Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cruisin’ Part Two: Goritsky, Kizhi and Mandrogi

Three more days, and three more stops. We pulled into Goritsky on Saturday morning. As soon as we got off the ship we were in the middle of a market selling furs, linen shirts and skirts, and the ubiquitous painted wooden dolls that you always see at garage sales. I regretted that it is not politically correct for Sally to wear furs since some of the ‘knitted’ mink jackets and shawls were absolutely beautiful. One of our fellow travelers noted that at Jackson Hole, the same jacket would sell for ten times the price at the Goritsky market.

We set off by bus for Kirillov, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Russia, with ‘one of the most exquisite icon collections in the world’. But this time Sally and I were determined to look around the monastery at our own pace and then try to see some of the actual town before returning to the ship. After visiting almost a dozen churches and monasteries, each with wonderful icons and wall paintings, we were frescoed out. We would both much rather look at the indigenous buildings, and hang around the shops. And so we did.

Goritsky has a long way to go before it gets a UNESCO designation. But it was a very authentic place and probably quite typical of a remote Russian town. We hung around the market, and Sally tried to find an internet café. Unfortunately, no one spoke any English, but her search was not entirely without success. She did find a café. It just didn’t have any internet!

We returned to the ship just after noon. At four I had another Russian language class, but passed on Dr. Vern Swanson’s class on the Art of the Soviet Union. The sun was finally shining, and it was time to sit out on the deck. For some reason, dinner was served at 6 pm, a ridiculously early hour. The Greeks and I tried to change it, but without success. One of them pointed out that normally they finish lunch about five! We all protested by showing up half an hour late!

We spent the evening waiting to go through the six locks that would take us down towards the Gulf of Finland. It was a long and slow process, but I managed to stay awake long enough to get through two of them. Amazingly, it never really got completely dark. At 5 the next morning I awoke to bright sunshine to see us traveling through the last lock.

Since we were not arriving at our next destination until 4, we spent the day lounging around the sundeck, attending a Russian class, and watching the third segment of the History Channel documentary on the Czars.

At 4 we arrived at Kizhi, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site on a small island in the middle of a lake, and immediately set off for a walking tour. The island contained a variety of wooden structures, some which had been built there, and some which had been transported and reassembled. The highlight was an 18th century church, with 22 onion shaped domes, that had been built on the island without any metal nails or other metal ties. Only wooden dowels had been used. The domes were clad in aspen shingles which had turned silver and glistened in the afternoon. The main structure was constructed with pine logs almost 300 years old.

While most of the other buildings had been renovated over the years, they still had their original timbers. I was particularly impressed by a wooden windmill that had been constructed on a pivoting base so that it could be turned to capture the available wind. (I’ll be interested to see if this is common in Holland, our next stop after St. Petersburg.) Kizhi turned out to be a very good stop. The sun was shining; the island was full of wildflowers and looked very beautiful. Before returning to the ship, I stopped off at a small art gallery and purchased a watercolour of the onion domed church. It was one of the most remarkable structures I had ever seen, and wanted a souvenir of it. Soon, it will hang on a wall in our house on another small island.

This morning, we arrived at Mandrogi. It can best be described as a historic building theme park. It was developed by a Russian entrepreneur with a wacky design sense and too much money. There is a rumour that Putin has built a place here. Somehow, I doubt it since he can live anywhere he wants in Russia. He wouldn’t live in a theme park.

But I know that he has been here since there is a photo of him at the Vodka Museum, where I managed to spend an hour trying out some of the 2720 different vodkas on display. Once again, Sally didn’t join me.

The last three days have gone by very quickly. Tonight we got dressed for the Captain's Dinner. Tomorrow we arrive in St. Petersburg and are both very much looking forward to it. Like the Mexican Riviera trip, this one has improved as time went by. We have adjusted to a much slower pace of life and have generally enjoyed being taken care of by others. However, we are also looking forward to doing our own thing, and not always being part of a larger group. All being well, this should happen in St. Petersburg.

1 comment:

Joe and Carolyn said...

Thanks for your description of these places. we just finished a riverboat cruise ourselves and felt as you did, the stops were overall well worth the trip.