Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 10 – Scenic cruising and Moscow

Patty:   We didn't have to get up early today so I decided to skip breakfast.  Syl brought be a bowl of fruit and yoghurt and a cup of tea.  We went up to the Sky Bar to a "Disembarkation briefing" which gave us all the info on what to do on Monday when we disembark.  Syl and I will be transferred to the airport at 9am - 5 hours before our flight which is at 14h40.  Some passengers were very unhappy because their flights are at 6h45am and they have to leave the ship at 2h45am.
After the Disembarkation talk we watched part one of a Video that has been made by a documentary maker who has been following the different tour groups around since the start.  I appear briefly in the Summer Palace at Pushkin.  We have decided  to buy a copy when it is finished.
After lunch we went on the city tour - and what a beautiful city it is!! - but the guide told us that the Metro had stairs, steep escalators and was a busy place - too busy for a wheelchair, so we stayed with bus with two other couples. There was a Sushi Bar close by so we had afternoon tea there before being taken to a parking place close to Red Square.  Syl took some photos of Red Square and at 6:15pm we left to go back to the ship. 
We could have gone to a folk song concert tonight but were told that the theatre had steep steps and that we would only get back to the boat after 9:30pm. I was too pooped by then.  We went back to the boat and Syl worked on the blog while I watched television in the cabin.  What a lovely surprise when Syl knocked on the door and held the laptop up to show me Mark and Emily and Tammy on the monitor! Tammy had Skyped Syl and she was able to speak to them and see little Emily!
We finally got to bed at about 10:30pm.

Sylvia (Photo of the Kremlin wall and Gate)
We spent the morning cruising down the 128km Moscow canal, dug out shovel by shovel by Gulag prisoners during Stalin’s time. The whole project required the construction of 240 complicated structures including 7 concrete dams, 8 earthen dams, 11 locks, 8 hydroelectric plants, 5 pump stations, 15 bridges, 2 tunnels, and a terminal for passengers and cargo. The project was considered a greater challenge and accomplishment than both the Panama and Suez canals.
As we got nearer to Moscow, the banks of the canal became more and more populated with holiday homes, small suburbs, even nudist bathers. After lunch we joined our tour bus for a city tour of Moscow. Mikhail was back - recovered from his illness - and he introduced us to our city guide, a woman with a slow, sing-song voice that had us all nodding after 15 minutes.
We were stunned by the size and elegance of the city with grand old buildings, many painted in pastel colours, the number of parks – apparently over 30% of Moscow consists of parks and gardens – and the hundreds of colourful, domed churches still remaining.
The city reminded me of Paris but is, in my opinion, even more beauftiful. It even has a an Arc of Triumph in ts main street.  Many of the streets have two names - an old Soviet name and the original Russian name.  It was considered too costly and confusing to keep changing the street names so both names are on plaques on buildings and road signs. (Something our Durban City Manager could learn from!)  We had two photo stops, one at the Novodevitchy Convent (where many of the past political leaders are buried). In the park is a row of bronze ducks given to Raisa Gorbechev by Mrs Bush.
 The other stop was at Sparrow Hill, a view site above the city that overlooks the river and the city.
Some people then continued on the Metro (difficult for wheelchairs) to Red Square. We were told that we would have to stay in the bus for about 45 minutes after whivch it would proceed to a parking spot next to Red Square where we would wait for the metro group to rejoin the bus. 
We had a tea/coffee break and then the bus took us to the parking close to the Red Square where we parked for about 45 minutes before the others joined the bus. Some continued on another bus to a special concert and one busload came back to the ship. I suggested to Kathrin, the events organiser, that those who decide not to go on the metro, for whatever reason, should be taken directly to Red Square by bus rather than have to wait in the bus for two hours. She was surprised as she thought we were being taken to Red Sqaure.  Maybe they will change this aspect of the City Tour for future passengers. 
Because half of the tour groups had gone to the concert, dinner was only at 9:30pm and we were unable to get anything to eat on the boat.  I walked quite a long way up the quay looking for a take-away place but they were all closed.  Patty and I decided to give the late dinner a miss and have an early night instead. I've suggested to Kathrin that this should also be changed - keep dinner at the normal time for those passengers who do not elect to go on the extra excursion and have a snack bar for those who come back to the boat at 10pm.
The highlight of my day was when Tammy Skyped me and I was able to see my family – Tam and Mark and my noonoo Emily and my husband who held up a Windhoek Lager to the webcam!

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