|January 2001||POST HOLIDAYS AND PANAMA CANAL
Finished up the holidays, which was really easy with no big home to “undecorate” after the holidays. We needed to retrieve suitcases and suitable clothing from our storage facility to take a Panama Canal Cruise. We left San Diego on Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas on January 6th and headed first for Cabo San Lucas where we took the whale watching trip and got to see lots of migrating whales. It was awesome. After Cabo we docked in Puntarenas, Costa Rico where we toured the countryside and visited a coffee plantation. The Panama Canal lives up to all its press. It is a magnificent engineering feat, and going through those locks was fascinating. Following the canal passage we stopped in Cartagena, Colombia, then Oranjestad, Aruba before returning to Miami. We traveled these fourteen days with eight friends and had a great time on shipboard and on land. When we returned from the cruise, we joined Bev and Rick in the wait for their new baby to be born.
|February 2001||A NEW LITTLE GRANDSON IS BORN!
Bev was due the first part of February, and Enrico Joseph was born
February 2, 2001. We stayed with Selina while Bev and Rick were in the hospital with little Rico. We remained in the area during February getting acquainted with our new little grandson and helping out the new mom and dad whenever possible. Paul came to California for a quick visit in the middle of the month and got to meet his new nephew then. By the end of the month we were ready to get back in the saddle again, so we prepared for our departure.
Los Banos Blast
|SQUARE DANCING AND VISITING
We left the Bay Area early in March, stopped in Manteca to visit relatives, then enjoyed a square dance in Los Banos with loads of friends. It was our fourteenth year attending this particular dance (we missed last year when traveling in Texas). After having a great weekend we headed a little farther south toward Bakersfield, where another square dance weekend was taking place the following week. The Bakersfield one is a huge festival with almost three thousand dancers and three hundred RV’s attending. Again, we had a great time.
Our little home had a recall that needed to be checked out, so we took it into a Ford dealer in Bakersfield who pronounced it fine, but after leaving we discovered the steering wheel was acting funny, so we brought it back after our dance weekend and spent another day having them tighten it up. We really didn’t want to be cruising down the highway with a loose steering wheel.
Montezuma's Castle, AZ
Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Lake Havasu, AZ
Las Vegas, NV
Rocky Point, MX
April 1-4, 2001
From Tucson we went north of Phoenix to Surprise for a visit with Ray’s brother and wife. We headed North from there on Wednesday, April 4th and made it all of about 80 miles to Black Canyon City. We stopped the next day at Montezuma's Castle which we had visited about six years ago. This five story, 20-room cliff dwelling dates back to the 12th century and was continuously occupied for three centuries by the Sinagua Indians who were farmers in the valley. The imposing structure is well preserved and an interesting side trip.
April 5, 2001
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, AZ
April 6-9, 2001
With our Golden Eagle Passport we sailed through the express line into the park as others (presumably all under 62 years old) waited in long lines to pay their $20.00 vehicle fees. That is definitely the best $10.00 investment we have ever made. Our first stop was a quick glimpse of the canyon at Mather Point. The sunlight peeking through the fog over the canyon gave an eerily majestic setting. We took a few quick photos and headed to the Trailer Village where they have RV sites with hookups. We signed in, hooked up our rig to water and electric and grabbed a quick lunch before donning our warmest clothing and heading out into the snow flurries along the rim.
Took the shuttle to Yaki Point for another view, hiked around the area, and searched the canyon for a waterfall the shuttle driver pointed out in the distance. The snow was pelleting us with hard little snowballs. A shuttle to Yavapai Observation Station gave us additional views, but they were still obscured by the fog, or clouds, or whatever it is in the canyon. We hiked the two miles from Yavapai to Grand Canyon Village for a look around. Along the rim the snow continued and the wind kicked up ever more. These weren’t “snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes,” but rather blitzed us, bounced off and looked for other victims. With the temperature in the mid to low thirties, we decided to head back to Camelot, fix some soup, and look out the window at the weather. The Grand Canyon will still be there tomorrow and the next day.
Sunday morning we awoke to clear skies, sunshine and really cool weather below freezing. But those clear skies got us out and over to the canyon. As cold as it was, the park was filled with folks like us wanting to see the magnificent sight without fog hanging over it. We weren’t disappointed. As we worked our way around the rim, intermittently hiking and catching shuttles, we were rewarded with new vistas at every glance. Striking panoramas at Hopi Point and Pima Point gave us glances at the white water rapids of the Colorado River and of the century old buildings built by the Santa Fe Railway. Most of the historical buildings are all book stores or curio shops, but at least they are still there to be seen. Bright Angel Lodge looks the same as I remembered it from years ago.
We went to bed that night feeling quite satisfied with our day, but temperatures were plunging again and dropped to 23 degrees overnight. We had disconnected our water hose each night for a week, and when the sun finally loosened up the long skinny ice cube in our hose, we shot little bullets of ice out before reconnecting it in the morning. My morning walk on Monday was particularly brisk As we departed Grand Canyon National Park we passed a line of vehicles waiting to enter. It was over half a mile long. What is this place like in the height of the tourist season?
