Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Uglich, Russia

Monday 18th July 2011

With no hint of the rain we’d had in Moscow, Monday was sunny and warmed up to 30 degrees Celsius. Approaching Uglich, we were lowered another 11 metres by a further lock. Here, a Triumphal Arch across the canal had been provided at the upper entrance. I gather this had been built by German prisoners. As we entered the lock, we were followed by two small boats which tied up on the opposite lock wall to us and ‘locked through’ with us. Each had about eight men in some sort of naval uniform. I rather imagine they were cadets.

The Triumphal Arch at the entrance to Uglich Lock. The upper gate is being raised. The two rowing boats can be seen bottom left.

Shortly after leaving the lock, we made a broad, sweeping turn to the right to approach the town of Uglich (population around 35,000). We moored at a pontoon near a modern white building which turned out to be an ‘Intourist’ hotel. From our mooring, we could clearly see the hydro-electric installation near the lock which uses the Volga to generate electricity. By this time, the small boats had caught up with us, six oarsmen in each boat producing a fine sight. I didn’t see where they went.

We were to be divided into lunch groups of about 12 to have lunch in a typical Russian home, deliberately with no interpreter present to make it more interesting. A series of 20-seat local minibuses had been chartered to deliver us to our hosts. With around 190 passengers to be moved, this was quite a logistical problem and required each bus to make two trips from the landing stage. A very bumpy journey of about ten minutes took my lunch group and one other past derelict-looking factories and fairly basic four-storey apartment blocks to a lane with a number of traditional wooden houses. We were then divided between two houses participating in this interesting experience. We met our charming, mature red-headed hostess who spoke not a word of English and she invited us into her home. Her husband (also rather red-headed) was there to meet us but, duty done, he very quickly absented himself. There was a short, narrow staircase to negotiate to reach the living area. A long table (or, more likely, two or three tables) had been laid for a party of twelve with an assortment of chairs and a settee. Once we were seated we were plied with an alcoholic drink. We were unsure whether it was a home-made produce or not but everybody agreed it was very strong. The meal started with a delicious cabbage soup using home-grown vegetables. The main course featured a plentiful supply of large boiled potatoes supported by a range of vegetables, meat and a sardine-like fish. Sweet buns filled with jam formed the dessert. Our hostess for lunch with two of her guests. Note the large tapestry on the wall.

It was a merry occasion and our hostess proudly showed us around her garden which produced all the vegetables until suddenly, realising the time, she shooed us back to the waiting minibus for the bone-shaking ride back to the town centre.

In the town square, we sorted ourselves back into our accustomed groups (Red, Yellow, Green etc.) for our walking tour. Back in Moscow, I had chosen the Yellow Group which was for Active Walkers. We were introduced to our local guide and set off for a walking tour of Uglich’s Kremlin, a peaceful, partly wooded area with a number of historical buildings adjacent to the river. The town’s name is derived from the Russian word ‘ugol’ meaning ‘angle’, because of the sharp turn made by the Volga River here.

It’s a historic place. Ivan the Terrible gave the town to his two year old son Dmitry. On Ivan’s death Tsar Fyodor banished his stepbrother Dmitry and his mother to Uglich. Seven years later, in 1591, Dmitry was murdered here, it was believed by Fyodor’s henchman Boris Godunov. A church was built at the site of the murder and we visited the present church built in 1692 called the Church of Prince Dmitry-on-the-Blood.

The Church of Prince Dmitry on the Blood, Uglich

Next, we visited the Palace of the Princes of Uglich built in 1480 and now the town museum.

Finally, we were seated in a building which doubles as a concert hall and art gallery where five local singers calling themselves ‘Koucheg’ sang a capella, supported by a marvellous bass singer.

We were then on ‘free time’ until 5.45 p.m. so I was able to explore the charming town on foot, photographing churches and other buildings.

Whilst we were on our town tour, two more river cruisers had tied-up at a small jetty adjacent to our mooring. As we left Uglich, just after 6 p.m., another river cruiser was arriving to moor in our place. Tourism is clearly very important but, of course, many of the tourists are from the Russian Federation itself.

Later that night, we entered the man-made Rybinsk Reservoir. This was created by damming the Volga to raise its level and allow the construction of hydro-electric installations which provide power to the surrounding area. We continued sailing through the night, in order to reach our next stopping point, Yaroslavl early the next morning.

Uglich Lock
Uglich Town