Again the sun was bright at 3 am and I was wide awake at 5:30. We were supposed to dock at 8 am so there was coffee available at 6 am. I went up to the bar and there was one other passenger there. I ordered from the bartender, a young man who usually is in uniform. He must have drawn the short stick, because these past two mornings he's been making coffee for us early risers, dressed in tshirt and track pants with his hair sticking straight up.
I took a sip of coffee and wondered what I was seeing on a spit of land just ahead. If I didn't know better I would have thought it was the famous wooden church on Kizhi, the Church of the Transfiguration. It was coming up on the right, and we weren't even 100 yards offshore and sailing past. But we were almost two hours early per the schedule.
I asked the bartender and it was Kizhi. I was overwhelmed by the site of all the wooden domes gleaming in the sun. I ran outside to get pics with my iPad and I also hurried down the deck to knock on the window of our cabin so Tim could see. I felt like running through the ship pounding on all the doors so no one would miss it. I didn't.
We had breakfast and went ashore. The weather was more beautiful than yesterday, and apparently we lucked out there. They only get about 35 days of sunny weather every year. The island is a half km wide and only a few km long. It is more what I was expecting yesterday. The island has been restored as the farming community it was for hundreds of years. All the wooden farmhouses, churches and chapels are restored or being restored.
We had an excellent guide, Alex, who is from the region. We walked to the winter church and the bellringer played a melody that would be used to call people to worship. The summer church is the previously-mentioned church which is the highlight of the site. It has been closed for years for restoration. There are small churches and chapels all over the island and on the surrounding islands wherever there are villages. The families used to come to the big church in Kizhi for special occasions and in the summer.
We learned a lot about life on the island. The farmers would go to St. Petersburg in the winter to work, and eventually the young people started leaving and did not come back. The island was beautiful today, but the harsh climate and isolation certainly took its toll on the lifestyle, not to mention the Industrial Age and the Soviet era.
We had almost two hours on our own before sailing. I wanted to walk. There was a sign pointing to a village 2 km north and Tim said he'd go with me. We walked next to meadows and up little hills, which afforded lovely views of the island, the lake and the church and surrounding chapels. We passed a small overgrown cemetery that is still in use. Some of the markers had old photos.
It looked like the village was going to take too long. There was a village closer but we didn't know if there were open buildings to see. It was obvious people lived there although the buildings were authentic, same as the farmhouse we had just toured. We opted to climb a hill to a chapel at the top. For that we had to take a path through a meadow. That made me a bit wary because we had been warned about the poisonous vipers that inhabit the island. But of course they are more afraid of us than we are of them. Uh-huh.
Back to the pier to search out a Coke Zero, and I stopped at the cemetery to snap a quick pic. I shouldn't have stepped off the road. You guessed it. That viper? He sure was afraid of me because I let out a shout and did a Russian Cossack dance when he slithered across my path. He was about a foot long, black and the diameter of a pencil. That was fun.
We sailed at noon, but our sister ship left a long time before we did. I realized it was because when we get back down across the lake there are a series of locks and we can't be on top of each other.
Back on board there were several activities scheduled for the afternoon. There was a long sail ahead of us to the next stop, Goritsky. We're not arriving there until 2 pm the next day. There were a series of locks ahead as we were to leave the lake but that wasn't going to keep everyone busy for 24 hours.
After lunch there was a talk on Russian fairy tales. I started to sit through it but decided I'd make my numerous fans and admirers happy and work on the blog. The second part of the documentary was up next and we watched that. The group was actually disappointed when that segment ended. We're looking forward to the next one.
Then a vodka tasting, which Delores and I skipped. I sat on the deck outside our cabin with a book. The air on the lake was chilly and felt nice if you wore a jacket. Suddenly the window to Delores' and Cathy's cabin opened behind me and a very jolly Tim and Cathy popped their heads out. I could sense the happy vodka fumes wafting on the breeze.
The tasting was apparently quite a party, with games that the French group dominated. They had a wonderful time. The vodkas were a mix of plain and flavored, with a flight of five plus additional for a fee. The last vacation turned me into a Jameson drinker. I think Tim and Cathy are official vodka imbibers now.
Before dinner our tour guide, Tanya, gave a talk on Russian humor and superstition. Tanya has been amazing. She works for the travel company, not the cruise line. She has a PhD in linguistics and works at university during the school year. If you like cruising and organized shore excursions, drop me a message and after the cruise I'll send you the agency info.
A word about researching your vacations with sites like TripAdvisor. I always do a lot of research especially when choosing hotels or finding out about sites to visit, food, etc. There were not many entries about this cruise but some of them were typically critical of the food, beds, but also the staff. One person complained that the server could not understand when they wanted more coffee so they had to learn how to get it themselves.
Hello!! How difficult is it to learn how to say ,"Coffee please" in Russian? Sometimes Americans are so American.
Dinner was advertised as traditional Slavic. I ordered mutton, wondering if I'd really get mutton or if it would be lamb. I've never had mutton. The rest of the table ordered dumplings that were described like a ravioli.
I ended up with what tasted like lamb and vegetables in a broth. It was good but the rest of the table didn't like their dumplings. They looked like large boiled potstickers and were too bland and gelatinous. But we had eaten so much all day, no one felt hungry.
After dinner there was a piano recital of Tchaikovsky, 12 selections of the months of the year. We started out ok but out the window everyone was gathering in the prow to go through a lock. I ended up leaving to watch the process. We went through five or six locks during the night, and I only awoke for one of them.
On to Gorisky. This sounds good. A 14th century monastery. Right up my alley.