We’re tired of these cold nights and are heading for warmer weather.
LAKE HAVASU, AZ - LAS
VEGAS, NV April
We stayed at an RV park that had a shuttle to the Vegas strip, so we ventured there whenever we felt like it. The new Aladdin Casino is the only new one that has opened since our last visit, and we enjoyed its splendor. It has a huge shopping mall that is totally free of gaming paraphernalia. No stimulating show that we were dying to see caught our eye. Some rock star was doing EFEX, Rick Springfield, I think, so we weren’t interested in that–we saw Michael Crawford do it several years ago. The only other show in town seemed to be Wayne Newton and several magicians. Not like years ago when we could drop in and catch Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin.
We spent Easter Sunday in Vegas and attended mass at the Shrine of the Most Precious Blood, but we never got inside. There were large speakers installed over the doors and the overflow crowd merely stood outside and listened to the service. They brought communion outside, so we never even saw the vestibule. An interesting experience. After church we ventured to an Easter Brunch at the pyramid shaped Luxor. We had phone service at our RV site, so I worked on web pages and uploaded them. Still have loads to do, though.
Towards the end of the week it was time to drift back to the Phoenix area, so we stopped in Ft. Mohave, AZ a couple of nights before arriving in Surprise on the 21st.
PUERTO PENASCO (ROCKY POINT), MEXICO
April 23-28, 2001
There was some special entertainment towards the end of the week as skydivers rained from the sky. Turns out son, Mark, was aware of the event, and though he didn’t, he had considered attending. With our long walks on the beach drawing to a close, we picked up stakes and caravaned back to the Phoenix area, which was hotter than Mexico had been. So we made plans to move north again, hoping the snow and sleet would be gone this time.
In Surprise, we spent one night at a place called Happy Trails RV Resort before heading north. The streets are named Roy Rogers Drive, Dale Evans Avenue, Pat Brady Road, Trigger Lane, and so on–you get the idea. Turns out, this place, although never owned by Roy and Dale, was frequented by them many years ago, as they had given permission to use their names. Interesting stopover. After Sunday Mass we visited with Rich and Roswitha, played some cards, did some grocery shopping and hit the road for Oak Creek Canyon.
Oak Creek Canyon, AZ
Lake Powell, AZ
St. George, UT
Zion National Park, UT
Bryce Canyon NP, UT
--Escalante Nat'l M, UT
Capitol Reef NP, UT
Arches NP, UT
Dinosaur Nat'l M, UT
Sale Lake City, UT
Elko, Winnemucca, Reno
|OAK CREEK CANYON - LAKE POWELL, AZ
April 29-May 3, 2001
US Highway 89A winds from Jerome, a ghost town, to the scenic tourist town of Sedona. We spent a couple of days in the area but didn’t get to see Jerome, because the state park was closed for reconstruction. Our RV park was on the banks of Oak Creek, and we hiked along the banks for a while collecting the native red sand in our shoes and socks. We also revisited the sights in Sedona before heading out into Navajo country.
We spent a night in a town called Tuba City which is in the middle of the huge Navajo reservation that occupies the northeast portion of Arizona. The landscape of colored rock formations is, at times, breathtaking, but I can’t imagine how people survived in this dry, rocky environment. We continued on towards Lake Powell, which we knew held more spectacular scenery. A full service RV park is on a bluff overlooking the lake and one of the many marinas. The lake was as glorious as I had remembered it from my visit there in the mid-70's. I was surprised to learn that when I was here with the kids, the lake hadn’t reached its capacity yet, as that wasn’t achieved until 1980. The Glen Canyon Dam is the most recent dam on the Colorado River, and the tour of it was fascinating. The fact that the concrete that was poured to create the dam in the 1960's won’t be fully cured for 2000 years is mind-boggling.
We took the five hour boat tour of the lake which put us within hiking distance of Rainbow Bridge National Monument. This natural stone bridge is the largest in the world at 275 feet wide and 290 feet high. It is said to be the most photographed geological wonder in the American West, and we helped prove that statistic by taking photos from every possible angle. It takes two hours by boat to get to the dock, and from there it is an easy hike to the bridge, then two hours back to the marina. Course you can hike there with a permit–it’s just fourteen miles from the nearest trail head. The shoreline of Lake Powell is over 1,000 miles long, longer than the entire west coast of the United States. The boat trip afforded us five hours of the vivid blue water of the lake against the white water line of the rocks and the colorful rock formations and walls of this marvelous place. These vivid columns jut out of the water and the canyons weave everywhere. One of the plateau’s along the way is the site of a Volvo commercial. You may have seen the commercial where there is a picnic set up with a Volvo next to it, and the camera pans away showing it at the top of this incredible plateau. There is no way a car could drive up that column in the water, even though you’re supposed to believe the Volvo did. Seems it took two Volvos to film the commercial. The car had to be brought by helicopter to the top of the plateau, and they dropped the first one!
