The population of over a million makes Rostov-on-Don the 10th city in Russia and the 30th in Europe. It is also a modern industrial hub of Southern Russia; a cultural center with a large number of universities, colleges, architectural monuments and museums; an agricultural center; an important river port in closest vicinity to the Sea of Azov and the “Gateway to the Caucasus.” In fact, several cities in Southern Russia describe themselves as the “gateway”, but Rostov-on-Don can probably lay the greatest claim: departures' board of its Main Bus Station lists numerous destinations of the Caucasus and the Transcaucasia. Until the late USSR Rostov-on-Don had a fame of the “second capital” of so called “thieves in law” - these criminals called it the “Father Rostov”. Today the city is hospitable and absolutely safe for tourists. The place has the largest number of fish markets in Russia, because it stands on the Don River with the Sea of Azov just some 23 miles / 36 kilometers away from it. Interesting fact about Rostov-on-Don is that it has one of the largest cemeteries in Europe: over 500,000 graves are covering about 990 acres. Rostov-on-Don was a Cossack outpost in the 18th century. Today it is nice and green city with magnificent parks and beaches.
Arrival and embarkation. City's International airport (ROV) is just 45 kilometers / some 27 miles away from the River Terminal - therefore it might be a good idea to fly to Rostov-on-Don directly from Turkey. Your ship is docked almost in the very center of Rostov-on-Don, so there are good chances to start exploring the place on your own from the very beginning. Take a walk along the picturesque embankment, and enjoy a very nice view of the opposite Levberdon - local beach and recreational area. "Levberdon" stands for "levyi bereg Dona" (the left bank of the Don).
The place has a very nice city center. It will be visited during the city-tour today during first half of the day. Places of interest in Rostov-on-Don include Bolshaya Sadovaya Street the focal point of administrative, business and cultural life of the city; the beautiful park named after the famous writer Maksim Gorky; a very old site where fortress of St. Dimitry Rostovsky was situated in the 2nd half of the 18th century. Not mentioning the city’s picturesque quay of the River Don! The ship sails in the afternoon.
Volga-Don Canal is linking the lower Volga River with the Don River at their closest point in southwestern Russia. The canal runs for 101 km / 63 miles. There are 13 locks along its route, which drops 88 meters / 289 feet to the Volga and 44 meters / 144 feet to the Don. Three reservoirs - Karpovka, Bereslavka, and Varvarovka - occupy 45 km / 28 miles of its length. First attempts to connect the Volga and the Don rivers were taken back than in the 18th century by the first Russian Emperor Peter the Great. The actual construction of today's Volga-Don Canal began prior to the Second World War, which interrupted the process. Construction works continued from 1948 to 1952; navigation started on June 01, 1952. The canal and its facilities were built by about 900,000 workers. Upon completion, the Volga-Don Canal became an important link of the Unified Deep Water Transportation System of the European part of the USSR. The Unified Deep Water System of European Russia or UDWS is a system of inland waterways in Russia linking the White Sea (and the Arctic Ocean), the Baltic Sea (and the Atlantic Ocean), the Volga River, Moscow, the Caspian Sea and - via the Sea of Azov - the Black Sea (and the Atlantic Ocean).
Today we are passing though the tremendous artificial waterways named the Volga-Don Canal. It is a part of the United Deep-Water System of Waterways. This canal connects the Volga and the Don rivers.
Volgograd (named so in 1961), former Stalingrad, is the site of one of the toughest battles of the WWII. Certainly, main monuments here are related to the war and soldiers’ glory: the giant ‘Motherland’ sculpture; panoramic museum of the Battle of Stalingrad; Pavlov’s house - legendary Soviet bastion, marked as fortress on personal map of German general Paulus; Mamaev Kurgan (hill) that saw particularly fierce fighting. The Battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 21, 1942 to February 02, 1943, where 1.7 million to 2 million Nazi and Soviet soldiers were killed, wounded or captured, in addition to over 40,000 civilians killed. The violent combat destroyed the Stalingrad, but its reconstruction began soon after the Germans were expelled from the city. However, it took some 20 years to rebuild it. A very interesting fact is that there is no metro in modern Volgograd - there is an underground tram or the Metrotram. In the USSR the metro was built only in the cities with a population of over a million. Volgograd did not have so many inhabitants back in 1970s, so local authorities found a way out: they ordered to dig the tunnels, but started trams there instead of the underground trains. The longest street in Russia is in Volgograd: its length exceeds 50 kilometers.
