...people, history, religion, arts, sciences, food, the land, here is a very rich culture.

What will it feel like to be in Russia?  Physically it is the largest country in the world, Canada is second and the United States is third in size.  The U.S. and Russia have been at odds with each other for a long time.  I grew up during the Cold War and remember those fears.  We expect to be safe with our river cruise on the historic rivers: Neva, Svir and, through Lakes Lagoda and Onega.

We start in St. Petersburg and end in Moscow.  There are at least 16 locks on the rivers.  We visit medieval towns, view wonderful architecture of imperial palaces and Russian Orthodox Churches.  Kizhi Island in Lake Onega has been inhabited since 5,000 BC.  There is a beautiful wooden church there, built without nails.

My mind is full of so much right now.  I want to write just a little to give you a sense of what it is like preparing for a trip such as this.   The ruble exchange to the dollar is very good.  In 2008 it was about 24 r to $, now it is about 65 r to $.  We have a chart to figure it out.  

We fly St. Louis - Dulles - Frankfurt - and into St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland where our Russian river ship will be waiting. After two days there we sail on the Svir River  to Kizhi Island in Lake Onega where people have lived since 5,000 BC.  We will see a wooden church built without nails and having 22 cupolas.  Back to the river, we continue to Goritsy, enter the Volga River and see the medieval city of Yaroslavl.  Then to Uglich and Moscow.

IMG_3686 © Evelyn Weliver

Books for background and what to do:
Moscow, St. Petersburg & the Golden Ring  by Masha Nordbye
Insight Guides:  Russia, Belarus & Ukraine.
Frommers:  Moscow Day by Day
Eyewitness Travel:  Top 10, St. Petersburg

*Newly added January, 2017.    Read after the trip for helping to understand the people:  Midnight in Siberia: a Train Journey into the Heart of Russia by David Greene (NPR host)   He interviews people along the way. He found "A foundation of Communist ideology and Soviet power was keeping people convinced that they had to accept their fate as it was--and that that, in the end, this would be better for everyone."   He finds that this feeling still exists.  Many Russian authors reflect a stoic view, too.  I haven't put authors and composers in the list because they can be found easily.
          Red Notice:  a True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder also reflects a stoic aspect.  His true narrative points out that people follow rules and procedures; often with no questions.  The government has a very convoluted method of revenge for a non-Russian who is making money buying companies after the Soviet Union dissolves.  He describes how the government gave each citizen vouchers to own a part of the company they worked for.  People bought these from them, collecting them until the rich person could buy the company for very little money.  Just a few ended up owning everything and the general citizen remained poor.  One of our land tour guides told us the same thing!  She also told us that people were given their apartments so that they owned them and no longer needed to pay rent.

A timeline of history:
AD 400-600 Eastern Slavs into Urkaine and Russia
800-900Vikings invade
Rivers are roads through the country
988 Christianity from Constantinople
1200 Kiev - Center of government,  Alexander Nevsky defends west   
Mongols invaded fro the east  
1328 Moscow capital  of Russia
1480 end of Tatars (Mongols) (Golden Horde)  
Ivan III unifies Russia
1547  Ivan IV  (Terrible)  defeats Kazan, builds St. Basil
1613 1st Romanov Tsar
1682-1726 Peter the Great brings in western culture and builds a navy
1712 he builds St. Petersburg on Gulf of Finland, moves capitol from Moscow

1763-96 17 1763-Catherine II (the Great) recaptures Belarus and Ukraine from Poland
1812 Napoleon is defeated in Russia
1855-81 Serfs are freed
1891 - industrialization
1898 Lenin forms Socialist Democratic Party
1905 Duma (parliament) is established  1914 WWI
1917 economic and political collapse Oct.25,
1918 kill Nikolas II,    civil war until 1922
Lenin comes to power until death in 1924
Stalin becomes ruler until his death in 1953

Interesting Netflix series:  World War II:  Behind the Scenes (about Stalin)