ST. GEORGE AND HURRICANE, UT
May 4-6, 2001
We stayed in Hurricane at a huge RV park in what is apparently big snowbird country. On Saturday I felt like I would live, so we did the sights in St. George, which is called the “Dixie” of Utah as is evident by the huge sign of that name emblazoned on the side of one of the mountains surrounding the town. This pleasant city was founded by Mormons around the time of the Civil War on the orders of Brigham Young who needed the area to grow cotton. It is now a popular place for retirees. It was Saturday evening, and we found a Catholic Church which was having a huge Cinco de Mayo festival and a 5:30 Mass. We attended Mass and got some dinner afterwards. Not a bad combination.
ZION NATIONAL PARK, UT
May 7-8, 2001
Groups of climbers are scaling the smooth sandstone cliffs, and we can watch their progress at various places. We have hiked the trail along the Virgin River, which is responsible for carving this canyon, upwards to a waterfall which was disappointing in the volume of water running. It is strange that the water flow in the river is high enough to warn park visitors not to even wade in it, but the waterfalls are just dripping. Another trail supposed to have a proliferation of wildflowers had a disappointing few. The only wildlife we have encountered are squirrels, lizards, and some mule deer. We haven’t found it necessary to wave our arms, shout and throw rocks or sticks at a mountain lion as the park guides suggest–whew!
An interesting sight today was several young men in green and white striped shirts and pants doing landscaping around the visitors center. They were accompanied by a uniformed officer with a gun. Their shirts were marked PWC on the back, and their pants had PRISONER written down the leg. They seemed quite young and were moving around freely on their own, so we didn’t think they were a threat.
Oh, one more interesting observation. When you are at the base of a canyon surrounded by soaring cliffs, it becomes daylight a long time before you actually see the sun because it has to get high enough in the sky to scale those cliffs--the reverse is obviously true at sunset, which you don't really get to see at all.
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UT
May 9-11, 2001
Unlike Zion which you can drive through, there is but one way in and out of Bryce, so our second morning we drove to the farthest point in the park to have the remainder of the day to work our way back to the entrance. Rainbow point is also the highest point in Bryce, so our hike from the parking area had us skirting snowbanks at practically every turn. The 200 days annually of below freezing temperatures are major contributors to the formation of the hoodoos, as the freezing and expanding process aids in their development. Hard to believe just two days ago we were in shorts at Zion and running the air conditioner for relief! Each stop along the canyon rim affords new breathtaking formations. From the rim here we see all the way back to Arizona’s Navajo Mountain adjacent to Lake Powell.
Each vantage point along the rim has something new to offer, like the natural bridge which is actually an arch. A hike down into the canyon gives us close up looks at the hoodoos, and a new vantage point of looking up at them. Deep between the steep walls are some delicate pink formations which are invisible from above because of their pale color. Twenty-five years ago when traveling here with our children, I don’t recall encountering any foreign tourists. Now, I believe we have seen and heard more languages than at some spots in Europe. Yes, the buses of Japanese tourists were present, several German and possibly Dutch speaking families were nearby. At least two groups of English tourists were at one spot, and they may even have been on a bus. There were even a few couples of French tourists, and that is definitely rare, and some Spanish speaking tourists, possibly from Central or South America. I guess my point is foreign visitors are no longer just going to New York, San Francisco and Disney World. They visit the Grand Canyon and other national parks in our picturesque country. I’m certain they are all impressed, as there is definitely nothing like these cliffs and mountains and hoodoos anywhere else in the world.
Our final day we walked along a river and up to a mossy cave, then to a waterfall. We took a final look at the beauty of the magical pillars of Bryce and drove on up the road.
GRAND STAIRCASE--ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT,
CAPITOL REEF AND ARCHES NATIONAL PARKS May
The next day we visited Capitol Reef National Park so named for a huge dome formation which reminded early pioneers of the nation’s capitol. The reef designation came because many of the settlers were former sailors, and the brilliantly colored cliffs were natural barriers which reminded them of reefs. In reality the park is a maze of cliffs, natural bridges, domes and stone arches. A buckling in the Earth’s crust, known as the Waterpocket Fold, stretches for 100 miles in the park. Remnants of early Morman settlers in the park include some orchards, farm buildings and a schoolhouse, and even earlier settlers left petroglyphs carved on the sandstone cliffs.
We visited Arches National Park on Mother’s Day. Not just another area of striking red rock and fabulous formations, Arches boasts over 2000 cataloged arches ranging in size from three feet to 306 feet. The reason for this collection of unique arches is attributed to water and ice, extreme temperatures and underground salt movement, plus 100 million years of erosion.
