Cruise News UK goes on tour with Orthodox Cruises as the ms Anton Chekhov sails from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. This is the seventh in a series of articles aimed at describing, firsthand, a cruise on one of the most rapidly developing niches within the industry and how best to tailor this product to potential clients. Here we will explain why many of the industry’s leading figures are becoming increasingly excited by the prospect – and commercial viability – of river cruising.
Today is the final destination before we arrive in Moscow. Part of me is extremely excited at the prospect of visiting sites like Red Square, the Kremlin and the Moscow Metro, but another part will be disappointed that the journey of discovery along Russia’s waterways – and through some of the densest forest I’ve ever seen – has to come to and end. Tomorrow we will join thousands upon thousands of revellers in the capital, with tourists who will have had their entire experience of Russia based on a week or so in one megalopolis. And, while they would have seen all of the right sights and taken all the right pictures – I can’t help but feel that their time would have been better suited in some of the more off beat destinations like Kizhi, Goritsy and, so it turns out, Uglich.
Uglich is a town with a dark history and one which has at its core a fascinating but terrible event which shaped Russian history. In 1591 after the death of Ivan the Terrible, his youngest son Dmitry Ivanovich was banished to Uglich whereupon the 10-year old was found dead, with his throat cut. The tsar’s advisor, Boris Godunov – who had made plans for the throne himself – was immediately blamed however the officials who were investigating made the startling revelation that Dmitry’s death had been accidental. As retaliation for the accusations the bell, which had reported the death as murder, had its ‘tongue’ cut out and was exiled to Siberia. The death of Dmitry ushered in a period of power struggle in Russia known as ‘The Troubles’ where many armies – and false Dmitry’s – tried to claim the Moscow throne.
The city, once so prosperous, has since slowly declined. It now has a dwindling population of barely above 30,000 people, despite its rich history, as it struggles to compete on an international scale. Put simply: not enough people know about Uglich. And, while it certainly isn’t a place you could spend many long days, it is somewhere that is hugely important in the formation of modern Russia. If the events which took place in Uglich hadn’t taken place – the country would be a very different.
Our group is taken on a guided tour of the central part of the city, from the church which was built on the spot where Dmitry was found to a concert hall where we are treated to songs by the men’s choir, which is magnificent. The entire morning in Uglich – which lasts just a few hours – is a great insight into Russia’s offering, away from Saint Petersburg and Moscow. It has been fascinating. And something I’d never have undertaken if it hadn’t been for the opportunity to cruise with Orthodox.
However, despite everything I’ve written here about the offering of the locations outside of the two main cities, as we get onto the ms Anton Chekhov I can’t help but feel a little excited. Next time we disembark we will be in Russia’s beating heart – Moscow. Does this make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I’ve enjoyed the locations we’ve visited thus far on the journey and regardless of their undoubted value I cannot wait until we are in Moscow. My experience in the capital is going to be all the better because of the other regions we’ve visited and the journey undertaken. We have snaked through well over 1,000km of Russia in the last week and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Tomorrow we are in Moscow.
Read Day Eight of our Cruise Diary here