Former Stalingrad, is the site of one of the toughest battles of the WWII. Certainly, main monuments here are related to the war and soldiers’ glory: the giant ‘Motherland’ sculpture; panoramic museum of the Battle of Stalingrad; Pavlov’s house - legendary Soviet bastion, marked as fortress on personal map of German general Paulus; Mamaev Kurgan (hill) that saw particularly fierce fighting. Certainly, Mamaev Kurgan is visited during city tour.
Today there will be a day on the water and in fresh air - it is a good chance to spend your day at leisure either on open decks or in public areas of the ship. The Cruise Team will be offering a series of edutainment events that will be announced in your daily program and / or via ship's notification system. The ship sails on smoothly; beautiful coastal scenery passes by setting minds in peace and recuperation...
Astrakhan is the Caviar Capital of Russia. It is often called a “Venice on the Volga”, because a great part of it is located on 11 islands in the upper reaches of the Volga River Delta. Therefore the city has more than 50 bridges. Astrakhan is just 154 kilometers / 96 miles away from the Caspian Sea, a major sturgeon habitat. Entire Astrakhan Province is a very warm place that is famous all over Russia for its farm products, especially for watermelons. A very interesting fact is that in Sweden there is a brand of cider called "Astrakan". This drink is made out of apples, once imported to this country from Astrakhan Province. Also, local plant breeders have managed to cultivate a hybrid of watermelon and melon, which is called a “moon watermelon”. Originally Astrakhan had nothing to do with Russia: these lands belonged once to the Golden Horde, to Khazaria, and subsequently to the Khanate of Astrakhan that was an independent state. The Khanate was conquered by the Russian Tzar Ivan the Terrible and the entire area became part of the Tzardom of Russia shortly afterwards. Modern Astrakhan is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population of more than half of a million people: nearly 200 ethnicities that belong to 19 religious denominations live there.
The Caviar Capital or Southern Venice as it is called sometimes is really situated on 11 islands. Astrakhan may also be called the city of bridges: there are about 50 of them! You will see stunning examples of architecture. Astrakhan Kremlin with its magnificent tower clock is one of the best attractions during the city-tour.
Upstream the Volga River
The ship is to cover the distance of nearly 500 kilometers / some 310 miles while sailing from Astrakhan and the Volga Delta back to Volgograd. Our cruise ship will cross the borders of three states of the Russian Federation: Astrakhan Oblast, the Republic of Kalmykia, and Volgograd Oblast. We’ll be passing semi-deserts and desert zones. By the way, the industry of salt production in Astrakhan Oblast is one of the largest in the world.
Saratov was founded in the 16th century as a fortress to protect southern districts of the Russian Empire. Later on it became the heart of one of the largest Russian provinces, and also a city of merchants, gold miners and first Russian manufacturers. In the 19th century Saratov became a major commercial center, especially after the railway to Moscow was built in the 1870s. The modern city has become a large industrial complex that sprawls for many miles along the river. The city’s 2.8-km / 1.7-mi highway bridge across the Volga opened in 1965 is one of the longest river bridges of the kind in Europe. Saratov’s varied and large-scale industries are headed by the production of heavy equipment and chemicals. Petroleum and natural gas occur in the locality and thus contribute to Saratov’s chemical plants, which produce synthetic alcohol, synthetic fibers, acetone, and ammonium sulfate. All through the 16th and up to the 19th century local population of the entire area was also formed by Cossacks, Tatars, Orthodox fringe groups (as opposed to church reforms), German colonists and even the captured Frenchmen that once were the soldiers of Napoleon. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, began his career in Saratov and did his first air flight there.