Green River is a former mining community located on I-70, and we spent two nights there before and after our visit to Arches. We attended Mass at the only service available which was a 6:00 p.m. service on Saturday evening. Down the street from a large, modern LDS church was a tiny white house with a sign in front that read, St. Michael’s Church. In what was possibly the living room/dining area was an altar and some tiny little pews that were two-seaters. The entire seating capacity was twenty-five. At about two minutes past six, a large black dog came loping into the house, followed by the priest who had made his weekly drive of sixty miles from his parish in Price to say this Mass. Seven of the twelve attendees were RV’ers like us passing through town, and one of the five locals was a tiny child. One has to marvel at the fact that there was even a Mass available. If this Jesuit, originally from Los Angeles finally retires, I’m sure this tiny mission parish will disappear. Just another of our interesting church going encounters on the road.
DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT, UT
May 16, 2001
SALT LAKE CITY, UT
May 17-24, 2001
After being in Salt Lake for a week we hadn’t done any sightseeing, so we decided to take a day to remedy that. We visited Temple Square and started the tour with the “missionaries,” but they were a little too preachy, so we continued on our own. We attended an organ concert in the Tabernacle where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs. The concert wasn’t great, but the Tabernacle was impressive. Next we visited the State Capitol at the top of the hill and got our own private tour--just the two of us accompanied by a tour guide who was a transplanted divorcee from Los Angeles. She was as interesting as the tour.
ELKO, WINNEMUCCA AND RENO, NV
May 25-30, 2001
From Elko we spent a night in Winnemucca, then a couple of days in Reno. After Reno we browsed the shops in historic Virginia City then continued on down the road to Nevada’s capital, Carson City. We visited the fully restored Capitol building.
|We're on the road again. We entered California the first of
June and spent the first several days at Yosemite where we enjoyed the
waterfalls, the Sequoias and all the rest of that splendid scenery.
Then we were off to the Bay Area for granddaughter, Monica's, grammar school
graduation, followed by new grandson, Rico's, christening on Father's Day.
The whole family gathered for that event since Paul flew in from Michigan
and Mark in from Los Angeles. We enjoyed visiting with friends, some
card playing and a general good time.
The end of the month we drove the car to the Los Angeles area and went to the Square Dance National Convention in Anaheim (the home of Disneyland). We stayed at the Hilton instead of bringing our own Hilton on wheels with us. We danced and visited with square dance friends from all over.
Moscow, Idaho- Life
on Wheels Conference
Coeur d'Alene, ID
We drove back up to the Bay Area from Anaheim to retrieve our home before heading off to Idaho. We enjoyed a 4th of July party at a friends home that is an annual tradition. We missed it last year while traveling so were happy to be in the area this year.
MOSCOW, IDAHO July 8-13,
2001 Life on Wheels RV Conference
The classes were all on RVing–the lifestyle, safety, and basic RV information. Ray attended classes on tire safety, weight safety, fire safety, batteries, propane, generators, solar, towed vehicles and electrical systems. I chose things like adjusting to the RV lifestyle, digital photography, budgeting for fulltime RVers, RV gadgets and accessories, communications on the move, plus bird and animal watching. I enjoyed a class on nutrition on the road and another on strength training while traveling. A class on volunteering examined the many possibilities for volunteer activity along the way. We both attended driving a motorhome--better late than never! And, we both took personal defense, plus pepper spray certification. So we are now both certified in pepper spray, which we decided was our defense weapon of choice, if ever needed–we even have holsters for quick draw.
The class instructors were long time RVers, most of whom have written one or more books on the subject and many are regular columnists for at least one of the many RV magazines in publication. The safety people were all RVers themselves and experts in their fields.
We wanted to find out what we are doing wrong, since we're having such a good time, but since everyone else seemed to be in the same boat, I guess we’re doing okay.
July 14-18, 2001
We arrived in Coeur d’Alene Saturday and located the local church for a Saturday evening service–beautiful church adjacent to the downtown area with stained glass windows all around. The Mass was almost full at this vigil service. We drove along the lakefront going to church, and there was some kind of festival going on with booths lining the lakeside park. We decided Sunday would be our day for exploring the festival and taking the cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene. We arose not too early and walked the couple of miles to the lakefront. A lively scene there had vintage wooden station wagons on display amidst throngs of people enjoying the craft fair and the breezy, sunny weather.
Since waterfront cruises are always enjoyable, we took a six hour cruise across the lake and down the St. Joe River. The lake is billed as one of the five most beautiful lakes in the world, and its shores are heavily wooded hills with some lovely homes. The river portion allowed us closeup views of the numerous osprey nests along the route. They were busily feeding their young, and the platforms built for their nests were at a level which made it easy to get a good view. Along the shores were remnants of 19th century lake and river logging operations that kept this waterway busy after the fur traders were no longer the primary travellers on this route.
Our last stop on the afternoon cruise was to sail up to the world’s only floating golf green. After teeing off, you take a boat over to the green to put. There were several golfers on the green when we cruised past them. Golfers can add this to those wanna-go golf courses.
When we returned to shore, we were greeted by a display of the sand sculpture contest that took place in our absence. First prize was a huge, tremendously intricate, castle with turrets, stairs, balconies, and hundreds of tiny fir trees on the surrounding hillsides. Runners up included a bear and Humpty Dumpty. I know that castle team had lots of practice sessions. We stayed a few more days in Coeur d’Alene to catch up on house cleaning, laundry and reading.
