Friday, January 14, 2011


Saratov was the second to last city on our cruise. Getting off the boat we were greeted by some rather impressive graffiti displays on the wharf front. I don't know why this graffiti impressed me so much, but I was rather taken by it, which is why I deem to mention it here. While I believe Saratov (it might have been Samara, unfortunately the two cities tend to run together in my head a little bit) is famous for its chocolate and its associations with cosmonaut Yurii Gagarin, we spent the morning at Saratov's Victory Park, a park commemorating WWII, full of period weaponry and machinery, and with a beautiful panoramic view of the city. As a lot of you probably know, I love history, so the Saratov Victory Park was like a playground for me. We could climb on T-34 tanks, see armored trains, and see all of Saratov from the overlook. Unfortunately, I am ashamed to admit, my memory as to what we did after that blends with my memories of Samara, and as such I'm not going to try and sift through what I did and did not do. I do remember a member of our group getting lost, and the ensuing panic that we might not only lose her, but miss our boat to Volgograd as well. Kelsey, Bronwyn, and I were not going to have any of this. Team Ballingrad, as we billed ourselves, were going to get to Volgograd not matter what the cost, and we were going to beat everyone else there. I believe our idea included stealing a police cruiser, and Kelsey choking someone out with a shoelace for food. Why such an action was necessary to procure food I do not entirely remember, but it certainly sounded good.
Meanwhile on the boat, our never-ending war against our server Vera came to a head during the last few days of our cruise. Among our many spots of contention, pitchers of water was particularly contested ground. It had all started the first day or two, when I had asked dear old Vera for another pitcher of water. She looked at me and said she would bring it "later" and stormed off. Later never happened, nor did after dinner tea, a veritable crime in Russia. This war continued, us asking for water, and Vera not bringing it with various degrees of surliness in her responses. By Samara, enough was enough. In a daring coup, Kelsey and I seized another water jug from a neighbor table after finishing ours, and triumphantly placed it on the table for the flabbergasted Vera to see while I muttered obscenity laced insults at her as she promptly ignored us for the rest of the meal. The Water Jug Revolt had its intended affect, thoroughly cowed, Vera was quite a bit nicer, or perhaps she just liked the love poem our RD Nathan wrote for her. The message seems to have even creeped up to Denis at the bar, who seemed to be a lot more accommodating when it came to us ordering drinks. And as such we spent many a lovely evening at the bar upstairs, one night Nathan and I even tried our hands at break dancing. We were none to good at it.
One of the things I really loved about the boat was going out on the deck at night. The boat would cover the hundreds of miles between cities in the dark, and if you sat on the deck, you could see hundreds and hundreds of stars. It was quite something to lie on the deck and just watch the night sky.
My computer is running low on batteries, so I'm going to wrap this entry up for now. If I have the time I'll revisit it and flush it out. But for now, I'm done, three entries in one day!

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