Saratov was founded in the 16th century as a fortress to protect southern districts of Russian Empire. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, began his career here and did his first air-flight. Visit the museum dedicated to Gagarin and his life. Don’t miss the Conservatoire designed in a Neo-Gothic style, historical Drama Theatre, and Radischev Art Museum with more than 20,000 exhibits. In Saratov there will be a city tour.
Fortress of Samara was founded in 1586 at the confluence of the Volga River and the Samara River to protect Russia from the nomads and to ensure safety on waterways between cities of Kazan and Astrakhan. Just as many other ports on trade routes Samara has been developing rapidly. At the beginning of the 20th century it was already a well-developed city with flourishing trading, grain and flour milling industry. Back then Samara also took first place in wheat production. No wonder that famous local vodka “Rodnik” is still considered one of the best in Russia. Local food industry is also well known for its chocolate and famous “Zhigulevskoye” beer that is produced by original recipe since 1881. Samara boasts: picturesque embankment that is the longest one in Russia; Kuibyshev Square that is the largest one in Europe; the building of Samara Railway Station is the tallest one in Europe: its height is over 331 feet / 101 meters. The tower has an observation deck on top. Stalin’s secret bunker is among great variety of places of interest in Samara. This one is the most fortified bunker among those already taken off the security list. Its depth is comparable with a 12-story building; the bunker has air supplies for 115 people to leave for 5 days.
Samara is a large and important historical port. Just as many well-developed cities of the past, Samara was built where two rivers merge, in order to protect inhabitants and to ensure successful trade. Modern Samara is a fusion of old trade town with well-preserved houses, the features of Soviet period and modern times featuring the Old-Russian teremok-buildings, art nouveau and gothic temples. The city-tour offers more great sights.
Ulyanovsk. Lenin was born there - the place was called Simbirsk in those days. “Ulyanov” is the original last name of Lenin, but the world would rather know the pseudonym. The city was a Soviet shrine for almost 70 years. During the Soviet Era nearly all the churches in the city were ruined to the ground or closed; the most notable churches and cathedrals were restored and rebuilt not so long ago. The Lenin Memorial Complex includes the house in which he was born and other buildings associated with his life. Modern Ulyanovsk is also а home to SUV-maker UAZ and aircraft producer Aviastar, however, it is one of a handful of cities that have managed to preserve the atmosphere of an old Russian province - although some say that Ulyanovsk is still a very Soviet city. Yet, according to statistics, every fifth car in Russia and every third aircraft in Russia is manufactured in Ulyanovsk. The city is a part of the tourist “Red Route” that covers several of the “Lenin’s sites” in Russia. The Civil Aviation History Museum is another distinctive site in Ulyanovsk - this complex is one of the largest aviation museums in Russia. Ulyanovsk was founded in the 17th century; today it is a fairly large city with a population of over 600 000 people.
Lenin was born here. The city was a Soviet shrine for almost 70 years. The Lenin Memorial Complex includes the house in which he was born and other buildings associated with his life. The city of Ulyanovsk is also home to SUV maker UAZ and aircraft producer Aviastar, however, it is one of a handful of cities that has managed to preserve the atmosphere of an old Russian province. The city-tour is going to be quite extraordinary.
Kazan, one of the seven largest cities in Russia, is located in a picturesque area at the confluence of the Volga and the Kazanka Rivers. “This city, no doubt, is the first in Russia after Moscow, - wrote the Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1763, - clearly, Kazan is the capital of a big kingdom”. Modern Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan Republic, it is very diverse, modern and ancient city at the same time: Islam and Orthodoxy, East and West, old and modern are mixed well in this “cocktail-city”. The minarets of the most beautiful Kul-Sharif Mosque rise right next to the onion domes of the Annunciation Cathedral inside the famous Kazan Kremlin. For many years already Kazan is being included in the international top list of the most popular travel destinations in Russia. People come to this place to enjoy a stunning architectural variety, to ride a steamer to the ancient island of Sviyazhsk, to buy great local souvenirs, and to taste the delicious ech-pochmak and chak-chak. In 2005 Kazan has turned 1000 years old: originally a fortress of the Volga Bulgaria state (the first Muslim state in Eastern Europe) it became a part of the Golden Horde in the 15th century; about a century after it was conquered by Ivan the Terrible and appeared on the map of the Russian State.
