Jim and Lorraine on the Russian Waterways Tour, July-August 2008

Lorraine with Jean Tarbel from the VIVA/OLLI art class
at the "Welcome" dinner in the Suschevsky Hotel, Moscow.

We saw lots of assorted tchatchkis sold for tourists
in a flea market above a bridge overlooking the Moscow River.

We were amazed at how many weddings there were.
These could happen any time, any day of the week.
Between the ceremony and reception, the bridal party toured around town.

These weddings were all "over the top."
Dresses cost about $2000, and limos were stretched and customized.
This is a "kit" copy of an old Dusenberg, complete with bouquet.

This is the escalator at the Moscow Metro to Red Square.
Moscow was founded in 1147 and became Russia's traditional capital.
Red Square was built in the 15th Century to host city ceremonies.

Jim in the GUM Department Store at Red Square.
Built in 1892 as the main shopping center for Muscovites,
and renovated in the 1950s, it houses expensive European shops.

Here's a gold and silver cup with tanzanites.
A lovely piece for only $2000!

This lacquer box costs nearly $400.
The design is taken from "Mistress of the Copper Mountain."

Kazansky Cathedral in Red Square. It's the main cathedral
for the Metropolitan of Moscow since the 14th Century, when the
Orthodox Church moved its seat to Moscow from Vladimir.

Saint Basil's Church with its colorful domes.
Built by Ivan the Terrible in 1555-60 to celebrate his victory over
the Tartars, it's probably the most famous monument in Red Square.

The State Historical Museum in Red Square.

View of the Novodevichy Convent from the Moscow River.
Ex-tzarinas were given the order, "Get thee to a nunnery".

Church of the Assumption in the Kremlin.
That's Tzarina Anna's huge bell (never rung) in the foreground.

Golden cupolas of the Terem Churches
inside the Moscow Kremlin.

View of the Kremlin Palace from across the Moscow River.
The Kremlin wall is reinforced by 20 towers, four of which are gates.

Extravagant interior of the Kremlin Palace.
A far cry from my idea of Ivan the Terrible's foreboding place!

Royal regalia of the Russian Empire.
The Kremlin Armory Museum contains a mind-boggling collection
of royal jewels, carriages, and artifacts.

The Easter Moscow Kremlin Egg,
One of the few original Faberge Eggs still remaining in Russia.

The Trinity Icon in the State Tretyakov Gallery.
Painted with tempera in the 14th Century by Andrey Rublyov,
it's one of the most famous icons in Russia.

The 12th Century Vladimir icon of the Mother of God. This famous
icon saved Moscow from the Tartars without a battle.
My grandmother always kept a copy of it on her dresser.

A visit to the Veteran's Museum in Moscow.
We met and interviewed several "Heroes of the Soviet Union"
who fought bravely with the WWII Allied troops against the Nazis.

Time to board our trusty ship, the "M/S Rossia."
We were welcomed aboard by our resident accordianist, Artur
as we got ready to sail from Moscow to the Volga River.

The ship's staff welcomed us with bread and salt.

This is the Eastern European tradition showing hospitality.

Dinner aboard ship was always a festive occasion.

Watching the ship go through the locks was a "guy thing."

The approach to Uglich was a memorable part of the cruise.
Founded in 937 by Princess Olga, the Uglich garden was the site of
Ivan the Terrible's young son, Dmitry's, brutal murder in 1591.

Inside the Transfiguration Cathedral we heard
the wonderful choir sing some traditional Orthodox hymns.
Prince Vladimir said this music "sounded like songs of angels."

Here's a photo of our "Blue Group"
with our guides, Elena (left, with flag),
and Arty (dressed as Ivan the Terrible).

Uglich had the best flea market anywhere!
Local folk sold table linens, lacquer boxes, dolls, enamelware, etc.
You could also dress up in costume for a photo-op.

"Kalinka malinka, little tree, I am thinking of my beloved..."

We then sailed to Yaroslavl, founded in the 11th Century.
This is a very busy port city with a university and city square.

These unrestored frescoes were in absolutely perfect condition.

The icons in the main chapel were breathtaking!

Here's the Yaroslavl port with a river ship just like ours.

