Friday, October 6, 2006
Weather: Misty and subversive - penetrating as a KGB probe.
Full steam ahead to Goritzy where we visited the Monastery of Saint Cyril on the White Sea. The monastery was founded after a monk from Moscow had a vision from the BVM to go north and found a monastery. It also served as a fortification against attacks by the Poles and Lithuanians. Our guide, Nadja, was a young woman who presented with an unusually aggressive voice with a very typical "central casting" accent.
There was a good bit of construction/restoration underway. Our tour included an onsite museum which held the icons from the main cathedral of the monastery. We also walked down to the water which tradition offers the hope of keeping you young if you bathe in the water annually.
Much was made of the opportunity to shop after our somewhat brief tour. John mused as to whether the cruise line received a percentage of tourist sales. I wondered whether the shop stalls were sublet to the individual peddlers, this ensuring that the peddlers would be open upon our arrival in port. My conjecture is based on the fact that the buildings housing the shops were painted in the same white with blue trim as sported by each boat of the Viking River line.
I did succumb to the pressure and picked up a lovely, if overpriced lacquer box decorated with a scene from "The Firebird." I also picked up souvenirs for some friends and family. I will continue to shop for other friends tomorrow in Yaroslavl and Uglich.
John has managed to strike up a couple of conversations with a couple of the sailors on board. In the Latin tradition Publius and Furianus, we have named these boys Pavel and Feodor. During his first encounter, Pavel's interrogation began with "Why are you on the boat?" followed by inquiries about smoking habits. All Russians seem to be smokers - no wonder Philip Morris has a factory in St. Petersburg.
While passing through a lock after dinner, we felt a couple of bumps. It turned out that the boat was not centered in the passage and we'd hit the east side of the lock wall. Feodor was feverishly working at the back when we heard running footsteps coming toward us from the bow. We turned to see Pavel dashing our way and stepped back to give him easy trespass.
The rest of our evening was spent in an unusual musical quiz. The band would play a song which the audience was to identify with a particular country. Then a question about that country was asked, not necessarily music-related. First prize is a massage, which I could sorely use about now.
After the quiz, we attended a vodka tasting hosted by Andre, the restaurant manager. He stumbled through some very broken English trying to explain the Russian approach to vodka. Our Grand Inquisitor was there and in standard form, "Where do they get the water?" Two of the "Pick-a-little" sisters were also there, disrupting the proceedings at every opportunity. Andre's most valuable advice of the evening was sharing how much to drink and when to stop. "First shot is feeling warm and burning as vodka hits stomach. Second is relax of mind and soul. 'T'ird" is feeling happy and like everyone around. 'Fourt' is begin to love everyone around and want to tell so. Now is time to stop. Because is thin line between love and hating. Next round is fight to start."
After the tasting (I only took 3 shots of the 5) I went back to the cabin. John went back on deck and struck up another conversation with Pavel and Feodor. Interesting was that as soon as one of the musicians on board, Pyotr the accordionist, came on deck, the conversation came to an abrupt end. One wonders if the sailors are warned against fraternizing with the passengers.
More to come...