Friday, October 16, 2015

From Russia With Love, Part 3

After three days in St. Petersburg, our ship set sail for Moscow.  We would travel through several rivers, lakes and waterways, and go through many locks along the way to adjust to the levels of the various bodies of water.  We went through the locks fairly quickly and we were the only ship, not like the circus when many small boats jam together in the locks from Lake Washington to Puget Sound.

As we cruised along it was fascinating to just watch out the window at the Russian countryside.  For the most part, it was just trees.  And more trees.  Most of the Russian population is centered in the two largest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, with very few people in small towns in between.  To the east of Moscow are the Ural Mountains, and to the east of the mountains is Siberia.  We were told the population density in Siberia is one person per square kilometer and much of the land is covered in permafrost.  Two of our waitresses were from there and had families there, and actually I am very curious about what that large part of Russia would be like.

We saw many places where logs were being cut, and many ships carrying them up the rivers and waterways toward St. Petersburg.

Mostly, we just saw the trees.  Beautiful white birch trees for the most part, and occasionally a big ship like the one below.

We stopped in the little town of Goritzy and had a chance to walk around some of the streets.  The houses were small and simple, but really cute, with distinctive trim that a guide said was made by the homeowners themselves so no two were exactly the same.  The houses don't have indoor plumbing, and most are heated by wood.  It is not permitted to simply cut wood in the forest; one has to pay for a permit and only take the amount allowed.

We later toured the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, founded in 1397, a fortified complex with several churches built in the 15th to 17th centuries.  In earlier times about 200 monks lived and worked here, but today only six live here.

We also toured a school, where three 9th and 10th grade students came in on Sunday to tell us a bit about their school and play some music for us.  The school looked much like schools everywhere, although there weren't any computers or technical equipment in sight.  Students go through the 10th grade and then can choose whether to go to trade school or continue for two more years and on to university.  They are allowed to choose, not tracked according to grades or test scores.

Here is my lunch that day, vegetable-beef soup, salad bar, and lovely dessert.  Uh oh - you can see I had a glass of wine at lunch, too.  I varied my lunch beverages between wine and hot tea, and I drank the water, too.

Here's the view from the dining room window that evening as we started out to our next port.  What a life!

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