Some call Nizhny Novgorod a ‘third Russian capital’; but the city of Kazan claims this title as well. Nizhny Novgorod has a great picturesque location at the confluence of the Volga and the Oka Rivers. The local Kremlin is among its most fabulous sites. This impregnable fortress is now just a historical monument, but one of the surrounding streets still strongly resembles a fortification moat. A well-known fact is that the Kremlin of Nizhny Novgorod has never been taken by an enemy army. Indeed, city’s smart and favorable location at the confluence of two navigable rivers has turned it into a well-developed center of merchandize. Eventually at the beginning of the 19th century the city has become the main market place of the Russian Empire: the Emperor Alexander I has even postponed the reconstruction of the Winter Palace (now holds the Hermitage) in St. Petersburg in favor of building a huge structure due to moving the Makarievskaya Fair to Nizhny Novgorod. The Revolution of 1917 put an end to the reputation of Nizhny Novgorod as the commercial capital of the country, but gave impetus to its industrial development: the Soviet Era has brought automobile, shipping and aircraft industries into the city and its population grew far over a million..
Kremlin of Nizhny Novgorod is among its most famous sites. This impregnable fortress has turned into historical monument over time, but one of the surrounding streets still strongly resembles fortification moat. Visit to beautiful local Kremlin is a part of a city-tour.
Plyos. It seems that time has no power over this small chamber town. The layout of the place did not have any major changes since the 18th century. The place is cozy and quiet, and people here lead the calm and steady life of the Russian province, just like a century ago. The tiny Plyos is one of the smallest towns in Russia. With a population of just 2,500 inhabitants, it has nine churches, five museums, a theater and a handful of multicolored wooden houses scattered across the wooded slopes of hills and ravines. The town is located on higher hills and the views are just fascinating - several famous Russian artists of the past often found inspiration here that further led to masterpieces. First of all, Plyos is closely connected with the name of famous artist Isaac Levitan, a classical Russian landscape painter who advanced the genre of the ‘mood landscape.’ The most famous mansion in Plyos is a house with a mezzanine on the Volga embankment which is the Levitan’s Museum today: the artist stayed in this house for three summers in 1888-1890 when he painted about 200 of his works in Plyos. These masterpieces are now displayed in the world's best museums. There is also the Museum of Russian Landscape Art close by.
It seems that time has no power over this small chamber town. The layout of the place did not have major changes since 18th century. The place is cozy and quiet, and people here lead calm and steady life of Russian province, just like century ago. The town is located on higher hills; views are just fascinating - famous artists of the past often found inspiration here that further led to masterpieces. Quite a lot of time is spent on your own today. Take a walk along the cobbled streets of this hospitable place; go up the Cathedral Hill, breathe the fresh air and take a look around… Maybe you’ll create great painting of your own afterwards? Who knows…
Yaroslavl’s coat of arms depicts a bear with a gold poleaxe. The city was founded in 1010 on the site of the pagan settlement of “Bear's Corner” by the Prince of Kievan Russ, Yaroslav the Wise and was thusly named after the Prince Yaroslav. In the beginning it was just a wooden fortress but its advantageous location on the river trade route along the Volga River turned Yaroslavl into a thriving city. Over the course of 200 years it became the capital of Yaroslavl Principality. In 1238 the peaceful life of Yaroslavl was ruined by the Tatar & Mongolian invasion. Like many other Russian cities of those times, it was burned and ransacked. The city was recovered from ruins and became a part of Moscow Principality a little more than 200 years after. In the 17th century Yaroslavl becomes the second largest city of the Russian state after Moscow. Once, during times of Polish invasion, the city became the interim capital of the state. Today the city is an important Volga River port with a population of 600,000 that stretches for 18 miles on both its banks. The Historical Centre of the City of Yaroslavl is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Uglich is perfect for any traveler ready to experience the quiet side of Russia. It is one of the oldest, and probably one of the most beloved towns of the Russian province. Once a place of pilgrimage of Russian Czars, Uglich is now known as one of the cities of the Golden Ring of Russia. Although it is still a popular place of pilgrimage, 23 churches and 3 monasteries are located in town and around it. According to a local legend the origin of this town goes back to 937. Uglich has a preserved architectural environment of late 18th – early 19th centuries. The Soviet-era constructions of the Uglich Reservoir and hydroelectric complex harmoniously blended into the urban landscape without disturbing its integrity and historic charm. Much has happened to Uglich, but the main event, which overturned the city's history, occurred on 15 May, 1591. On that very day, in mysterious circumstances, Prince Dmitry, an eight-year-old son of Ivan the Terrible, was killed on this day and found dead in the garden. The view of the town as it is approached by ship from the Volga River is especially lovely with its Transfiguration Cathedral and Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood standing in beauty on the banks.
