— Song of the Volga Boatmen
The US has the Missisippi; Russia has the Volga.
The river, wide, with green algae clouding its surface, runs in the veins of all Russians from birth. Today, I got to experience the Volga River.
After waking up early this morning and getting to the Rechnoy Port, I, along with the rest of the group, boarded a boat to go down the Volga to an island called Sviyazhsk (Свияжск).
The boat ride was really nice. Today was hot, hot, hot, but the steady breeze on the boat made it pretty tolerable. The company, of course, was fantastic and it was a nice “bonding” time. A few of us (make that me and another friend) even participated in a small, but crazy, techno dance party on the deck. The only bad part about it was that I have no doubt that our new friends will be spreading the word that Americans really have no dance moves. Of course, the highlight of the boat trip (well…maybe that was the dance party) was the really cool scenery. Thick forests hugged the riverbanks, with occasional breaks for rocky beaches and lines of dachas.
When we got to the island (almost 2 hours after “taking off” from Kazan!), the sun was right overhead and was burning! The island itself is cool – possibly a little bit boring, but that might just have been because the heat was oppressive to the point of distracting from anything else. A few things about the island, though. Possibly Sviyazhsk’s most interesting historical significance is that its where Ivan the Terrible assembled his troops before sacking the Kazan Khanate centuries ago. The island is also home to a few churches and a mosque (?), which were very cool – not only in design (typical Russian domes/bulbs/ikons), but also in temperature. A few of us got glared at by a Russian Orthodox priest for sitting on a bench in one church for probably too long.
After a solid 2 hours on Sviyazhsk, we got back on our friendly vessel and headed back to Kazan. A freak rainstorm towards the beginning of the boat ride was miraculous and much-welcomed, as it provided a needed break from the intense sun. The rest of the boat ride was spent mostly hanging out (our previous dance party friends even asked us to take pictures with them!), and I think a few lucky girls got invited by the captain to “steer” the ship briefly – if only for photographs.
A good but HOT day here in Kazan. One more day of freedom here before departing for camp on Monday. I’m planning on going to the bazaar and watching the Dutch BEAT Spain tomorrow night. Can’t wait.