Journey of the Czars
a diary along the blue highways of the Russia rivers

Monday, June 14:

Once we shipped out on the M/S Krasin, we were given a one hour lecture about the post-Romanov history of Russia by an art historian who clearly loved her research. Professor Irena Nicholashina is a graduate of Moscow University's History of Arts Department. She was able to provide an amazing overview and brief introduction to all the rulers to Nicholas II as well as a tad on the 3 possible pretenders to the Russian thrown, should they decide to re-instate the monarchy. On Monday morning, the Professor returned to speak about the traditional Russian handicrafts, what we could expect to see on the rest of our journey.

M/S Leonid Krasin

Uglich Countryside

When we landed in Uglich, there were handicraft vendors lining the streets selling hand painted matroshka dolls and lacquered boxes. Uglich is also renowned for its watches and quilts. All very nice, but I don't see me adding a lot of new trinkets to our house right now.

Church of St. Dmitri of the Blood in Uglich

Icons inside St. Dmitri

Uglich is a small 40,000 person town with the Church of Dmitri in the Blood, site of the murder of Ivan the Terrible's son -- Dmitri -- allegedly by (but never proven) Boros Gudonov. In the cathedral that is currently under renovation, we discovered a quartet of male tenors and the church's acoustics were exquisite. We were able to get the CD although there is no guarantee of the quality of the recording. It was a wonderful discovery and quite unexpected.

When we returned to the ship, they told us that they could never guarantee the group will sing, so they dare not risk getting our hopes up. [Editor's note: Back home, the CD turned out to be wonderful.]

Uglich is quite small and with very little by way of visible means of support. I don't know how they make a living except by the tourist boats coming through. Pension-ladies and small children tried to sell handfulls of flowers. But, as someone said, they did look well-fed by inner city American standards.

In the afternoon, we had our first Russian language lesson (of three). Not an easy language by most measures, but we're trying.

Moving along the river, at first it has been quite densely forested on both sides. The first four locks of the Volga-Baltic Canal were relatively close together. After Uglich, things began to be more spread out. There are still small towns gathered along the river, but they are very few and far between. By about 6 PM on Monday, we started to move into a wider part of the river.