June 27, 2010
When I fell asleep last night, the ship was stopped, waiting for the drawbridge to open. When I woke up this morning we had not only passed into the Ladoga river (largest on the continent of Europe--and pronounced by our tour guide as LA-doh-ga, and by our Program Director as la-DOH-ga, so your guess is as good as mine!), but we were approaching the end of the lake and going into the Svir River. As expected, there was no internet access.
It was a relaxing morning with talks and classes. This poor guy (Misha) started to give us an overview of the territory and history of Russia, but had to sit down because he wasn't feeling well and when he moaned and put his head in his hands, we convinced him to postpone the lecture!
Maria, another of the tour guides, however, had better luck with her guide to Russian souvenirs and how to know what you are getting and what you should expect to pay (not really important information for someone with no credit card, of course!)
Around lunch time, we came to the first lock, where we would rise 12 meters up from one level of the river to another. So cool...and so different from when we did locks in England a few years ago.
On the left is entering the lock. On the right is
same view from the other side of the ship,
Fifteen minutes after we were on the lake, we docked in Mandrogy. When passengers get off the ship, we have to turn in our key cards and get a kind of a pass to take with us. Some people are so incredibly rude. Just as we docked, a woman, who is leaving the tour one day early (July 3, I believe) came to the desk and tied up the time of the only person at the desk for at least 15 minutes while 200 passengers lined up behind her trying to turn in their key cards. She wanted to know where her connecting flight would be, how she would get to the airport, would they call her a cab...? The Program Director saw the problem, ran over, and started handing out passes and I got out of there as quickly as I could but when I left the ship, this one woman was STILL monopolizing the clerk's time and people were still lining up to get their passes. Sheesh!
Mandrogy is supposedly a village where they keep the old Russian crafts alive. Lots and lots and lots of metrushka dolls! In reality, one of the passengers, Jimmy, got it right when he started taking video and whistling "It's a Small World" as background music. All that was missing were the cute little characters to take pictures with the tourists.
Instead there were quaint villagers dressed in quaint costumes in quaint little shops doing the old handcrafts for the shops where tourists can buy them for big bucks. The problem is that Russians don't do "cute quaint" very well. Mostly they seem to do "surly quaint," which doesn't mean they aren't talented or that their wares aren't gorgeous, but only that you feel like you're bothering them if you stop to watch or take a picture. I don't think I saw a one of them smile.
And I swear they sent in a call from central casting to get locals to show up to eat in an open air gathering place and listen to Russian music so the tourists would think they were watching quaint little villagers doing what they would have been doing in the old days.
(also several of the crew of the ship got off and played volleyball on the playing field...and I wondered if that was part of their job description, to provide a bit of local color, too!)
My problem is that I grew up in California around show biz people and I think in terms of Disneyland and movie production and things like Central Casting, I guess!!
We did visit the Vodka museum, however, so I could tell my mother that we had done it, though there will be a vodka tasting at some point on the trip. Don't know when yet. Doesn't everyone think of "Mom" when they see displays of vodka?
And we managed to do our share of shopping. We weren't looking for craft but more crap and found that in abundance.
This was a 3 hour stop, but I think most of us were back on the ship in 2 hours and ready to take off back up the Svir River. It was such a beautiful trip. Down farther on the river we had passed lots of housing settlements and lots of people living, playing and fishing on the shore, or just off of it. Now we were getting into the wilderness and it looked like this for mile after mile after mile (still does, in fact, as I write this...)
We were remembering when land in our own country looked this beautiful and unspoiled for so many miles.
We had a lesson in Russian this afternoon and then a fabulous roast leg of lamb dinner, preceded by a shrimp cocktail with cognac which was unbelievable, and followed by creme caramel (the next best thing to creme brulee). We went through another lock during dinner, which raised us up another 14 meters. When we wake up, we will be on Lake Onega.
Tonight we are choosing our optional tours in Moscow because we have to sign up for at least one of them tonight.
Tomorrow we dock at the town of Kizhi at 8 a.m. and start our walking tour to the Church of the Transfiguration, a wooden church which was built entirely by one guy, who used only one tool, and not a single nail. It's supposed to be spectacular. I don't have a clue whether there will be internet service there or not, so again I don't have a clue when this will get posted. I just know it won't be tonight! But I have not regretted for one single second bringing this computer with me!
As I get ready to get into bed (but probably not to sleep for awhile, it is 10 p.m. We are farther north here than we were in Helsinki and this is what it looks like outside our window this very minute.
Notice how high the sun is--above the top of