Next day we had an early start. The ship berthed in Yaroslavl at 8am and we were under way at 8.15 on our next excursion. Our group were bussed to some notable spots in the town, but when we returned to it we could not get in because it had been involved in a very minor accident and had to wait for the police officers who attended to sign off on the paper-work. Seemed like a lot of tra-la for a small scratch to the duco but one learns that things are often done another way than one's own, when travelling. We walked a way instead and dropped into the local covered market where ourMaitre d'Gunther, chef Thomas and Kathrin were located handing out tasty morsels of Russian produce. Everyone agreed the tomatoes marinated in strong garlic were fabulous. Fortunately ours was a big bus, when we got to it, and everyone had tried some tomatoes.
Yaroslavl has just celebrated its thousands year anniversary and it had been spruced up for the event. We note often
Entry to Uglich township
Running the gauntlet of the tourist "traps".
how proud the local guides are of their home towns and how they enjoy pointing out all the ways in which it excels over other Russian towns. The Cathedral had recently been rebuilt and was very clean and new. It was a lovely space and while the ubiquitous icons were on display the walls were largely left unadorned. There was a service happening so we got the chance to see what lies behind the iconasis.
A visit to the Governors house, which now functions as a museum saw us being met by a lovely young woman purporting to be the Governor's daughter. There were three of them in all and it took a while for some of us to realise they were actors set up for a show. Paintings, antiques and live music were appreciated in quick succession and some of us even got to dance a madrigal for fun. See PP treading the boards with one of the daughters.
Our next stop the following day was in Kuzino where we saw the Kirillov Belozersky Monastery. We were having half day excursions followed by sailing through each night. CS and PP and the others
all agreed the program was a good mix of activity and relaxation. While on board there were lectures on Russian history to attend and Russian language lessons. Everything was done in a most tasteful way. Ten points, Viking!
Before going to the Monastery we were highly entertained in a log house right by the dock by a thousand year old viking who showed us some Vagarian artefacts and dressed four of our number up as prince, princess, body guard and berserk, complete with bear skin mantle, all very good fun. We were to go to a kindergarten but when we arrived it became clear there had been a muck-up and we walked a short distance to a children's art centre instead. This centre is optional for children to attend on the other half of their week day when they are not in school. Apparently primary school children only go to school in the afternoon. We saw the kids at work, saw some of their art, had a concert performed for us by three 10 year old girls and basically took over the place for the time we were there. CS and PP both felt it was an
Inside the Kremlin
imposition for our big group to congregate in the small rooms and halls of the building but the kids and teachers did not seem to mind. We guessed it is a way for them to raise some much needed funds.
The Monastery was very large and impressive. The pictures can speak for themselves.
That was the shore excursion for Friday, 24 May - our Day 7. That afternoon we sailed from Kuzino at 1 pm. In the afternoon CS and others in our group attended the 'Russian Cuisine' session in the dining room. Lots of people came but the event was a bit 'ho hum'. We were given the recipe for Pelmini (a form of Russian dumpling) but the dough was already prepared by the chefs, rolled out to the required thickness and they cut out the rounds. The filing was also pre-prepared to the very basic recipe and our role was to practice shaping the dumplings so they could be boiled. Not one of the most exciting features of the tour. A lecture given by Victoria, one of our three boat-based guides, was, on the other hand, very interesting and informative on the
topic - Gorbachev and Perestroika. Alexey's lecture the following day on Putin, Medvedev and the Russian Economy was much less lively or thought provoking. Given the current circumstances in Russia Alexey could perhaps be forgiven for towing a party line but sadly we learned little about what things are really like in Putin's Russia for the ordinary person.
Another generous and tasty offering for dinner followed by music in the Sky Bar and a vodka tasting session which CS and PP decided to decline. Given many of our party attended and some suffered the consequences we were happy to hear their accounts, minus the headaches.
We had now sailed from Moscow through the Moscow Canal and into the Volga, followed the Volga to Uglich and then to Yaroslavl and back, into the Rybinsk Reservoir to Kuzino and on through the Volga-Baltic Waterway (an extended system of rivers, lakes and canals that link the Volga to the Baltic) and we were headed to our next destination - Kizhi - that charming little island at the north end of Lake Onega.
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