Russia 2019 – Day 11 – MS Rostropovich & Moscow

Same morning routine as usual on the boat today. While I t was to be our last day of sailing we would have one more night aboard. Shortly before heading to breakfast we passed through the sixth and final lock on the Moscow canal and would be arriving into port shortly before 1pm. After breakfast I took care of packing as it was to be a late return to the boat and we are heading to a hotel tomorrow for our last two nights.

We arrived into port right on time and were on the bus and ready to go at 1pm. It took about an hour to make the drive into central Moscow and our destination of the Kremlin. On arrival we had to get through the massive line through security. It took about thirty minutes so all in all was not that bad.

We strolled into the Kremlin and passed through cathedral square which contains four different cathedrals. One was used for baptisms, another for marriage and a third for funerals while the last was simply the personal chapel of the Tsar’s family.

Cathedral Square

From there it was on to the Armory museum which contained a bit of armor and a lot of royal clothing, thrones, carriages, etc. I know that most if not all of the royal families of Europe had such lavish tastes, but looking at all of the excess here it’s becoming easier to see why there was a revolution…

After the museum we returned back to Cathedral square and went inside one of the cathedrals. This one was so gaudily decorated in my opinion that I was not impressed with all the artwork.

Finally Inside the Kremlin we passed the Tsar Bell, a 200 ton bronze bell, which was never installed as it cracked at some point during production. We also passed the Tsar Cannon, a forty ton cannon that was produced only to show the size capable of Russia but it was never actually fired.

We then headed to dinner at the National Hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Had a nice dinner of a salad and salmon and then a chocolate dessert.

As compensation for the day at anchor and missed excursion during the river cruise the boat and tour agencies arranged a special musical experience. A local art gallery was opened and a special performance by the Zlatoust Moscow Ensemble of Soloists was arranged. Not knowing anything about them I was not necessarily enthused about this, but in the end it was very entertaining. It did make for a long day as we then had to return to the boat where we arrived a about 11 o’clock.


Russia 2019 – Day 10 – MS Rostropovich

Finally got some sleep last night, I think, as I woke about about 6:30 feeling fairly well rested. Caught a few YouTube videos, then showered and was down for breakfast at 8. After breakfast headed down for the last day of Russian history session. Covered the period from Stalin up to present day. The session started with a clip of Trevor Noah’s stand-up routine about Russian accents.

The scheduled Russian language class was apparently cancelled for some reason which was both a relief and disappointment. We docked in the town of Uglich at about noon. We made a visit to a local couple’s house where they shared with us a traditional Russian visitors snack of pickles, potatoes and bread to accompany a few shots of home brew vodka followed by tea and apple cake.

From there we were dropped off in the town square where we free to wander around before heading back to the boat. I found a couple of war memorials that I snapped a few pictures.

Then it was back to the boat where we had an afternoon tea lesson with snacks. We then met with Ivan to discuss plans for the next few days in Moscow. Then it was on to dinner, I skipped the captains fairwell cocktail, and back to the room. As I’m writing this we are passing through the last lock on the Volga river as we prepare to enter the Moscow canal for the homestretch so to say.

Russia 2019 – Day 9 – MS Rostropovich

Today was a lazy day as the ship was working to catch up on our itinerary. Breakfast was at the same time followed by another Russian history lesson, this time from the revolution up to present day. Then an hour break before a discussion on modern day Russia with our tour guide Ivan. Then it was on to lunch and then about three hours before our visit to the village of Goritsy.

Goritsy is a small village of about 600 people. We visited the elementary school and then a local home of Galinda and Leonid. We then visited the local church and convent. The boat had been repositioned downstream a bit so we were bussed to the new location.

View from the chapel overlooking the river.

Then back on board we had a quick cocktail g eat together with the group, then a vodka tasting before dinner. As I haven’t slept well on the boat, I’m hoping all the alcohol lets me finally get some rest tonight.

Clear, honey-pepper, and cranberry vodkas – oh boy…

Russia 2019 – Day 8 – MS Rostropovich

I was in bed by about 11 pm last night. I think I fell asleep with the gently rocking boat as we were still at anchor. I next awoke to much heavier rocking and recognized that we were under way. It was about 12:30 am and for the next three hours I was unable to get back to sleep as the rocking was heavier and heavier as we crossed Lake Ladoga… Finally about 3:30 as we approached the eastern shore the boat settled down and I was able to fall asleep. I slept until almost 8 am.

