Russia 2006

Russia 2006
In September 2006, Karen and I along with her sister and brother-in-law, Sandy Smith and Ken Fisher, and Karen's father, Jack Wiessler, took a once in a lifetime cruise in Russia.  This was a 16 day, 1143 mile trip through rivers, lakes and canals including 17 locks through Western Russia.

We traveled via Grand Circle Travel agency on the M/S Tikhi Don, a small 216 passenger river boat, with very nice accommodations and a mostly Russian crew which spoke good English.  In the photo below, the Russian flag can be seen through the drinking glasses flowing off the stern of the Tikhi Don.

We docked at St. Petersburg for three days, then 10 days cruising with stops at Svirstroi, Petrozavodsk, Kizhi Island, Yaroslavl and Uglich - all great (totally previously unknown to me) places.  Then we docked at Moscow for three days before extending our trip by three days as we flew to Kiev, Ukraine.
Karen's father called this the best trip he had ever been on - he loved river cruises and considered himself a "river rat".  He had the experience to back up his claim as he traveled most of the major river ways in the world as well as visiting all seven continents - yes, that includes Antarctica.
The part of the trip I liked best, and there were many highlights - The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, inside The Kremlin, Red Square, Ivan the Terrible's 14th Century St Basil's Cathedral - was our stop at the Russian Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow and a private audience with five WWII Russian Officers.  They told their stories, showed a short video of the war from the Russian perspective and then called the WWII veterans from our group (this included Jack) to join them on stage.  They gave them mementos of Russia and our Allied friendship (yes - Russian was part of the Allied Forces in WWII).  Not too many dry eyes in the audience !
I took over a thousand photos, so I trust you will enjoy what I consider the BEST OF THE BEST - my Baker's Dozen.

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg - Built as The Winter Place and main residence to the Russian Tsars; it is now a museum founded by Catherine the Great (1764) which houses 2.7 million exhibits.
Russian wedding party paying homage to the historical sites in St. Petersburg.  In the background is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (1907) - built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated.   Kizhi Chapel or the Church of the Transfiguration was built in 1714 on Kizhi Island in Lake Onega.  It was built entirely of wood with no nails - just interlocking dovetail joinery.

One of the many beautiful bridges in St. Petersburg which is often called the Venice of the North because of it's many canals and rivers.  The city was built in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great who shortly afterwards moved the capital of Russia there.

Peterhof (near St. Petersburg) was built by Peter the Great as his summer palace, with a canal leading to the Gulf of Finland and to the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is often called the Russian Versailles. The city of St. Petersburg was built on land captured from Finland as Peter the Great needed access to the seas for trade and military purposes.
Tatiana's home in the river town of Svirstroi. Simple home with great colors. Tatiana is very gregarious and loves to entertain in her home which she did for a small group of us off the ship.
A stark plain gray grave marker with an out of place red flower. Good example of "depth of field" photography.   The marker is the Russian Orthodox three cross bar marker:  the top represents the "title board" on which Pilate ordered written, in mockery, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"; the middle bar represents the out stretched arms of Jesus; and the bottom bar the foot-rest.   Church of the Nativity inside the Kremlin walls; one of six churches remaining.  It is a 14th Century structure whose outstanding features (at least in my mind) are the brick cupolas.

Sunset in Moscow taken from our docked ship. The photo has not been altered; the sky was a beautiful shade of orange that September evening !!   St. Basil's Cathedral erected on Red Square in the 1550's by Ivan the Terrible.  This building is so beautiful I had to snap a photo of it every time I looked at it.
When our group arrived at the military museum, there was a military band playing just for us.  They played about four tunes including The Star Spangled Banner. As there were many US retired military there, it was a SPECIAL moment - my eyes had tears.  The drummer - I don't know what a Russian man should look like, but I think this is it !!!   I love flower boxes; this one was in a building on the grounds of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, Ukraine.
In Kiev, the little girl was the intended "model", but as she was not cooperating Mom picked her up for a photo of the two of them.  I was disappointed at the time, but when I saw the photo, Mom is the real model with her hard broad face, "lazy eye" and traditional Eastern European babushka.  Note the money cup that Mom has in her hand for tips for photos of the child.      

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