Friday, August 12, 2005

Cruise down the Volga

Before I write about Russia today, I have a few things about the present I need to write about. First, it's my sister's birthday today. Happy 19th birthday sis!!!! Second, I don't remember if I told you, but I had 2 dozen red roses delivered to my house Wed. morning with a little "I love you" balloon. Yes, they're from Wes. And finally, I'm looking to buy a notebook and I really don't know anything about computers, except that I type papers on them, surf/blog, and play computer games. I think the Dell Inspiron 600m would be good enough for me. Does anyone have any opinions about this? I could use some help here.

Ok, now to week 7 of my summer in Russia. The cruise from Moscow to St. Pete's down the Volga River. Please feel free to be envious.

Sat. July 23rd. Did homework. Changed money, bought vodka and snacks, packed. Head to the metro where we all met at 5:00p. Went to the boat. The boat is beautiful. Most of the people on this boat have been saving for this vacation for most of their lives (between $3000 and $5000 per person). Our resident director (henceforth, RD), knows someone: we got on the boat for $500 a person (we're not supposed to tell anyone that, so please keep it to yourselves). There were approximately 350 people on the boat, and 121 crew members. That night, we had a great dinner. Oh, and I'm rooming with Kari (see previous blog). After dinner, we all go out to deck and have a little something to drink. Since we are all staying with different families in Moscow, this is actually the first time we have all drank together. Sasha (who's 18), has too much to drink. We have video of him peeing off the side of the boat, and throwing up off the side of the boat. I don't think he'll ever go into politics. Since we're up drinking late, we see some strange things. Like a group of about 10 people completely naked, waving and screaming at us. I think they were about to go swimming. Unfortunately, it was pitch dark, and we were moving really fast, so we have no photos of this (I think they were all guys, with one girl).

Day 2: The volga river is beautiful today: by the end of the week it gets boring. But, we stop at Uglich today. We see a monastery (these also get boring by the end of the week). This one is associated with Ivan the Terrible. If I remember correctly, this monastery has blue onion domes, with gold stars on it. I also buy tons of souvenirs.

Day 3: Today we visit Kostroma: and another monastery. And I get pictures of the Lenin statue in town (by the end of the trip, everyone was teasing me that Lenin was my boyfriend). The towns are blending together, so I really don't remember much else about this town. I'll have to go back and look at my pictures.

Day 4: Uaraslav: another monastery. Actually, this monastery was pretty cool. Didn't get a picture of Lenin, well, at least not a good one. Also went to a book store and bought several books. I think we went dancing that night in the bar. The music was very, very lame.

Day 5: Gorits': the most beautiful monastery we went to the entire time. It was huge and right on the river front. It was very peaceful and just wonderful. It only had 2 monks living there. This was by far the smallest village we had been to (less than 10,000 people). You could tell, by the amount of wood already stacked outside of most of the houses, that they didn't have central heat, and had to use the wood. But the houses were pretty large. In Russian cities, everyone lives in apartments (there are no, and I do mean no, houses, at all, in any of the cities). Here, the statue of Lenin was silver and it wasn't on a base, so I got a picture with me and Lenin!!! (how much more exciting can life get?). We also bought a watermelon. It was really good! At the monastery, there was a place where you could dress up in traditional Russian costume and get your picture taken, and our RD's girlfriend convinced him to dress up in traditional women's clothing. Guess who has the only picture?
I think we went dancing again this night. We took in an I-pod and the DJ let us play our own music.

Day 6: Kizhi. This is a tiny little island and I don't know that anyone really lives here. But it has a very old, huge monastery, built entirely out of wood (I think they said it was built in the 1640s). Due to the water and age of the wood, the onion domes look like they've been painted silver, but they haven't. This place was really, really beautiful, and it is on the world's heritage list (I'm sure it's on a web page somewhere). Everything was also really, really expensive. But we bought two bottles of vodka. Guess who got drunk that night!!!! Apparently I'm a very happy drunk who calls everyone baby.

