Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Viking River Cruise Ship Akun in Moscow

I was sitting in San Miguel de Allende eating my fish taco when I received a call from my friend Barbara Weibel a fellow traveler and blogger. She had called to invite me to take a river boat cruise through Russia with her.

I would tell you that Russia was not at the top of my places to go list, even though I was dying to see the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.   Then there was the idea of a cruise…was I really a cruise ship kind of guy. Of course, the fact that I had been invited on a journey pretty much necessitated that I go. As I have quoted before from “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater”…”Invitations to travel are like dancing lessons from God” and who am I to refuse a dance.

Viking Akun Panorama Bar

Viking Akun Panorama Bar

We flew into Moscow and were met by a driver from the Viking River Cruise we were traveling on. I had already made up my mind that I was going to do whatever they had planned for us. This was a leap of faith for an independent traveler who has never done any form of group tours but I was determined to go with the flow. Sort of a “Jesus take the Wheel” moment. Barbara and I were loaded onto the van and I was free to check out Moscow as we inched along the highway.

I was struck by the scale and the density of Moscow…everything was built on a grand scale and the traffic was a nightmare. I suppose I still had a Stalinist Era view of Russia and expected everyone to be driving around in an old Lada or a Moskvitch, wearing oversized gray overcoats and very sensible black shoes with thick soles. Those days are long gone and the metropolis I saw spread out before me was a modern, clean city of 12 million filled with all that the Decadent West could supply…BMW’s, Mercedes, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Zara and Ferragamo. Unfortunately, with this new prosperity came other problems…such as overcrowded roads and a high cost of living. Bumper to bumper traffic most hours of the day…It took us over 2 hours to get to our boat…the Viking Akun.

Viking Akun Stateroom

Viking Akun Stateroom

Our ship, which had recently been refurbished, was really a handsome vessel. All the main public space, such as the dining room and lounges, had panoramic views and were nicely appointed. The cabins were roomy and comfortable with a balcony to sit on and watch the world glide by. For the Moscow portion of the trip they had tied up at a park away from the noise and hustle of the city center but close enough to spare us long commutes to the sites.

We boarded the ship, dropped our bags and settled in with a glass of wine to explore the ship and make our selection of tours and sights for the next day. The crew has done a great job of planning things to do for a wide range of interest…museums, shopping, palaces, churches, historical sites etc. etc. I wanted to do as much as possible in case I don’t make it back to Moscow and the offering they provided gave a great overview of the city.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square

The food was excellent and the beds were comfy… I was excited. For a proudly independent traveler I was sure getting into this life of pampered travel very quickly.

I think, without a doubt, the main attractions of Moscow are Red Square with GUM Department Store, Lenin’s Tomb and St Basil’s Cathedral…also the Kremlin filled with museums, churches, palaces and beautiful gardens.  These we visited several time during our 3 ½ day stay both during the day and in the evening when the square was beautifully lit. I also visited a couple of Museums, a folk music concert and took a ride on the Moscow Metro with its ornate stations filled with art and crystal chandeliers.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

A Classy Moscow Metro Station

It seems the Russians have saved everything. Perhaps it was because the Revolution came in the 20th Century instead of an earlier time or perhaps Lenin thought to sell it off at some point.  Whatever the reason they have centuries of Imperial possessions…everything from the Imperial Thrones to Faberge Easter Eggs. Rooms filled with gold and silver objects, jewel encrusted prayer books and coronation gowns.  No place exemplifies this more than the Armory Chamber within the Kremlin…a vast depository for almost 500 years of Imperial History.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Going to the Chapel of Love..Red Square

Moscow was another big city and I am not as fond of them as I once was. So I was really looking forward to getting out into the country and seeing if the wealth was trickling  down to the small towns in the countryside. We were going to stop at some of the old “Golden Ring Towns” like Uglich, Kuzino and Yaroslavi…as well as visiting 4 UNESCO Heritage Sites on the trip.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Red Square at Night

The Viking River Cruise staff had made sure that if we were sitting around with nothing to do it was by choice and not through any fault of theirs. Every day is filled with tours, concerts, lectures and plenty of good food.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

Folk Music Concert…Moscow

So here I sit, with my glass of wine, looking out the window watching the sun set over the Moscow skyline and softly singing the lyrics of Proud Mary…rolling, rolling, rolling on the river.  Ahaa the beat goes on!

Disclosure: I was a guest of Viking River Cruises during my Waterway of the Tsars cruise.  However, the receipt of complementary services will never influence the content or post in this blog.  I write the truth, even if it means biting the hand that feeds me.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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5 Responses to Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

  1. Jim says:

    Larry, this is a great post. Like you, a cruise never appealed to me. However, this cruise appears to be a great way to get an overview of cities, and not just be dropped off at some harbor for a few hours to shop and be accosted by hawkers. Did you get to St. Petersburg, and some of Moscow’s outlier towns and heritage sites that you mentioned? Or is that a future post?

  2. Finally we get to see pictures and hear about your Moscow trip. I had heard some of it from you when you were here in Louisville but pictures really helps me put it in view. It sounds like a cruse is a good way to go!

  3. Susan B says:

    One of my favorite itineraries ever!

  4. Levi Lemberger says:

    Yours is a good description
    I was there in 89, the last year of the soviet union. There were no stores, none. The Gum Depatment store ha nothing except sports medals. A man sold ice cream and the line was almost around the block. What a different world now

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