Last night we had a magnificent sunset as we crossed the southern waters of the Rybinsk Reservoir. This was on our way to Yaraslavl, an industrial centre of 750,000 people on the Volga River.
Yaroslavl is noted for its large number of historic old buildings. Legend has it that Prince Yaroslavl killed a bear (the symbol of the city, and also of Russia) within his bare hands. No pun intended! That’s how the town got its name. In the middle ages it was in an important trading position. A fire in 1658 almost destroyed the town although it was quickly rebuilt.
Our first visit was to an art gallery that also sold lacquer boxes. These are a hallmark of this region (as they also are in yesterday’s town of Uglich). The high quality ones, as distinct from the cheaper ones in the market places, are made from many layers of papier mache and are beautifully printed and polished. It takes a number of months to make each box and they sell for many hundreds of dollars. Some are decorated with classical Russian themes and others with figures, birds and flowers.
We then spent some time at the Monastery of the Redeemer which was built in the 12th Century and served as a defensive Kremlin from attacks from the enemy of the day – mostly Poles. We entered through the massive Holy Gate and wandered around the grounds looking at the old buildings and chapels.
A visit to the area around the park by the confluence of the Volga and another river gave us a chance to see the local memorial to the Great Patriotic War (WW2) and the Cathedral of the Dormition. (As I said in an earlier post, Russian churches all have very grand and grave sounding names). The original church here was destroyed by the Soviets, but about ten years ago a wealthy businessman contributed over 50 million Euros to rebuild it again. Hence, the current church that appears to be very old is actually quite new.
The main city square is bordered with two lovely old buildings with gorgeous columns and facades. In the middle of them is a very ugly Soviet era building, complete with hammers and sickles on the facade, that still serves as the town hall. Opposite this ugly building is the oldest church in the town known as The Church of Elijah the Prophet. It was built in 1647 with all of its internal walls and roof covered in biblical frescoes. At the front of the church is the typical iconic wall of the Russian Orthodox Church and the holy door that is only opened for services on special religious celebrations. Its artwork is very intricate. In the next couple of days, the church celebrates a special day and branches of birch trees are used instead of palm leaves as there are no palm trees in Russia. It looks odd, but it sees to make a good substitute. There are no seats in these Orthodox churches. People stand, or kneel, for up to three hours during the service – an act of suffering or contriteness in itself.
The city market sold everything from dried apricots to power adaptors. It is always interesting to see what people in other parts of the world buy and this market was no exception.
We left Yraoslavl at lunch time and headed back up the Volga River towards the reservoir again. We passed the town of Rybinsk with its many domes and tourers. There were lots of people camping and enjoying the sun in many places along the river.
Just before entering the Rybinsk lake, we passed through the Rybinsk Lock, a massive twin structure in which the water rose about 18 metres as I estimated it. On a windy day, the waves on this reservoir can be as high as three metres. We have been blessed with warm (actually, rather hot) days with sun and little wind.
The restaurant on this ship tonight followed a Russian theme so two of the staff, Diana (Head Tour Director) and Vladim dressed up in their national costume and gave us an interesting talk on ‘Everything You Need To Know About Russia. It was light hearted and very entertaining.