After breakfast I attended a second history lesson which covered the Romanov dynasty and then a second Russian language course. We then arrived at what was intended as our destination for yesterday, Mandrogi Village. This is a purpose built tourist site that serves as a location for various artisans to ply their trades and provides a destination for the tour boats. Unfortunately due to the delay we only had about an hour to spend here. One could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the village.

Mandrogi Village

It was then back on the boat for lunch after which I started watching a documentary on the Tsars but ended up taking a nap. Later on we met our tour guide for a discussion about Russian geography and culture.

We then had a briefing from the captain explaining the weather that caused the delay and the resulting change in our itinerary. We were to visit the Kizhi island on Lake Onega and the village and monastery located there. However the transit across the lake and back takes about eighteen hours and as we are about twenty-two hours behind schedule we must skip this stop in order to maintain our schedule through the locks and arrival into Moscow.

After the briefing it was on to dinner and then back to the cabin for some rest. We’re transiting Lake Onega as I write this and the boat is rocking a good bit – though I don’t think as much as last night…

Russia 2019 – Day 7 – MS Rostropovich

We set sail on the Neva River from St. Petersburg last night on time around 7pm. Our course was to take us up the river and across Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe, and then up the Svir River to the village of Mandrogi.

However when we woke we found our boat at anchor in a bay in the southwest corner of the lake. We had been there since 11pm the night before as there was a storm over the lake with steady winds of nearly 36mph producing swells of up to 8’ on the main body of the lake. The MS Rostropovich is primarily a river boat and only rated to operate with swells up to ~6’. Therefore we were forced to await improving weather.

This was determined after the 9:30 am lecture that we had attended on early Russian history. At that point the day’s remaining itinerary was out the window and the crew quickly reorganized onboard activities. After an hour break I attended a Russian language class after which it was time for our lunch which had been intended to eat ashore but we enjoyed onboard instead. The remainder of the afternoon was relatively free, as I did not attend the offered cooking and dancing lessons. I watched the first part of a documentary on the Romanov family and caught up on some YouTube videos – fortunately we’re still close enough to shore for internet service. Then it was off to dinner and then back to the room for the night.

We’re hoping to be able to sail in the morning and arrive at our second destination tomorrow night. We shall see…

Russia – Day 6 – St. Petersburg

First morning waking up on the boat, unfortunately didn’t sleep great but nonetheless up at 7 again and down to breakfast about 7:30. Nice buffet and some good coffee and ready to roll. Unfortunately today looked like the weather was not going to cooperate…

We boarded the bus at 9 for our last day in St Petersburg. It was nearly an hour drive back to the city. We stopped for one photo op at Smolny convent and then on to the Hermitage. We spent about 2 hours on a tour and were then out the door at 12:30. Like the Smithsonian one could spend days looking at all of the artwork. It’s an amazing place but simply too much to absorb in so short a time with thousands of other people. Then it was off to lunch at a local restaurant. The rain had started by this time so the afternoon looked pretty bleak.

After lunch we toured Peter and Paul Fortress which also contains a Cathedral which houses the burials of all the Romanov family Czars and Emporers. Due to the cold rain and wind we didn’t spend any time outside though I’m sure a walk around the grounds would have been quite interesting as our guide Ivan is very knowledgeable. Instead it was back on the bus for the hour ride back to the boat. We leave St Petersburg tonight for our journey to Moscow on the MS Rostropovich. До свидания, Санкт-Петербург!

Russia 2019 – Day 5 – St. Petersburg

Today was an early departure as we checked out of the hotel as we’ll be transferring to the river boat tonight. We left the hotel at 7:45 headed southwest to the town and Palace & park of Peterhof. The drive was about an hour and twenty minutes so we arrived at the palace at ~9:00. The park opens to the general public at 10:30 but tour groups can arrange for earlier entry. This was really nice as by the time we left at ~noon the crowds were quite busy. We toured the palace and then walked the grounds which contain numerous fountains (>150), gardens, etc. This palace was also occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad and destroyed as they left. It has been rebuilt in the years since.

Peterhof Palace

We then drove back to the city and were dropped off at the Faberge museum where we first had lunch (chicken sandwich) at the museum cafe. Took a spin through the museum which was interesting but not really my cup o’ tea. From there we walked to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and took some more pictures.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Then it was onto the bus for about a half hour drive to our ship MS Rostropovich. We settled into our cabins and then had a quick introduction to the ship prior to dinner. Had a turkey and potatoes dinner and chocolate lava cake and ice cream for desert.