On December 22, 2013, Sharon and I had a 40th anniversary open house celebration, at which she told me my anniversary, holiday, and birthday presents would be a river cruise in Russia. I accelerated my Russian studies, and in June, we were off!
On the first day:
We flew from Cleveland to Chicago via United, and from Chicago to Frankfurt, and
Frankfurt to Petersberg via LuftHansa, arriving in the morning of:
Where we glided through customs, and were met by Svetlanya, of Gohagan travel. She led us with our luggage onto a tour bus, and gave us a guided tour of the city to our hotel. (I might note – as regular readers of this blog must know – that I have been learning Russian, and the Russian language signs everywhere were a sight to behold…) We arrived at the start of Russia Day – a 4 day weekend.
We were introduced to the cruise through my alma mater: our Fellow Travellers were all university graduates, from all over the USA, and all but a few were retired.
We did the pre cruise days in Petersberg: June 12-14.
Our Hotel in Petersberg was the Angleterre
That day, we had cocktails in the hotel bar, and supper at a nearby place.
Outside the hotel, I found an old, familiar face – in general, the automobile population we observed in the cities was about the same as in the USA.
We had that supper with several new fellow-traveller friends:
Breakfast was at the hotel – very good!
With Svetlana, above.
Our tour for the day included:
Kazan Cathedral & Church of Our Savior of spilled blood, where Tsar Alexander 2nd was assassinated.
Interior of church of spilled blood – mosaic tiles form the art!
(Prior image is a painting)
Yusupov Palace, where Rasputin was killed.
(By his pictures, Rasputin would make Charlie Manson look like George Clooney..)
We took a river cruise, which gave us a number of different views.
Upon guide Eugenia’s great advice, we had dinner at the Tsar restaurant
We took hotel transportation to the restaurant. I spoke a little Russian, and the driver asked if I were born in USA. (My tutor should be happy!)
We had breakfast in the hotel, then checked out – moving to our ship the Volga Dream.
We stopped for a scenic photo:
The Leningrad Museum is dedicated to those who withstood a 900 day siege in WWII.
After lunch, we visited Paul’s Palace
And then we went back to board our ship Volga Dream:
We visited the Hermitage:
And had lunch at Petergof (Wow)
Our evening was a ballet at the Mikhailovsky theater
(I noted in a FaceBook post that I might have been on of the few Fathers to spend Father’s Day at the ballet!)
End of Pre-Cruise – we are joined by other Fellow Travellers.
Catherine’s palace and Amber Room
We visited Issacs cathedral (across from our hotel)
And the Peter Paul Fortress
We had a lovely guide – as knowledgeable as she is beautiful!
Meanwhile, back on board the Volga Dream, we had a Reception, Cocktails, and dinner.
We sailed from Petersberg.
The service – both meals and administrative – staff, and facilities aboard the Volga Dream were top tier, as was the food.
As we sailed along the lakes and rivers, we made stops at towns and cities along our way. When there were several hours with no stop, we had lectures from Profs Angela Weck of Bradley, and Tim Scholl, of Oberlin, on Russian History and Culture.
I went on an engine room tour
(An interesting interlude occurred when I asked the engineer how large the motors (3) were. Yulia translated, or tried. I was using my terminology, such as cylinder capacity or displacement, which was greek (geek?) to her. Eventually: 3 6 cylinder turbocharged CI motors of 20 litres capacity producing 550 HP each.)
We stopped at a river town called Mandrogi, which had a Vodka Museum
and sampled the products
Sharon bought a winter coat at another store in the village.
We had lovely companions at dinner:
Volga Dream cruised the Svir River, on into Lake Onega, and
We stopped at Kizhi Island, where we saw old wooden churches and houses.
I practised Russian with the staff, and they were great in helping me!
We cruised to Goritsy.
Where we saw old houses in a small village
In the evening, we had a supper with Russian dress and vodka tasting.