SPOKANE, WA and SOUTH
July 18-29, 2001
We walked through the park, saw Spokane Falls, and then went to Gonzaga University. Gonzaga is the alma mater of Bing Crosby, and there is a room in the Crosby Residence Hall called the Crosbyana Room. It holds his Oscar, his gold and platinum records, awards, photographs and numerous other memorabilia. Outside is a lifesized bronze statue of Bing smoking his pipe with his golf clubs at his feet. A nice bit of nostalgia for us.
We stopped next to Lake Easton in Washington for a few days and pretty much did nothing but relax, walk and read. Then instead of heading towards the coast, we decided to square dance in McCloud, California at one of Mike Sikorsky’s A2 weeks. So we set our direction to the south.
As we were driving through the Portland area, I noticed a sign for Willamette National Cemetery and remembered that one of Ray’s uncles was buried there. So we made a side trip. We visited the gravesite, cleaned off the grave marker, got his correct birth and death dates and recorded them in our genealogy records. He died almost 50 years ago, and I think we were the first to ever visit his grave. The beautiful cool days and crisp cold nights are disappearing as we head south.
MC CLOUD, CA July 28-August
New York City
St. Petersburg, Russia
Goritsky and Kirollov
New Maiden Convent
Bell Tower of Ivan
St. Basil's Cathedral
Tower of Secrets
World War II Memorial
|We stayed in McCloud an extra day to launder our square dance clothes
and tuck them back into storage, then drove to the Bay Area to gather our
traveling duds and suitcases to head to the Big Apple. Celebrated
our 43rd Wedding Anniversary on the 9th with a casual dinner out with our
grandchildren, daughters and son-in-law before heading to the airport for
an overnight flight to New York City.
NEW YORK CITY
Saturday morning was a good day to sleep in since it was pouring rain. Eventually we got up and walked over to 5th Avenue and then to TKTS again where we waited in the rain with hundreds of other theater lovers. We opted for a matinee at the Schubert of the hit show, Chicago. This rousing and wild show has great dancing and singing. We had seen it about fifteen years ago in Las Vegas, but it was expanded with additional songs and dance numbers for its current Broadway run.
After the show the rain had stopped, and we walked to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in time for the Saturday evening mass along with numerous other matinee attendees–Playbills were in the pews everywhere. I love St. Pat’s, but they do have the world’s worst organists–loud and lousy. After dinner we decided we had put in a full day and returned to our hotel.
You won’t believe what we did on Sunday morning. We walked down the middle of Madison Avenue. The street was entirely closed off and was filled with street vendors of everything imaginable–sort of the ULTIMATE street fair. After perusing various things, we continued on to 5th Avenue which was also closed off for an impending parade.
We elected to stand in line once again at TKTS for a matinee. Kiss Me Kate with its recent Tony Awards seemed like a good choice, and it certainly was. Shakespeare and songs and Broadway with oodles of talent and singing and dancing every minute. The sold-out audience was ecstatic, and we were no exception. We had lunch at a New York Deli and got our obligatory corned beef fix–yummy!
Monday we walked over to Central Park and down 5th Avenue. It was hot and humid and raining intermittently. We just enjoyed the city, and before we knew it, Tuesday was upon us, and we headed to the airport again for our flight to Russia. We had to be at the airport very early, but I was able to get on an internet connection and checked email before our departure. We had a full flight and it looked like we were going to enjoy Ashley Judd’s new movie, Someone Like You, but the sound system failed–c’est la vie! We had dinner onboard, followed almost immediately by breakfast–at least it seemed like that. We arrived in Frankfurt about 6 a.m. for our 9 a.m. departure for St. Petersburg. We met fellow cruise folks at the airport.
The flight from Frankfurt to St. Petersburg was shorter, but we got lunch. The Cruise crew met us at the airport and everything went smoothly. By the time we unpacked, had dinner and an orientation talk we were exhausted so went to bed to gather our strength for the adventures to come.
Our first morning we took an orientation bus tour of this magificient city now known as St. Petersburg. This city of 101 islands is called the “Venice of the North,” but today only 42 islands remain, as many canals and streams have been filled in over time. The problem with orientation tours is you want to jump off the bus and see everything. St. Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and in 1712 became the capital of Russia until Lenin moved it back to Moscow in 1918. Also known as Petrograd and Leningrad, the city has a tragic history, especially in the 20th century when the German army laid seige and surrounded the city for 900 days from 1941 to 1944, resulting in the death of almost one million residents, most from starvation. A cemetery has mass graves where 470,000 are buried and a stark memorial stands at the edge of town enroute to Pushkin.
Miraculously the beauty of the city survived wars and communist years. The blue and white domes of Smolny Cathedral and the surrounding buildings of a convent built for Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, are undergoing much needed restoration, but from a distance, they are splendid. The cathedral was designed by the Italian architect Rastrelli and the added institute by Giacomo Quarenghi. In 1917 the building became headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee and from here Lenin led the uprising in October 1917.