Day 7: For some reason, that morning we pulled over to a timber elevator thing. This place was huge and really cool. This is an area that few people live in and is thick forest area, so they harvest the wood. But they have this huge system to get the lumber to the boats: again, when I figure out how to the use the camera, I'll post pictures. But we weren't supposed to stop here. Turns out, one of the old Dutch guys (hardly anyone on this trip was Russian: they were all European) had had heart surgery, and he wasn't doing so well. So, they had an ambulance waiting for him and he and his wife left the cruise. And this really (and I mean really) hot Russian on the shore winked at me! Anyway, later that day we stopped at Mandroga. This is a town that was built to be a tourist attraction. I guess they just needed another place for the cruises to stop. The handicrafts were definitely the best I had ever seen, but the prices were really, really high. We did, however, have some of the best shashl"k (kebobs) I've ever had. Today was also Sasha's birthday. So he got really, really drunk. As did one other member of our group. We tried to go dancing, but the DJ was being a total dick (which one of the drunk guys kept pointing out). So, we sat in the hall and talked for a really long time.

Day 8: arrive in St. Petersburg. Danny and I go to the Political History Museum instead of the Hermitage. I've been to the Hermitage. I get a beautiful picture of a Lenin stained glass window. Then, we meet the others for lunch, and we go to a Blockade museum. Leningrad (St. Pete's) was blockaded by the Germans in WWII for 900 days. About 1/3 of the population starved to death: people ate their furniture and sometimes other people. The rations for children was 125grams of bread a day. And during this time, the factories in Leningrad were still producing for the war. So the museum was beautiful, but very haunting. That night, a few of us just sat around talking. Danny bought this drink called Red Devil, made by Happyland. Well, it tastes like ASS, and does not take you to happyland. Danny took a very unflattering picture of me, right after I tried this crap. If you ever see this stuff, don't do it.

Day 9: Today is Sailor Day in St. Pete's. Yes, that meant tons of sailors, from all around the world, congregating in St. Pete's. I kind of ditched the group, and walked (literally) all over St. Pete's, taking pictures of sailors and monuments and other things. I also went to the Chagall exhibit. It's the largest Chagall exhibit ever shown (and I'm probably spelling his name wrong). I didn't really know anything about him, but this was amazing. It was a good morning. Then, that afternoon, we went to the Dostoevsky museum. It was wonderful!!!! For those of you who don't know, Dostoevsky is my favorite author, ever. I bought a map of St. Pete's that showed all the places Dostoevsky lived when he was there. Then, we went to the best Indian restaurant, ever. It's called Tandori Nights, and if you're ever in St. Pete's, you have to go. Be careful though, because it's right next to a really bad Indian restaurant, called Tandora.

Day 10: Bus tour of St. Pete's. We also took all our stuff from the boat, to the dorm, because we were leaving that night. Funny story: we all were getting our own stuff off the bus and into the dorm. In comes Sasha, with just his backpack. He looks around and says "where is my stuff?" We all just look at him, and ask him where he's been for the last 5 minutes. We all brought in our own stuff. Well, he has to run after the bus, which has started leaving, and he has to hit the side of the bus to get the driver to stop, so he can get his stuff. I never get a picture of the Lenin statue. Oh well. Went to Peterhoff in the afternoon. It was so cool. We had a great time. Except, when we came back, all we wanted to do was eat at McDonald's. Only, we couldn't find McDonald's. And we walked and walked. Finally, we just ate at KFC. It was very good, but no biscuits. Then we all head to the train station. I'm exhausted, so the second I get my compartment, I fall asleep and don't get up until the next morning, to use the bathroom before they close it (the toilets on the old trains (meaning, the majority of them) flush right on the tracks, so they close the bathrooms before you get into any towns).

That is it for the cruise and week 7. Stayed tuned for Week 6 in the exciting adventures of Stacia in Russia.

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