A Tribute to the Great Patriotic War.
(When I said ‘Great Patriotic War’ to our guide, I had a friend for life.)
Church of Saints Elijah and Tychen,
(N.B.:My instructor Anya at Avon Ballroom might have never expected I would use – in her native country – some of what she taught me!)
We cruised to Uglich
Saturday was the Farewell Diner
(The staff goes through a cycle of meeting new people, getting to know them, and then saying good bye..)
We travelled fro the Volga to the Moscow River via the Moscow Canal.
Volga Dream docked in Moscow.
We followed our tour guide through Central Moscow, including
Gum – a Mall (Russian’s invented shopping mall)
GUM reminded me of the Arcade in Cleveland: build at the same time (1893) and in a similar style…
We were to do a walk through Red Square early, but as it was 22 June, there was a celebration, and we had to delay – 22 June was the day Nazi Germany invaded USSR in WWII.
With another old philosopher, above.
Armory Palace Museum
I would not associate ‘armory’ and ‘Fabrege’ , but in fact…
The museum was filled with treasures: everything from carriages to crowns to dresses.
We walked through this historic vista
Lenin’s tomb was closed for the day, but we saw it and the burial wall from a distance.
Here are buried such as Yuri Gagarin, Charles Ruthenberg, John Reed, Sergei Korolev, and others. (N.B.: Charles Ruthenberg (of Cleveland), John Reed, and Big Bill Haywood are the only Americans buried here. Gagarin and Korolev are heroes of the space program.)
Dinner on the Volga Dream
Monday, we departed Volga Dream, exchanging our room keys for our passports…
We took part in the post cruise, which consisted – first day – of a tour of Moscow, and an excursion on the Metro.
During Rush Hour, one must wait up to 40 seconds for a train.
We stopped into the famous Metropol Hotel – to use the toilets!
We visited the beautiful New Maidens Cemetery, where many famous Russians are buried.
We were dropped at our Hotel
We had dinner with Bonnie, at a quaint Russian place.
Then window shopped
Our room in the Marriott Aurora was as nice as any I have ever had.
Our tour had two stops: the Tretyakov Gallery (all Russian), and the Bunker42 Cold War Museum
It was a great tour – examples:
We next went to Bunker 42, which was a command and control center built in the 50’s about 60M under ground.
Back at ground level:
(N.B.: I was very interested in this activity because the Sputnik launch launched me into a career of science, mathematics, and computers.)
Dinner at the Hotel:
After breakfast, we checked out of the Marriott Moscow Aurora at 9:30 local (1:30 EDT), were transported by the tour to our airport, where we checked our bags, and went through security and passport control. Flew Lufthansa to Munich,
and then Lufthansa from Munich to Washington Dulles.
Our United flight to Cleveland was delayed for about an hour, and when we arrived home, it was
2 am in the morning – a very long day!
In Summary: Gohagan did a great job – so much was seamless and top tier. The staff and crew of Volga Dream were top-notch as well.
o to use and improve my Russian language skills- achieved.
o to assimilate some Russian history, mores, folkways, cusine and culture – exceeded.
o to meet new friends – achieved.
o to lose 1-3 kg of body mass -achieved.
o to ride the Moscow Metro -achieved.
o to see the grave of Charles Ruthenberg – from a distance…
o to see a ballet in Petersberg – achieved.
Bonus : the service and Russian language help I received from the bright, beautiful, thoughtful, considerate, patient, empathetic young women on the Volga Dream: especially Alina, Yulia, and Olga…
How modern , cosmopolitan and thriving Petersberg and Moscow are.
On Stalin from both our Bunker 42 guide and Professor Weck: at the ‘end of the day’, the country was much more advanced, modern, and industrialized and in much better shape then we he took office – something neither George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan could truthfully claim.
Our final bus driver had been in the Crimea, and related people are happy there.
(N.B.: the use of ‘fellow travellers’ was indeed a double entendre!)