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(Note: Part of a series of entries from my handwritten travel journal.)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Interesting stop today. But first, here are some of the sights I saw along the way from the boat as we cruised along this morning:
riverside village

All the cranes you have ever seen in a row. The weird thing was, this massive array of cranes stretching off into the distance didn't seem to be connected to any kind of city or center of civilization. Just a huge row of cranes on the river in the middle of nowhere:
all the dock cranes ever

One of the locks we went through today was connected to a hydroelectric dam:
hydroelectric dam1

lock small boat

hydrodam 3

lockside scenery

hydro dam lock2

Many of the locks had some sort of monument or sculpture alongside the canal where you could see it while you were waiting in your boat for the lock to fill (or empty, depending on whether you are going up or down):
lenin lockside

lockside sights

Our stop today, Mandrogi, is a town created expressly for giving the cruise boats somewhere to stop between Kizhi Island and St. Petersburg, a cheap theme-park type of place without any rides, or any cultural or historical relevance. That's not really what I travel for. There's a rope ferry you can take across an arm of the river to a "Fairyland and Petting Zoo." We took the ferry and found carvings of Russian fairytale characters including a hut on chicken legs like Baba Yaga lived in (although I always envisioned the hut much bigger and the legs much smaller and more numerous, but they didn't ask me), and some soldiers.

baba yagas hut

fairyland soldiers

But as we'd gotten on the ferry our friend Janet was getting off and warned us that the Petting Zoo part of the show was pretty depressing. Indeed, as we started out around the fairyland area we saw some animals in cages that looked in bad shape and I found it very depressing after the hedgehog in a cage, and the ducks in a netted off area. We turned around and got back on the ferry to go back, I just couldn't take it. On the other side the ticket lady asked us "How did you like it?" probably because we came back so soon, and Cathyn very diplomatically said, "We liked the wooden carvings!" and she said, "What about the kleenex?" We stopped in our tracks. Uh...what?
"The animals."
And Cathyn said, "We don't like seeing animals in cages." And she said "It's a kleenex."
We looked blankly at her.
"A hospital, we rescue them and nurse them back to health and keep them in the kleenex!"

OOOHH! It's a clinic! Thank goodness she told us! She then told us that people bring them animals found injured, such as on the roadside of the highway or whatever, and they care for them there and get them better. I wish there'd been a sign that explained that before I went over!

Otherwise Mandrogi was pretty lame and I didn't take many pictures - shops and shopps and craftspeople making stuff to sell in shops. And a slide, which we were warned not to try to slide on because it's for winter use only, when there's snow. I'm not sure how anybody would get there in the winter, as the boats don't run when the river is frozen, but that's what we were told!

mandrogi slide

Back on the boat there was a BBQ lunch on the Sun Deck and we all got 3 shots of different kinds of vodka (trust me - Beluga Vodka is the premium stuff!) and a lesson in doing shots. The first one you hold up your arm in front of you and place the shot on the back of your hand and drink it from there. The second on you hold up your arm again and drink it from the side of your elbow, and the third shot you drink intertwined arms with your love, like at a wedding.

Then we spent hours talking to John the Lecturer and several passengers from the National Trust group, drinking wine and laughing and generally having a great time.

John had given a lecture earlier in the week that we HAD gone to and HAD liked, called "Moscow and St. Petersburg - a tale of two cities." Apparently the two other lecturers had been giving him shit about his lectures because he's not a professor, however theirs were TERRIBLE and his was good so I hope he didn't take it too much to heart because each lecturer gave two lectures, and I can tell you that the 2nd lecture for each of the "professors" was extremely sparsely attended. I was, frankly, shocked at what horrible speakers the two college professors giving lectures were. Just awful.

If I haven't mentioned it before, one of the nicest thing about this cruise is that it's made up of what they call "affinity groups." College alumni/ae associations and a group from the National Trust. We all have something in common with at least a few other people and, most importantly, there are no kids on this boat. This, on it's own, is worth a whole lot to me.

dorks in hats

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