On our tour, we were treated to a bell ringing performance.

Next day, we visited the fortified Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery.
Founded in 1397 by St. Cyril, it's located on the shores of White Lake.
Supported by the Romanovs, it housed monks, soldiers, and peasants.

The central church contains precious icons and frescoes

By now, we were sailing across the huge Lake Onega.
There was lots of entertainment on board.

The head chef gave us a hands-on lesson in making pelmini.
These are little dumplings that you serve with soup or vodka.

We had seen lots of matrioshka dolls on our journeys.
Onboard, we had a chance to paint our own.

Here's Angelina (one of our guides) with our handiwork.
The person who won the contest got a bottle of Champagne.

A brave group of guys did a spoof of Swan Lake.
Later in Saint Petersburg, we saw the actual ballet.

Arty at the vodka tasting contest. Maitre d' Dimitri had us
try several different tricks for downing vodka shots.

The captain gave each group a tour of the bridge.

At last we arrived at Kizhi Island, with its wooden farmhouses.

The island is unspoiled, with fields of flowers.

The wooden church houses many lovely icons.
Though it's an active Orthodox church, it's primarily a museum.

The construction of the wooden church is spectacular!

Our last island-hop was to Svir Stroi
where we were treated to brunch by a local village family.
Elena facilitated a frank conversation about life in Russia today.
Different generations have different ideas about Perestroika.

Finally, we arrived at Saint Petersburg.
This is Peterhof, Peter the Great's fabulous summer residence.

The fountains and gardens were spectacular!
Here's the golden Samson statue, tearing apart a lion.

Peter the Great hired the Italian architect Rastrelli
to build and decorate this palace and throne room.

This is Peterhof's grand ballroom, in high Baroque style.
When you control 95% of the state's finances, you can build anything!
Peterhof legitimized Saint Petersburg as the new capital of Russia.

Saint Isaacs Square, downtown, with statue of Tzar Nicholas I.
This is the third largest domed cathedral in the world.
It contains paintings, mosaics, sculpture, gold, and gems.

This huge cathedral was built in 1818-1858.
Here's the great dome, designed by Auguste de Montferrand.

Peter the Great and all the Romanovs are buried
in marble tombs in the cathedral of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is 400 feet tall, gorgeously decorated.
The style is more Rococo than Baroque, dating from 1712-1733.

Saint Petersburg is a city of canals, "Venice of the North."
Our group took a boat ride through the canals.

The Winter Palace is on the shore of the Neva River.
It was the residence of the Tzars with over 1000 rooms and halls.

The Hermitage houses Catherine the Great's art collection.
Sorry, but no photos were allowed inside the art museum.

Gold, marble, malachite and jasper were used extensively.
The galleries were all decorated with gold, frescoes, and paintings.

Like Peter the Great, Catherine built her own summer palace.
The gardens are lovely, designed in the French style.

Her palace is designed in Neoclassical style.

Catherine's Amber Room is absolutely spectacular!
It was totally reconstructed after WWII, following the original plans.

Later, we visited the Yusopov Palace on the Moyka River.
Compared with the royal palaces, this was a lavish townhome.
Count Yusopov was instrumental in murdering Rasputin.

Next day, we drove to Tallinn, Estonia.
Tallinn is a Hanseatic League village with a medieval wall.
Even in the rain, folks frequented the outdoor cafes.

Tallinn also has a very interesting outdoor museum.
The exhibits are of farmhouses and villages, from different regions.
Folks in native dress posed in front of one of the farmhouses.

Tallinn's cobblestone streets are narrow and picturesque.

Here's our guide, Alex, at the old city well.

Our final cruise was on the "SuperSeaCat" ferry to Helsinki.
Helsinki is a busy city with a big seaport, historic capital, and lots of shops.
There's an awesome church downtown, hewn out of the native rock.

We had metro tickets to explore Helsinki on our own.
Our most fun adventure was visiting the fish market.
Everything here was absolutely fresh.

Would you believe a bakery in the fish market?
This place had everything - it was a great place for lunch.
We had a wonderful time people-watching and shopping for spices.

We also saw the monument dedicated to Jan Sibelius.
Finally, it was time to head back home.
The trip was wonderful, but home is best!

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