SARA and MACK in


July 11-26, 2006



Stretching for 18 miles on both banks of the Volga, Yaroslavl is an important Volga port with a population of 600,000. It was founded in the 11th century by Prince Yaroslav the Wise and today retains many noteworthy monuments of its colorful past. Of special interest is the magnificent 13th-century Spassky Monastery ensemble, a group of majestic 17th-century cathedrals, and the remnants of an ancient trading center. Loveliest of all is the Church of Elijah the Prophet, situated in the town’s central square. The frescoes on the walls and vaulting inside the church constitute a veritable museum of old Russian paintings.



Blini tasting with vodka and red caviar

Traditional Russian toast to "Good Health"

Vodka is a drink that accompany human in sorrow, joy and simple relaxation. It's good to know more about vodka.  Where it was born?  When?  From what product is it made?  How it was used before and today?  Vodka has a mixed reputation! Some consider it Heaven, some Hell! Both sides can be right.

Russians traditionally drink vodka for any significant occasion, like a wedding, birth of a child, or a new job.

The appearance of the drink is not dangerous . . . it looks like simple water (in Russian word vodka means "little water") and some people do not think about danger. Vodka, like any alcohol, can be very addictive, and if abused can lead to illness.

There's many speculations about where vodka was first created. We all know that WINE and HOMEMADE FRUIT wines were already used by humans for thousands of years.

One thing is certain vodka was born in WESTERN EUROPE! Many monasteries, healers, medicine-man, natural healers used alcohol to create herbal tinctures, that were prescribed to treat many disorders.

Alcohol was much stronger then water for infusions and has antibacterial properties. Herbal tinctures became popular new remedy, alcohol was used for surgeries as anesthetics. Today alcohol still widely used in medicine.

The essences of many herbs were used to treat different diseases. An example: a bottle filled with herbs and alcohol poured over them. Let this stand for 2 weeks, every few days shake this mixture well. Strain and squeeze out residue. The herbal extract or essence is ready!

Tinctures were sold by healers or in pharmacies and prescribed to use by drops. But the taste of some of them was so pleasant that people used more that it was prescribed. Later alcohol started to be used in cosmetics.

People around the world in many different regions that exist far apart used food leftovers for brewing "alcoholic" beverages which were used for traditional ceremonies.

Scandinavian countries, Poland and Russia have very special interest and commitment to development and improvement of quality of vodka. Each of these countries have their OWN versions of vodka.

But RUSSIAN VODKA has more fame and popularity! Ironically, it happens that Russians are not the champions of vodka consumption and people in other countries drink more.





Russian lacquer boxes, those "small miracles" long cherished by collectors, are fast becoming one of the most popular buys for' Western tourists in Russia.

In the outdoor artisan markets of Moscow and St. Petersburg, in the villages and towns along the Volga-Baltic Waterway, and right here in the kiosk on board the ship, you'll find an enormous variety of lacquer-ware for sale - pins, brooches, boxes. At first they all seem a bewildering assortment of colors, shapes, designs - and, of course, prices. Anywhere from $5 to $500.

And yet. With a bit of practice and some helpful tips, the characteristics and distinctive style of each of the four famous schools/villages: Palech, Fedoskino, Mstera, Kholuy - are easily recognizable. Look for the village name (in Cyrillic letters) on the lower left of the lid. Sometimes the title of the particular scene or story is in the center; and the artist's name or initials on the right or the inside lid of box bottom.

For inspiration, many of the boxes use colorful Russian folk tales and legends and real life pastoral and village scenes.

On the Palekh boxes the background - a brilliant black sheen - interacts nicely with the rest of the composition. There is much fmely detailed gold highlighting. Look for prancing horses, dynamic and daring, with flowing golden manes and incredibly slender legs.

The Mstera boxes are often highly ornamental; most always the sky is blue, the trees bursting with color. The background is very rarely black. These are graceful decorative boxes with not as much gold inlay.

Kholuy boxes combine some of the same elements as Palekh and Mstera. Many are paintings of village buildings or the distinctive architecture of churches and cathedrals. The total composition features only a few fairly central figures, human or animal.

Fedoskino boxes are the most different from the other three schools. Colors are festive, emphasized by mother-of-pearl inlay. Extra layers of lacquer create a brilliant sheen. These boxes have a luminous quality - tender, wistful. Look fro scenes of the Russian countryside, 19thcentury pastoral realism.

A box of true value offers three dimensional figures and precision of line. The realistic scenes are refmed in their simplicity. Some of the more intricate

designs are painted with a single hair of squirrel.

