July 13, 2014
The day started early with some great pre-dawn pictures by Peggy. I stayed in bed. A little later we rose for breakfast and prepared for a day in Yaroslavl. It would be a day devoted to the early history of Russia.
Jaroslav is named after its founder Prince Yaroslavl the son of Vladimir the Great. This is the Vlad who chose Christianity for his Viking Kingdom in Kiev. In 988 his Slav subjects had little choice in the matter and were baptized on a massive scale using the rivers and lakes. This Rurik dynasty is one of two Imperial dynasties in Russia. The last of the Ruriks was Ivan the Terrible and the other is the Romanovs.
Vladimir’s son, Yaroslavl became Prince of the region around modern day Yaroslavl around 1010. According to legend, he informed his new subjects that they would be converting to Christianity. This was not acceptable to the pagan Slavs so they unleashed the bear they worshiped as a god to,attack Yaroslavl. As a good Viking, he quickly des patched the bear with his battle ax and the Slavs became Christians. The city symbol is a bear armed with an ax.
Yaroslavl will eventually earn the sobriquet of “the Wise” after he becomes the Grand Prince of Kiev and enforced the first East Slavic legal code. Along the way Yaroslavl managed to defeat the Poles, engage the Byzantines and formed alliances with Sweden. There is even a remote connection with our family since he married his daughter Agatha to Into English royalty.
We were driven to the city center which contains enough 17th through 19th Century buildings to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked along the Volga overlook and park past bear symbols. This city of 600,000 is industrial but the modern activity is located away from the historic city center. The unemployment rate is 1% and it is clean and prosperous. It is a favorite place for Russian oligarchs to invest and support. The Cathedral of the Transfiguration is a great example. A benefactor put up the 70 million dollars to reconstruct the church. We toured it while a service was underway. The A Capella choir and the Priest doing his thing behind the iconostasis are a little too mystical for me. However, the Golden Doors were open and the call to worship by the bell ringers was worth the adventure.
We proceeded to the town market and were treated to some samples of local products. No vodka this time. We managed to find some saffron. We then toured the Church of Elijah the Prophet which contains quite a display of 17th Century icons and frescos. The decorations constitute a Bible for the many illiterate.
Our next stop was at the Governor’s Palace from pre-revolutionary times. We liked the tour led by young docent actors in costume and acting as the Governor’s daughters. It was both cute and informative. Besides the architecture and portraits we received quick lessons in 19th Century fan language that was used by the ladies to discreetly communicate their interests. The process was much better than the texting and tattoos of today’s young ladies. We also received lessons in “florography” or the use of different flowers to communicate your desires and feelings. Fascinating. The piece de resistance was my dancing demonstration with the young lady in the ballroom. Not to be missed.
The afternoon lecture on Soviet History was much better than the snoozer yesterday. We are currently in a lock and will continue up the Volga tonight. Peggy will be celebrated tonight with her birthday on the river. The cruise people supply the champagne and cake with our British and Canadian friends. We even finally saw the Mother of the Volga statue.