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4 September 2013

I reach a point on every cruise we have ever taken when I look out the window of our stateroom and think to myself, "my God, I'm in XXX!"  I got to that point this morning, looking at the shore line.  Holy cow, I'm in Ukraine!

It was very windy, though, and I took this windblown "selfie" trying to walk around the deck and not be blown over.

I decided today that if someone is bored on a Viking cruise, it is their own fault.  I took a nap after breakfast (becoming a regular thing, it seems!) while Walt was out on deck taking pictures of the last lock we will encounter on this trip, since we are now moving onto the Black Sea.

Walt said he thought the captain was never going to get the ship into that lock because it was so narrow, the wind gusts were strong, and there were several unsuccessful attempts before he finally got it in straight.

At 10 this morning, there was a lecture on the early history of Ukraine, up until 1991, when it became an independent country for the first time.  Fascinating stuff, but I'm glad there was no test.  I kind of stopped paying attention when she was talking about Ivan Mazepa, Cossack Hetman of the Hetmanate in Left-bank Ukraine, from 16871708, the Prince of the Holy Roman Empire 1707-1709. He was famous as a patron of the arts, and also played an important role in the Battle of Poltava where after learning of Peter I's intent to relieve him as acting Hetman of Ukraine and replace him with Alexander Menshikov, he deserted his army and sided with Charles of Sweden. The politicization of this desertion has held a lasting legacy in both Russian and Ukrainian national history. Because of this, the Russian Orthodox Church has laid an anathema on his name since the beginning of the 18th century and refuses to renounce to this day. Everyone who opposed the Russian government in eighteenth-century Ukraine were derogatorily referred to as Mazepintsy (Mazepists).

However, I couldn't stop remembering that Mazeppa was one of the three strippers in Gypsy. We all have our own little points of interest!!

After the lecture there was a Q&A with the ship's captain, answering everything you ever wanted to know about the Viking Lomonosov.  I wasn't interested, so I went and took another nap.  But I got up in time for the talk about Ukrainian food, given by our program director, Alyona.

This was followed by a Ukrainian food tasting.  There was enough to food us all twice over.

Alyona was even there to entertain us as well.

We were going to be docking in the town of Kherson, where we would take a 3 hour tour.  But I had another 45 minutes to take another nap.

Two hours into the tour, I was getting the feeling that the tour guides had been told to get us off the ship for 3 hours and they had all that time to fill.  Three hours touring Kherson is like 3 hours touring Davis.  It was explained that this was a typical Ukrainian village of today, unlike Kiev or Odessa, which are big cities.  In Kherson, a lot of industry is no longer there.  No money for gas, so no gas-operated businesses (like transporting barges on the river, for example).  No money for gas, so few cars on the streets. No money for upkeep, so things are all just kind of tired looking.  We stopped in one park and a man from England on our bus came back saying "we have parks where I live too, but they have grass in them!"  Char took a picture of what she described as the saddest playground she'd ever seen.

We did stop at a place where craftspeople sold their crafts.  Very nice hand work, but they displayed it kind of out on an open field.

I asked Alla, our tour guide, what they did when there are no boats in port and she said they go home and make more hand crafted goods.  I bought myself a painting I liked and another painting for someone else.  I also got a nice table runner for my mother's dining room table from this lady.

She had some lovely hand embroidered dresses which I considered buying for the girls, but I had the idea they might wear them once for a photo and then never again and they were too expensive for that, so I didn't buy any.  But you wanted to support these artisans because their work is lovely and they obviously need the money.

We stopped at the Kherson Cathedral, where Potemkin is buried.  I learned he and Catherine the Great were lovers at one time.  Biographers disagree on whether they were married or not.  But when he died, he was buried in the cathedral, and his grave sits opposite the throne where Catherine sat when she paid a visit to the cathedral.

The cathedral was filled with lovely icons, statues, windows, etc., but we never did figure out what this meant!

Out in the garden were a few more artisans and a couple playing the bandura and the flute.  I've been waiting to see a bandura, that uniquely Ukrainian instrument, which our friend Andrij plays and sometimes teaches.

By the time we returned to the ship, we were feeling quite at home in Kherson because we had passed so many points of interest so many times, it all began to look familiar.

When we arrived and I went to our room, I realized how much I have come to hate these steps...all four decks of them!

We were back in time for the nightly briefing, which I opted to skip in favor of...another nap, and thinking about what I was going to wear to dinner, which had been announced as a "pirate dinner."  I don't do costumes, but I remembered that I had brought my Lamplighters Pirates of Penzance socks and then things just grew from there.  I took a black paper cup and cut out a lens to put over my bad eye, looking like an eye patch, and I tied a scarf around my head.  The end look wasn't all that bad.

I saw hardly anybody else (other than staff) dressed in anything remotely "pirate."  I was certainly the only one at our table.  The woman I saw who was the most creative had fashioned a hook for a hand for herself out of half a bagel.

When dinner was over, Mike and Walt collapsed; Char and I came here to the library and she has now gone off to bed.  We were about 2 hours late leaving Kherson because there is apparently a storm on the Black Sea and they weren't sure if it was safe for us to navigate it or if they were going to bus us 7-1/2 hrs to Sevastopol.  They finally decided we could sail it, though there seem to be high winds and chairs are blowing around.  I'm not sure if I should go to bed or wait up to see if the seas are going to get rougher.

Walt, however, is completely oblivious to it all!



I didn't have soup today, but had a pumpkin 3-way, a "shot" of liquid pumpkin, a mousse, and something else.
The main course was beef stroganoff with spaetzel
Dessert was something called "Swan Lake" which, I have to be honest, looked better than it was.

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