Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tsarist Russia is so opulent , so gigantic, so sophsticated, it's exhausting. No small part of that exhaustion is the acute contrast of the squalor and poverty that accompany the splendor, that go side by side with it, like creme fraiche and rye with beluga caviar. So to speak.

So to speak. But at any rate, after Swan Lake, the Nevsky Prospect, the Church of the Resurrection, the Admiralty, St. Isaac's Cathedral, The Smolny Convent, and the Cathedral of Kazan, each with its own awesome uniqueness, it was way past time to settle into the calmness and serenity of the great open air.



(I did not mention the stats on Peterhof: the "fountain" is referred to as the Grand Cascade is composed of three waterfalls, 64 fountains and 37 statues. Its system of waterworks has remained unchanged since 1721, conveying water over a distance of nearly 12 miles with of course, no pumping stations. He was not called Peter the Great because of his height.)

We embarked upon a journey to Moscow via a series of lakes, rivers and canals. We left St. Petersburg on the Neva River, enduring quite a middle of the night storm on Lake Ladoga, floating down the Svir River to Lake Onega. Here we entered the Volga-Baltic Waterway, an extended system of rivers, lakes and canals that link the Baltic Sea with the Volga River, with a total length of about 700 miles, St. Peterburg to the Rybinsk Reservoir. Here is the Dreamland, the Fairy Tale world of Russia.


It's this complex system of natural rivers and lakes, artificial reservoirs and canals that has made commercial travel between the two great cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg easy and commonplace and created the tourista bonanza that now exists here. Towns and villages once sequestered by the Iron Curtain now play host to the world, showing off exquisite and extraordinary monasteries, churches, museums and kremlins. Commercial investment in the west since perestroika is non-evident and the life of some of the people in these villages is not heart-wrenching, but troubling. Deeply troubling.


St. Petersburg provided us with one last OMIGOD moment after sailing; the city gave way to small settlements and dachas, with stand after stand of virgin timber and trees, the birch trees swaying in the soft summer air. Just as we burst upon immense horizon of Lake Ladoga, not only nicknamed 'The Street of Life' but also the largest lake in Europe, we sailed past Petrokrepost ('Peter's fortress'), a medieval fortress built in 1323. A man in a Scottish golf cap and camou stood on the rocks fishing, his bait in a plastic milk jug. It was not clear if this was real time, live or just a perfectly scripted, superbly cinematographed moment of sheer awe.

Because it was sheer awe.



JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA

14 comments:

Carla said...

Ah...feel like I'm there. Must have been incredible.

Carla said...

I just gave you a Rockin' Girl Blogger award.

JBelle said...

YO! Thank you!

toadman said...

Very cool. I don't think there's any place on the planet I WOULDN'T want to visit. Russia is definitely near the top of that list.

Mommy Dearest said...

Beautiful

Inland Empire Girl said...

Peter's Fortress is breathtaking. You are right...I would have been awestruck also.

the psycho therapist said...

You know, I've never felt a "pull" to visit Russia but your descriptive narratives do entice.

And I don't mean just the creme fraiche and Beluga, both of which have made my acquaintance on numerous occasions along with their friend, iced vodka, I am happy to report.

Beautiful work here, Schmeebsie.

--

MarmiteToasty said...

There ya go again....... making me travel in me mind...... beautiful as always...

x

JBelle said...

Carla, It was incredible. I realized that much of the fairy tales and childrens' books that I grew up with came from, at least in part, here. Of course, the influence of Hans Grimm and Germany was not small but I didn't understand how familiar I was with much of Russian classical music and art. We were utterly absorbed with 'Swan Lake' and felt deeply fortunate to have seen it in St. Petersburg. sigh. Irreplaceable memories.

Toadster: I HOPE you get to go because there are so many stories afoot here. So many stories. These are tough, resolute people and the lives and times of the Tsars and of the Revolution of 1917 are some of the most stirring ever.

T: Russian parents are among the best in the world. Russian children are clean and groomed; the girls wear ribbons and barrettes and the boys's shirts are tucked in without fail. They hold their parents' hands and are non-expressive in public. They stop and buy their children little things to drink and little toys and the children respond with shining eyes. Quite something to see. In Russia, it's quite clear who is the parent and who is the child.

Mrs. Roosevelt: Peter's Fortress struck all of us dumb. And we had just spent 3 days in St. Petersburg! We were fairly numb to the exotic and gorgeous. But it was such a wonderful thing, one last thing, to see before we hit the open water. I'll always remember standing on the end of the boat, watching it until it disappeared on the horizon.

WendoLee: Russian culture has not been westernized that much. It's such a cool thing to be in a country that's just itself and doesn't pander to American tourists or tourists of any kind. No English on signs or menus anywhere. Certainly no American jeans or sports teams logowear. Russian food in the cafes and restaurants and maps and books written in Russian. They do wear a lot of puma on their feet, as is common in many cities in Europe. But by and large, Russians don't give two hoots about what they're wearing in Los Angeles and New York. As you walk the streets of Moscow, you are quite clear you are somewhere in Russia!

JBelle said...

Melsie, Travelling in your mind is the best! No interminable delays or security episodes in the airports, either. This trip was completely wonderful but it was hard. And by the way, no one was sassy to us, that we could understand, I guess. Clearly Russians mind their tongues a little better than Americans!

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

H'lo Cheech,

"...the children respond with shining eyes."

-ah...a universal...

"As you walk the streets of Moscow, you are quite clear you are somewhere in Russia!"

- ah...identity...

Beautiful post...love the last photo.

;)

ThomG said...

JBelle, thanks for the link on your blog, I love it!

mamaJD said...

20 DAYS! It has been 20 days since your last post. Are you traveling again? What is going on in the world of JBelle?