The much photographed multi-colored domes of Khram Spasa na Krovi (Church of the Resurrection of Christ or Savior on the Blood Cathedral) are as spectacular as its photos show. It was built on the site of Alexander II’s assassination and has been extensively restored.
The Youssoupov family’s wealth exceeded that of the Tsar’s, and when we visited one of their palaces, we got a feeling for the extent of their riches–and their power. It was in the home we visited that the infamous Rasputin was murdered in 1916. The Russians enjoy recreating eerie events implementing the use of wax figures, and the basement scene in the palace of the plotting murderers and their victim is very eerie indeed.
The famous Peter and Paul Fortress was where the first stone was laid in 1703 for the founding of the city. The fortress contains a prison, likened to Paris’ Bastille, a mint, and the cathedral, Petropavlovsky Sobor. The prison housed political prisoners and other famous inmates like Dostoyevsky, Lenin’s older brother, and Gorky. The cathedral with its golden spire was the tallest building in the city for centuries until a television tower outdid it. Not really a cathedral at all, this building is a mausoleum for the tzars and their families. Even the last tzar, Nicholas and his wife, Alexandra, and their murdered children are entombed here. And yes, Anastasia is here too, regardless of whether or not you believed Ingrid Bergman. Their bodies were buried here in 1998 along with their four servants who were murdered with them in the Urals. The bodies have been positively identified, so there is no question of anyone ever claiming to be an heir.
The Hermitage Museum, in the beautiful Winter Palace and other buildings, houses the largest collection of artwork and antiquities in the world. The guides enjoy telling tourists that to spend a few moments at each of the museum’s 2.8 million display pieces would require nine years. Whew!
While Peter the Great began this huge collection, it was Catherine the Great who went all out for her own private collection. Only for imperial viewing, the collection was never seen by the public until after the revolution. Now the crowds may not equal those at the Louvre, but some areas were very crowded. Our guide suggested we return in October or November, dress for the weather, and enjoy the city. Not a bad idea. We enjoyed the minuscule part that we had time to visit, but like all great museums, it is a place you must return to repeatedly to even get an idea of the holdings. Perhaps that is why some of our fellow cruise passengers were returning to Russia for a fourth and fifth time.
One evening we enjoyed a ballet performance of excerpts from famous ballets, including, of course, Swan Lake, Don Quixote and The Nutcracker. The performance was at a the newly renovated Palace Theater in Theater Square of St. Petersburg. The theater was small, and our tiny group from the ship made up the entire audience, so it was a very intimate performance. Oh, and one interesting bit of information–we learned that Bolshoi, as in Bolshoi Ballet, simply means “big.” How disappointing to realize that my enthusiasm over seeing the Bolshoi Ballet at McCormick Place in Chicago many years ago simply meant I was seeing the “big ballet.”
The gardens at this palace are mediocre at best. They are huge, but without the former greenhouses and gardners to maintain them, marigolds are the most common sight here. The outlying buildings on the grounds have not been restored, so they give a sense of how much has been accomplished in the large palace.
Just two miles from Catherine’s Palace is the smaller Pavlovsk built by Catherine the Great for her son, Paul, and his wife. Catherine hated her son, and since he feared for his life was grateful to be a few miles removed from mother’s presence. Not quite the museum atmosphere of Catherine’s Palace, Pavlovsk shows some personal interests of the family. Still, it is a palace with all the qualifying grandeur. Paul had a Hall of War with military interests, and as a contrast his wife had a Hall of Peace.
With our time in St. Petersburg coming to an end, we attended the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party as we got ready to depart the city. Our little “riverboat” was not nearly as grand as the ocean liners, but with only 109 passengers on board, we got very personalized service from the crew designed to handle 250 passengers. We departed St. Petersburg in a caravan of five ships with folks waving to us along the shores.
First night out was stormy on the Svir River between Lake Onega and Lake Ladoga. Morning aboard ship we had our first lecture in Russian sociology and our first Russian language lesson. Shortly after noon we approached the first set of locks, of which there will be eighteen to pass through. We watched intently as we negotiated this Lower Svir Lock with a change in water level of 12.1 meters (however much that is).
We stopped in the small village of Svir Stoy and walked through the town of mid-sized houses in varying stages of disrepair, but all with vegetable gardens and most with small greenhouses. Townspeople had booths at the pier hawking every Russian souvenir and kids selling half-finished coloring book pages.
We had lunch served on the island by the ship’s crew. They dragged plastic lawn tables and chairs from the ship to the shore, then set up grills and fixed the meats which were served along with enough salads to feed the entire island population.
Although we couldn’t enter the cathedral, we did visit the smaller winter church which was built fifty years after the cathedral. This concept of a large church for show and a smaller one for practical purposes exists all over Russia. The large churches were impossible to heat in the wintertime, so smaller churches were built adjacent to them for use during the long, cold, Russian winters. The smaller church here is Intercession Church and also has a roof constructed without nails. The icons from Transfiguration Cathedral were on display in the church.