Take a walking tour of this lovely 10th century town, one of Russia's most ancient. Visit the Uglich Kremlin and its churches and see beautiful Church of St. Dmitry on the Blood also from the inside. Enjoy great singing from a local choir. Explore the infamous Flea Market. In the USSR Uglich was a watch-making center. Millions used the local watch brand, Chayka (Seagull). The manufacturer has now moved to the premium segment, specializing also in silver and golden watches. You can find these well-designed watches in Uglich at the local stores. Breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard.
Moscow has been the capital of Russia since the late 15th century. Some sources call this cosmopolitan city “the northernmost and coldest megacity and metropolis on Earth.” The Moscow Kremlin is located in the city center; it is home to the President and the treasures of the Russian Empire in the Armory and Treasury. The Moscow Kremlin is the world’s largest medieval fortress. The Kremlin and Red Square are UNESCO World Heritage sites. St. Basil’s Cathedral, known for its colorful, onion-shaped domes, is located on Red Square. The Novodevichy Convent in south-western Moscow is another UNESCO World Heritage site that is normally seen while on our city-tour. Moscow, with its population of 12,000,000 (official data), is the largest city in Russia and in Europe. According to some sources the real population of Moscow is about 20,000,000 inhabitants, therefore it is among the top ten largest cities of the world. By the way, Moscow claims the largest number of billionaires in the world. Per Forbes, there are 84 billionaires in the city. Another interesting fact about the city is about McDonald’s: the first restaurant there was opened on January 31, 1990 and the line to the restaurant ran for several kilometers.
City-tour includes Tverskaya Street, Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Bolshoi Theater and Moscow State University for panoramic view. Great variety of VIP and affordable optional tours are offered.
Today it might be a full day on your own: the ship is docked within 10-minute walk from metro station; metro ride to the city center takes some 25 minutes; and Moscow is yet to reveal its numerous secrets - so enjoy your personal discoveries! Optional for today: tour to the city of Sergiev Posad that is famous for its picturesque Lavra. Word ‘lavra’ is used to define the largest male monasteries in Russia. Lavra of Sergiev Posad has been established by one of the most significant Russian Saints - St. Sergius of Radonezh. So get ready to sheer beauty of the place and get ready to listen to many legends.
Morning tour of the Kremlin. The Moscow Kremlin is the former residence of Russian Czars, an architectural ensemble of unique beauty, which took shape between the 15th and 20th centuries. The center of the Kremlin is the Cathedral Square, a unique complex of masterpieces of medieval architecture. The architectural ensemble of the Cathedral Square consists of several cathedrals and palaces; one of them, the Assumption Cathedral, is the oldest Moscow Kremlin church, and one of the most important ones in Russia. On Kremlin grounds there are also the famous Czar Cannon of the 16th century and the Czar Bell of the 18th century. Breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard.
Time to bid farewell to your new friends after unforgettable journey through this fascinating land. Disembarkation after breakfast.