Monday, September 1, 2014

The Volga River and Moscow, Day 1


We left the dock at Northern River Station yesterday afternoon around 2:00 PM and took the Volga River channel through its locks yesterday afternoon and last night to the Volga River, which we’re now sailing along. It’s a wide river, even this far north; deep green forests line the river side, dotted with small villages. It is such a peaceful feeling to sit in a comfortable chair, a cup of hot chocolate near at hand, watching the water flow smoothly by the side of the boat and the forest inch past the window.
Along the Volga

So now, I’ll try to catch up on the four days we spent in Moscow, with the ship docked at the Northern River Station on the Volga Canal, not far from where the canal joins with the Moskva (Moscow) River. Each day, buses took us to our destinations in the city and brought us back (most of us – a few took the subway back from the city). We could choose where we would go and when, within limits.

St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square.

The first day, Saturday, nearly everyone went to Moscow to walk through Red Square and see the GUM department store (and use its bathrooms). I was able to get rubles from a cash machine in GUM. And I remembered, from my 1992 trip to Russia, how vast that public area is. Hundreds of tour groups moved about in herds of twenty to fifty people, and still there was plenty of space between the groups; the square looked almost empty. 

Clumps of tourists on Red Square

Inside GUM department store

We passed to the other side of the square, out past the equestrian statue of General Zhukov, a WWII hero (Great Patriotic War). Through a fence, we watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was no big deal. One of our group waited in line to view Lenin’s tomb; the rest of us dispersed, to meet again in ¾ hour at the statue. I went back into the square and wandered around GUM and other shops but bought nothing.

General Zhukov, WWII hero, Red Square

We then took the metro to the Arbat (two metro stops away), getting off at the intermediate station just to see its decorations. The metro stations in Moscow are like palaces, each with a different theme and décor. Stalin destroyed many churches and most of the homes of nobility, and he used some of those materials and artifacts in constructing metro stations.

Moscow subway map

Remnants of Stalinist decor in a subway station

The Arbat is a street lined with shops; it and the area surrounding it are considered the artistic center of Moscow. Its many shops sell crafts and fairly expensive souvenirs; outside the shops, painters and caricaturists work at easels and sell their wares along the pedestrian walk way. And, of course, there are restaurants and coffee shops filled with tourists and starving artists. I ended up having borscht at a very crowded restaurant called “Moo-Moo” (My-My in Cyrillic), later followed by a great cappuccino at McDonalds! There was a Hard Rock Café along the Arbat, where our group had lunch the following day.

Hard Rock Cafe, The Arbat, Moscow

In front of McDonald's, The Arbat, Moscow

(Later) We are now plying the waters of the Reservoir, such a huge body of water that I cannot see the shore on the left side of the ship, and land is only a thin ribbon of hazy green on the right. The sun is playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds, the water is calm except where churned along the side of the ship. An altogether pleasant setting.

Sunset over the Reservoir