July 4, 2010

This will be my last entry from this cruise, and it's going to be pretty boring.  Sorry. 

My cold hit hard last night, finally taking that inevitable plunge into my chest, which I'd hoped to avoid until I got home.  After all these days, I finally found a way to sleep comfortably, cradling a long pillow in my arms like a baby, which somehow must align all the vertebrae in my spine in such a way that I could actually sleep.

Except I couldn't because of the hacking cough.  I got more sleep than I had on other nights, but by morning, feeling like death warmed over, I decided to skip the tour of the Kremlin this afternoon.

I'm already the slowest in any group and gasp for breath trying to keep up.  With diminished lung capacity and feeling like crap anyway, it would only make matters worse.  Walt would enjoy the trip more if he weren't worrying about me.  The only thing I feel bad about is missing the Faberge eggs, which had been removed from the Catherine Palace, and are stored in the Armory at the Kremlin (which we took as an optional additional tour), but Char promised to take pictures.

So that's my day today.  Sitting on the ship again, coughing, sleeping, eating, and packing.  We leave for the airport at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow and have a plane change at JFK and should be back in SF around 9 p.m.  We are driving Mike and Char home and then spending the night at their house to avoid having to drive all the way back to Davis so late.  I am looking forward to getting into my recliner and being covered with dogs.  I will probably actually skip a journal entry because of being in transit for so long.

So.  It's over.  Just about.  Just a few more meals to stuff in and then we are on our own again.  In all the time leading up to this cruise, I was concerned about my ability to handle everything.  Still thinking about France/Italy and Ian, I was afraid this would be a repeat.  But in actuality there was only one day that was like that, the day at the Catherine Palace where we lost Marina.  Basically, I've lagged behind, but not embarrassingly so.

What am I taking away from this trip?  Victoria read a hilarious supposedly real blog about someone's experiences on another cruise which essentially said, for each day, that they had seen a 14th century cathedral, a Kremlin that had been attacked by Tartars, and a huge statue of Lenin.  We all laughed a lot because it does kind of feel like that.  Ho hum...another golden dome, another huge statue of Lenin.  Maybe if you live in one of the original 13 US colonies that have a Revolutionary heritage or in states that fought in the Civil War you can relate to all the emphasis on battles and war heroes and monuments better than if you live out west, where our heroes found gold or founded industrial empires or lead scandalous lives (or all three).

The statue on the right is of Peter the Great, the Navigator.  Victoria said the story goes that the sculptor intended it to be of Christopher Columbus but then Portugal didn't want it, so they put on a new head on the body and gave it to Russia as a statue of Peter the great (Moscovites call it "Peter Columbus").  It is at the same time impressive (Peter was apparently 6'8" and the figure here is far taller than that), and silly.  It looks like something from the warehouse at Universal Studios and stands in the middle of the river, near Gorky Park, surrounded by fountains.

The Russians we have encountered seem fiercely proud of their heritage and, depending on their age, somewhat conflicted about Soviet times vs. modern times.  There were things they had under Soviet rule that they miss (free health care, for example) and things today that they are glad to have (tourism, for one!) and things about Soviet times that they don't miss at all...living conditions for one!

I also think that Americans could adopt a Russian way of raising a bit of money to keep some of our arts institutes going.  Though I don't like having to pay to take photos in a church or a museum, what a wonderful way to get a bit of income.  It's not a lot--something like about $1.50--and a lot of people are willing to pay that in order to use cameras in the place.  Of course you then have to hire retirees to watch to make sure that people aren't taking pictures illegally, but in smaller places this might be a good idea (they don't charge in the larger museums, just the smaller ones...I'm still kicking myself for not buying permission at the church in Yaroslavl, which was spectacular).

It has also been interesting to listen to lectures on recent Russian history and realize that we are probably more alike than we like to admit.  According to the people we have spoken with, Gorbachev accomplished great things for the Russian people, but not without a lot of pain in the process, very similar to what Obama is going through right now.

Viking has a videographer, Anatoly, who comes along and films your cruise.  We saw part of the video on talent show night the other night and I saw the rest of it on the in-room cable TV channel.  We have purchased the video as a good memory of our trip, but I'm disappointed by several things.  People in our group do not appear in the video at all.  The four of us do because we went to the vodka tasting, but if we had not, we would not be in the video.  He seemed to concentrate on two or three buses, and never got around to us, which doesn't seem fair.

Also, the part I was most looking forward to seeing, my favorite part of the trip, Kihzi Island wasn't videoed at all.  I don't know what happened.  You see all the historic things on the island, but it's all stock footage.  Even the shots of the sky are wrong because it shows the sun shining through grey clouds and we had a sunny, clear, cloudless day.  You don't see ANY passengers, except at a distance,

But these are minor points.  What we bought the video for was to remember the places we visited and the things we saw and it does that beautifully.

I'm sure there will be another cruise, possibly even with Viking, in our future.  There is talk of China.  But that is not for this year, or next year.  However, overall the experience of traveling with Viking has been pleasant enough that I would do it again, if we can afford it.

But I want to see my dogs now, please.  And start watching all the TV shows that were recorded in our absence!


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