Trip Start Jul 25, 2008
Trip End Sep 18, 2008

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Flag of Russian Federation  , Central Russia,
Sunday, August 3, 2008

We have been sailing for several days and it is very difficult to tell if we are sailing on a river, canal or reservoir as it seems to be a continuous mass of water connected by locks.  Sometimes it is very narrow and seems like a river or a canal and then other times there is water to the horizon with no land in sight, so must be a lake or a reservoir.  During the night we have sailed through the Rybinsk reservoir into the Volga River to go to Yaroslavl.  We have sailed about 400 kilometers and have dropped 60 meters through 7 locks since leaving Moscow.  Lovingly called "Mother Volga" by Russians as it runs in their heart, this 3,688 kilometer river is the longest in Europe.  It begins at an altitude of 748 feet and flows to the Caspian Sea 30 feet below sea level.  But the river is 3,688 kilometers long so the gradient is very small.  This "flat" river in its natural state would not need locks but it has been dammed along its entire length creating a chain of reservoirs and at each dam a lock is needed.   The Rybinsk reservoir that we are passing through is huge and occupies an area of 4,500square kilometers and is considered to be the largest artificial water basin in the world.  It stretches for 140kilometers and was once again constructed in the 30s and 40s in order to make the river navigable, where before there were 40 or more rapids.  It was also built for flood control, irrigation and hydroelectric power.  As with most great plans of the Stalin era, the construction of the reservoir was carried out without much concern for "Mother Nature".  As a result, the water, filled with remains of submerged forests and villages, is practically devoid of fish.  Very little animal life at all - no birds or mammals to be seen anywhere.  We saw ships carrying lumber downstream and some timber mills on the banks.
We visited Yaroslavl, one of the Golden Ring cities, founded in 1010.  It was named after Prince Yaroslavl the Wise who is on the Russian 1000 ruble note.  Yaroslavl is a city of scientists and students and a centre of the engineering, chemical, textile and processing industries.  It is also a place for Cultural and Arts and we were taken to their puppet theatre which had beautifully made puppets where children could learn the art as well as see the shows.  They had locally produced lacquer boxes, which Russia is famous for, and Graham bought a beautiful one made from abalone shell. 
We visited churches, saw cats which the city is famous for and walked through the town and markets - the delicatessen was very interesting.
In the afternoon we attended a talk by Professor Inna Gritsenko on "The Communist Experiment in Russia."  The lecturer said surveys had shown that the Russian people felt the happiest in the 70's.  One of our guides said her childhood was happy and safe.  She had good teachers, good schooling, learnt English and went to University - all under Communism.  The culture is to look to a leader.  There is very little confidence in local and regional governments but as a society, Russians put faith in one leader such as the Tsars, Stalin, Lenin and Putin. An old Russian fairy tale depicts the Russian psyche - it briefly went like this - a man caught a golden fish that would grant him a wish.  He asked for a bag of gold.  He was granted this only if he was happy for his neighbour to get two bags of gold.  The man was not happy and he went through several other wishes (houses etc) but always his neighbour would receive twice.  His final wish was for the golden fish to tear out one of his eyes. 
The lecturer felt this summed up Russian thinking.
It was then time to get into the real traditional Russian culture!!!!!  At the Vodka tasting party, five types of vodka were sampled - Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya, Piertsovka, Starka and Lemonnaya.  They were served with traditional appetizers (zakuskas) - caviar and herring.  We then had a Russian Blini Dinner - Russian pancakes accompanied by caviar and Russian vodka and we were asked to go dressed up.  Many didn't get dressed up but Graham and I went as Russians and got into the fun of it all.  A GOOD NIGHT !!!!!
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