Near the site of the cathedral they have transported typical houses and churches to make up what we know as a living museum. This one was opened in 1966. The area has no residents, and the guides come from another part of the island. The guidebook warned us of blood-sucking mosquitoes and poisonous snakes, but happily we encountered neither. It was a sunny, crisp and clear day.
Following our visit to the island, we attended another Russian lecture, this one on President Putin, then had a tour of the bridge. After dinner we started through the first of six locks for our nightime travels. There was lots of banging against concrete walls as the locks are very narrow–the ship did have bumpers just for this.
After a lecture on Russian foreign policy and another language lesson, we arrived in Goritsky home of Resurrection Convent which sits on the shoreline greeting you with its multi-domed church. No tours of the convent are available as yet, but it is undergoing restoration.
Here we boarded buses to visit the monastery of St Kirill of the White Lake. When Kirill was sixty years old at the end of the 14th century he sought a remote region for the “twilight” of his life. His first winter in this cold area was spent in a cave he had dug, but things picked up after that, and soon many monks joined him. He lived an additional thirty years and took every opportunity to expand the monastery. Over the centuries the monastery was a feudal lordship, a place of exile and a political prison. Ivan the Terrible’s father, Vasily III, built two additional cathedrals in thanks for the monastery’s part in the conception of Ivan. Vasily visited the monastery in the early 1500s to pray for a child by his apparently barren wife, and the following year Ivan was born.
In the mid-eighteenth century the monastery’s wealth consisted of over 20,000 serfs, 400 villages and land, a salt works, and cash. During the Bolshevik Revolution, however, the monastery befriended the wrong side and came under state control in 1923. In 1969 the Soviets ordered its restoration, which to date is coming along very slowly. While many precious icons are on display here, more of them reside in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There is much to be done to restore this multi-cathedraled place to any sort of grandeur.
Thursday, the 23rd, was my birthday, and when we returned from breakfast some balloons and a birthday card in Russian from the staff were on our cabin door. What a nice surprise! Our early morning treat was going through Sheksna Hydroplant which was lock #8 on our journey, and for the first time the ship dropped in the lock–13 meters.
The ship passed the churches of Tutaev which were constructed by the guild workers in the 18th century when the town was a flourishing settlement. The reason for so many churches everywhere and so close together is that they were sort of meeting halls for the unions, or guilds. These craftsmen wanted to build a better mousetrap–or church in this case–than their fellow union workers down the street.
Finally we docked in Yaroslav and visited the church of St. Elijah the Prophet, built in 1647, and blanketed in frescoes. The frescoes are not your Italian variety but rather a complete covering of walls, ceilings, arches and windowsills. Additionally St. Elijah has an exquisite lacelike iconstasis (icon wall) and multiple domes. The square in which the church stands, Ilyinskaya Square, is huge, and the reason is Catherine the Great ordered it. She was so impressed with the church that she ordered all surrounding buildings cleared to make the church more visible. Seems the family that paid for the church’s construction lived in one of the homes that had to be moved. Oh well!
We walked through town, bought some fruit from a street vendor, visited a flower market and another church. A stroll through a park with some sculptured flower gardens and a World War II memorial ended with a view of a flower bed with the town’s symbol, a bear and the founding year of 991. A visit to the Transfiguration Monastery and its gold domed Transfiguration Cathedral finished our little tour. The monastery’s fame is not for the golden domes but for its impenetrable fortifications. Pouring boiling oil on their attackers was one of the reasons for its impenetrable reputation. Before returning to the ship we visited the town mascot, Marsha the Bear–an aging bear in a cage with an elderly trainer/keeper pleading with her to do tricks for the tourists.
The main attraction in Kostroma is the Ipatevsky Monastery founded in 1332 and is steeped in Russian “royalty” ties to the Gudonovs and the Romanovs. This amazingly well preserved monastery was turned into a museum during Soviet times and now once again belongs to the Orthodox Church. Like all monasteries there are many buildings in the compound, but the golden domed white Trinity Cathedral is the focal point of everything, even though some of its domes were hidden by scaffolding. A samovar exhibit and another performance by an a cappella choir and an exhibit of gold and silver icon coverings were additional treasures we encountered during our visit.
We enjoyed the visit to the 17th century Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood and were especially impressed with the beautiful blue domes topped with golden crosses of this structure. Naturally several of the domes were in scaffolding, but those we could see were beautiful.
We walked through the town and took photos of several of the possibly middle class homes we encountered. We visited an outdoor market which was for locals. It had everything a Wal-Mart would have–from underwear to laundry soap. Since it was a Saturday, we assumed it was a weekend event. Stalls were on either side of a somewhat narrow passageway or alley, and it was teeming with shoppers. A bus route on the adjacent street allowed easy access for the shoppers. The local park contained the Russian equivalent of chainsaw carvings of animals for decoration and lots of young people enjoying the sunny day.
