Back in the 70’s my best friend’s father guided tours for Canadian teachers through Russia. In those days they had a KGB escort and there were many places that tourists just weren’t allowed to go. There were also many places where cameras weren’t allowed and the KGB kept close watch. He always spoke of how beautiful the country was and how warm and welcoming the Russian people were, so for most of our lives Jane and I have been curious about the place.
Fast forward 40 years or so to 2017 when Jane told me that she was finally ready to cross Russia off her bucket list. Then she told me that she couldn’t imagine taking the trip without me and so as a gift for my birthday she was taking me with her! I spent weeks just trying to wrap my head around it. We’re pretty ordinary people and this was an extravagant gift, but Jane was insistent and she was so excited that I couldn’t help but get excited too.
We left on September 15th for a 2 week river cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg. It was an amazing journey and I came away with love and respect for Russia and her people. There were so many surprises along the way, but the overarching theme that I kept seeing was art. The Russian people care about art. They decorate their buildings, their parks and their cities. Even the most modest of Russian houses has some bit of decorative whimsy. All Russian schools teach art history along with drawing, painting and traditional Russian handicrafts. There’s a national pride in the art and architectural treasures of the country and a real desire to maintain and protect them. And their cities are spotless. I did not see a single piece of litter during our entire trip. Not one gum wrapper or cigarette butt. Not at the docks and not in the city centres.
It’s a madly visual place and I took hundreds of photos. I’d like to share some of those photos with you. Don’t worry, I’ll only share a small portion of those hundreds, but I thought I would post a few at a time every now and then with a short story about the place.
Our journey started with 3 days in Moscow and our home away from home was a mid-sized river ship docked in the Moscow Canal. From there we sailed up the Volga River, into the Volga-Baltic waterway and onto Lake Onega. Finally, we sailed down the Svir River to Lake Ladoga and on to St. Petersburg where we finished our trip with another 3 day stay. We made daily stops along the way and every day was filled with beautiful and interesting things.
I hope you’ll enjoy following along.
Today we start with a few views of the Moscow skyline.
I apologize for the quality of these last two photos. Our first day in Russia was rainy and cold and I couldn’t stop shivering here. These shots are taken from atop one of Moscow’s seven Hills. Patterned after Rome, which is the best known of many seven hill cities, Moscow sits nestled among seven distinct elevated land masses. Our guide told us that this area is known as Surprise Hill because the view seems to come out of nowhere. Surprise! Despite the rain, the view was breathtaking. The building in the last shot is the Luzhniki Stadium. It was built during Soviet times in the 1950’s and was originally known as Central Lenin Stadium. It served as an Olympic venue in 1980 when it hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies. Tragically, it is also the site of a well-known disaster. In 1982 during the final minutes of a European Football Association game there was a crowd rush of people that claimed 66 lives.
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