Friday, July 25, 2008


We've been sailing since Thursday. This is Sunday morning. We've stopped for walking & bus tours in two towns. Mostly, we are visiting Russian orthodox churches and monasteries. Yesterday I asked our guide, Alexander, whether the Russian people were actually religious or were the churches mostly for posterity and tourism. He said that about ten per cent of the Russian population worships regularly, another twenty to forty per cent are atheists, and the rest are believers who do not keep up a religious practice.

Back on the ship, we had a Russian lesson, and our by now customary series of multi-course meals. The vodka called "Imperial" -- I'm told by the Serbian bartender -- is almost as good as Beluga at half the price. Russian cigarettes cost 8 or 10 rubles or about 40 cents per pack, but other things are expensive -- such as a cup of coffee at the luxury hotel in Moscow which costs about $12.

We are at sea in a reservoir built by Stalin in the early 1940s to supply hydroelectric power to Moscow. The great reservoir displaced 700 villages when it was built. It fills the natural river basin of many Russian rivers, including the Volga and the Sheksna. Also, we have passed through a string of locks that lift to the ship to higher elevations.

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