Shortly after departing from Uglich we approached one of those photo opportunities the guide books mention–the flooded belfry of Kalyazin. This belfry was erected in 1800 as part of St. Nicholas Cathedral on Kalyazin’s Market Square and stood 70 meters high. The town was flooded to dam the river at the Uglich Hydroplant, and the upper portion of the belfry rises out of the water as the ship passes the flooded town of Kalyazin.
Since the ship was docking in Moscow the next day, the Captain’s farewell party took place the night before. Ray was drafted to be part of the entertainment and threw himself into it wholeheartedly. He and three others were part of a mostly improve presentation and were “swans” in an obvious take-off of Swan Lake. One (of many) problems was that he was supposed to be issued a tutu, but one of them had disappeared with the last performance, so he was designated to be a “black swan.” Along with his fellow dancers they cavorted throughout the audience and onto the stage executing vine-left and vine-right without killing themselves and doing a “chicken dance” version of Swan Lake. Unfortunately the photos I took were pretty fuzzy–because I was laughing uncontrollably--so you’ll have to take my word for these descriptions.
One of the things you may have noticed in my descriptions is the plethora of Transfiguration Cathedrals and/or Intercession Churches. While it may simply be a lack of imagination on the part of those naming these structures, it may have something to do with their religious leaders preferences. Whatever the reason, I am merely telling it like it is–many towns with Transfiguration Cathedrals and several built on the site of a death or murder or assination with the word “blood” in their names.
MOSCOW August 26-29,
New Maiden Convent
Kremlin - Cathedral Square
Kremlin - Bell Tower of Ivan the Great
Kremlin - St. Basil’s
Kremlin - Tower of Secrets
Kremlin - Lenin’s Tomb–et. al.
In front of Ivan the Great’s Bell Tower is a circular platform that was used for religious services, for reading tsarist decrees, and for executing revolutionaries. Another story says that Ivan The Terrible had a small wooden tower built on top of the bell tower so he could watch beheadings in private–and we complain about violent TV now.
Kremlin - Tsar Bell and Cannon
World War II Memorial
Multiple rooms around the memorial are called dioramas, but they are not the kind I expected. They are huge rooms with lifesize murals depicting various battles and sieges of the war. Very compelling. Also on the huge grounds of the memorial are chapels and a synagogue. We visited the synagogue where an audio-visual presentation of the Holocaust was given. This was my first-ever visit to a synagogue.
We had our final dinner aboard ship and enjoyed an evening performance of a folk band. Then it was time to return to reality and board a plane back home. We flew from Moscow to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to JFK in New York. We spent the night near the airport, since we had to leave from LaGuardia the following day. It was a great adventure.
|CALIFORNIA - OREGON - IDAHO
September 1-26, 2001
Our flight got us into Oakland too late to pick up our motorhome from storage, so we spent another night in a hotel and picked up our home the following morning. We spent Labor Day with family, then headed north to join friends in Oregon for a week of R&R. With stops in Eureka and Klamath en route, we arrived in the Coos Bay vicinity on the 8th. We settled in for a week of talk and cards but were interrupted by the terrorist attack of September 11th. We spent the remainder of our week together in shock as did the rest of the nation. We were so fortunate to have friends nearby to during this awful time.
We drove north toward Portland from Coos Bay to the little town of Canby where we visited a distant cousin of Ray’s whom we met through our genealogy research and the internet. We had a delightful time getting to know each other and comparing family notes. After our visit we crossed Oregon on its northern border and into Idaho where we visited Boise and toured the Capitol Building there–a light and airy structure with beautiful white marble.
Salt Lake City, UT
Las Vegas, NV
Fort Mohave, AZ
Surprise (Phoenix), AZ
|SALT LAKE CITY AND LAS VEGAS
September 27-October 8, 2001
A return trip to Salt Lake City’s genealogy library for a week of research yielded additional genealogical gems to add to our store of knowledge. The added bonus there was the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus was at the Delta Center, so we enjoyed a Sunday performance there. This one had Gunther’s elephants and bengal tigers performing. Great stuff! But we couldn’t tarry any longer because it was time to get to Las Vegas to register our vehicle and have the required emissions test done on it.
FORT MOHAVE - PHOENIX - TUCSON, AZ
October 9-27, 2001
Casa Grande, AZ
Contra Costa, CA
|A few days for resting, reading and cleaning house in Casa Grande--a town near the outlet shopping mall mid-way between Phoenix and Tucson--had us ready for some square dancing in the southwestern capitol of square dancing. We helped Dan Nordbye out at the mainstream level when he had seven couples, danced A2 with Mike Sikorsky, then C1 with Bill Haynes and later with Randy Dougherty. Great dancing, but we were limited to a week, since we wanted to get back to the Bay Area for a Bronc Wise dance and Thanksgiving with the family.|
Contra Costa County
|December's parties, shopping, holiday events, and general activity
keeps us almost breathless when we return to the Bay Area this time of
the year. It is always good to spend time with friends and family.