Friday, 22 July 2011

Goritsy, Russian Republic

Wednesday 20th July 2011

The Sheksna Lock being filled to raise our ship.

We left the Rybinsk Reservoir and entered the winding Lower Sheksna River. At the double parallel lock at Sheksna, our ship was raised 13 metres to enter the Upper Sheksna River, leading to Beloe Lake (White Lake). As we approached land, we could see the Goritsky Convent of the Resurrection, a complex of white-painted buildings variously dated between the 16th and 19th centuries. Wooden scaffolding was visible around the main church as years of neglect were slowly being reversed. Two river cruise ships were already moored - 'Leo Tolsty' against the landing pontoon and 'Ivan Bunin' "doubled-up" against the 'Leo Tolsty'. We moored on top of the 'Ivan Bunin' so, to reach the shore, we had to pass through the reception areas of the other two ships.

With five or six hundred vistors in the area as we arrived, I knew it wasn't going to be peaceful. But I still wasn't quite expecting the long row of souvenir stalls the footpath took us past, together with a number of permanent, wooden buildings forming Craft Centres and Cafes. At the end of the footpath, there was a 4- or 5-bay bus station with more souvenir stalls. It was fairly chaotic for a few minutes as large coaches (mostly German) came and went and our guides sorted us onto the correct coach. We drove through the village of Goritsky (mainly traditional Russian wooden houses) for the 4 kilometer drive to the town of Kirillov. The town was named after Saint Kirill. In English, that's Saint Cyril which, as one of the passengers commented, sounds straight out of Monty Python.

The imposing defenses of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery.

Kirill founded what's now called the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery at the end of the 14th century. Over the next 200 years, the buildings were greatly expanded. The 2 kilometre long defensive wall encloses around 12 hectares of land, making it the largest monastery in Russia. Although it is now preserved as a museum, receiving around 250,000 visitors a year, a small community of monks has been re-established. The buildings are genuinely old (unlike many churches in Russia which have been re-created) and, had it not been quite so busy, I think I'd have found it a spiritual place. We spent some time in the museum, looking at more icons and other religious artefacts. We spent some time in the souvenir shop which extended over a number of rooms. In one of these rooms, we were treated to another display of a capella singing but I resisted the temptation to buy their CD.

Lake Siverskoye.

The monastery complex is adjacent to Lake Siverskoye and the most peaceful part of the tour was the walk we took along the lake edge. Of course, there was the usual group of Russians relaxing, swimming and diving. All-in-all, I was sorry to get back on the coach and return to the ship.

The 'Leo Tolstoy' and the 'Ivan Bunin' had departed and our ship was now moored directly to the landing pontoon. Another ship, apparently travelling south rather than north had arrived and tied up to a second landing stage I hadn't spotted before. For once, everybody returned to the ship on time so that, at 4.0 p.m., we were able to cast off and continue north. We passed extensive swamp land and the pathetic-looking remains of a church abandoned when the area was intentionally flooded.

Eventually, Beloe Lake gave way to the river leading to the locks of the Volga-Baltic canal. I went to sleep expecting to wake up when we entered the first lock but, in fact, we were approaching the second lock before I woke.

My pictures of Goritsy and the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery are here.