June 30, 2010

Last night's vodka tasting was a lot of fun.  I think we were the only four from our bus group (#25) there, as I didn't recognize anybody, but this morning we have a nodding acquaintance with new people, especially this woman, who had more fun than anybody.  I don't know her name or where she's from but I'm betting Texas!

We were there to taste six different vodkas...

Gunter a member of the crew from Austria graciously showed us how to drink each type.

I don't drink much and took tiny sips of each kind, but threw most of it away.  I wanted to go to the tasting mainly for the ambience and to take photos!  We all agreed that the Diplomat was our favorite kind.  Nobody but me liked the Absolut Currant, but since I'm used to flavored vodkas from Cousins Days, I did kind of like it.  (I also liked the Ukrainian vodka, which was a brown color and flavored with chili pepper.)

Today was scheduled to be a restful day, with only one stop, in Yaroslavl, in the mid-afternoon.  We would take on fuel and water there, flush the tanks, and have a city tour, but most of the day was spent hanging around the ship, relaxing.  In the morning, Katherin led her daily exercises up on the Sunshine deck.  We watched.

After the exercise period, we had a fascinating lecture, by tour guide Victoria, on Gorbatchev and Perestroika.  She gives an excellent lecture and made me sad that I had not attended her previous lectures on Russian history and one special one on the Romanoffs.  Certainly got a look at Gorbatchev that I'd never had before, and learned what a tremendous change there was in the way of life of the Russian people at the end of the cold war.   It made a big difference hearing about it from someone old enough to remember it.

While the talk was going on, we were passing by a very picturesque area of the Volga, with tiny villages and lots of beautiful churches visible along the shore.

The afternoon's excursion was into the town of Yavaslavl, founded by a modest guy named Yavaslavl, in 1010. Our tour guide was Olga and she was excellent.  Another of those who knew Russia before and after Gorbatchev, she had many good things to say about the changes he brought about with the end of the Cold War.  The town is about to celebrate its 1000th birthday and so things have been spruced up or are being spruced up for the occasion.  There is supposed to be a huge celebration, though Olga sounds skeptical about how much that was promised is actually going to take place.

We visited the beautiful church of Elijah the Prophet...

This is another place where you must pay to take pictures, and we didn't, but the frescoes which cover every wall and ceiling were so spectacular, I had to sneak a photo from the camera, hidden inside my bum bag.

We had half an hour to stroll around the city center.  Walt went off to find an ATM and I stuck close to the town square and took pictures of people enjoying the big fountain, and also wandered around looking at the special displays that have been put up in preparation for the anniversary celebration.  These were two of my favorites...

While I was taking these pictures I got approached by a young guy who was tryijng to interview people about their thoughts of the display and Yaraslovl's 1000th anniversary.  We limped along in his not very good English and my non-existent Russian and I think we completed the interview.  Then I told him he had to let me take his photo.

We took a stroll along the promenade overlooking the river and found some guys practicing...something.  I'm not sure what!

And then we stopped at a museum to see (and for some people buy) some lacquer boxes.  This is "the" souvenir to bring home from Russia and the price is astronomical.  I found a box I liked that was "only" $338 (American)!!!

It was good to get back on the bus again and head for the ship.  I told Walt I was going to skip tomorrow's excursion to Uglich, but then I attended the day's briefing and it sounds like a fairly easy day and Uglich has "the biggest souvenir shop on the river."  Now how can I pass that up, even though I'm buying next to nothing.

So we are ending today's adventures and we'll see what tomorrow brings.  Right now I'm just happy that I seem to have a decent internet connection!


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