How to spot a fake:

One dimensional almost cartoonist figures/scenes with little detail; outlines in gold are simple swirls - thick, amateurish; on some fakes a postcard or picture has been laminated on the top - easily spotted with a magnifying glass or by feeling for the faint ridge made by the appliqued card.


Did you know that Russians are very superstitious? Although most people will laugh if you ask them about superstitions, we don't like it when a black cat crosses our path, or when the first person we meet after leaving the house is somebody carrying an empty bucket. And a woman will be quite shocked if you give her a dozen roses! It's probably impossible to know all Russian superstitions. Find out more about them in our small collection of common superstitions.

Good Luck

  • It's good luck to break a dish.

  • If a fly gets into your soup, you'll get a gift or a treat.

  • It's good luck to see a pig in the street. (chance would be a fine thing in New York!)

  • It's good luck to meet a funeral cortege coming towards you.

Bad Luck

  • If a black cat crosses your path, it's bad luck. In this case a Russian turns back or spits three times over his right shoulder. (in Anglo-Saxon culture it's good luck!)

  • If you meet a woman carrying an empty bucket (walking towards you) it's bad luck.

  • If you spill salt, there will be a row in the house unless you throw three pinches over your left shoulder immediately.

  • If you break a minor, it's bad luck. Do not look into a broken mirror.

  • If a bird comes into the house through an open window, you'll have bad news.

  • Never light a cigarette from a candle. It will bring you bad luck.

Do's and Don't's

  • Do not whistle in your own house. If you do, you won't have any money.

  • Do not give sharp things (knives, scissors) as gifts, because they can be used to injure someone.

  • If you get an animal (a kitten, etc) as a present, you should give a kopeck (token sum of money) for it.

  • Do not greet anyone or say goodbye to anyone over the threshold. If you do, you will have a row.

  • Do not accept or give anything over the threshold. If you do, you will have a row.

  • If you give flowers to someone, always give an odd number (i.e. three, five, seven, etc) An even number of flowers (i.e. four, six, etc) is given to a dead person at a funeral.

  • Do not celebrate your birthday in advance of the actual date. (You might not make it!)

  • Do not return into the house once you've started on your way from it. But if you have to, then look into a mirror. Otherwise you'll have a bad journey.

  • Unmarried people should not sit at the comer of the table - if they do, they won't marry in the next seven years.

  • Don't start anything serious on Mondays.

  • Don't boast about your future success. It may bring bad luck. It's safer to sound pessimistic even when you're sure of success. If you cannot help yourself, after saying, "Next month I get a promotion", spit three times over your left shoulder.

  • Never pour wine back handed, it is impolite. And it means you will also pour "awayyour money.

  • Never buy or accept as gifts baby clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, etc. before the baby is born.

  • In Russia when you see in a store aD.excited man who is buying in a rush and in wholesale quantities baby clothes, don't be surprised. Most probably, he became a father today.

  • Refusing to drink vodka at a funeral banquet is absolutely unacceptable.

  • Shaking hands while wearing gloves is simply impossible. You should always, even when it's very cold, remove your glove nom the right hand before a handshake. Actually in Russia no one will shake your hand if you dont't remove a glove.

General Superstitions

  • If you sneeze while saying something, you are telling the truth.

  • If a fork or a spoon falls on the floor, you'll shortly be visited by a woman. (because in

  • Russian a fork and a spoon are feminine). If a knife falls down, you'll be visited by a man. (A knife is masculine)

  • If a cat washes his/her face, you'll have guests soon.

  • If the right eye is itching, you'll be laughing, the left one - you'll be crying.

  • An eyelash coming out means you'll receive a gift. .

  • If your lips are itching, you'll soon be kissing.

  • If your right palm is itching, you'll get some money, and if the left one is itching, you'll have to give money away.

  • If your nose is itching, you'll soon be drinking.

  • If your ears or cheeks are burning, somebody is talking or thinking about you.

  • If you have an attack of hiccups, somebody is talking about you or cursing you.

  • If you do not recognize someone when you see them or call them on the phone, this person will get rich.

  • Before embarking on a long journey, you should sit for a minute in silence. Otherwise you'll have bad luck on the way.

  • If it's raining when you leave somewhere, you'll be coming back one day.

  • If it rains at a wedding, the newlyweds will be rich. (Good news in England!)

  • Russians never leave empty bottles or keys on the table - it means empty house.

  • If someone gives good wishes, or you talk about your good fortune, you must spit three times over your left shoulder and knock on wood to keep your good fortune.

  • If you leave something behind in Russia, it means you are coming back.

  • Before leaving on a long trip, sit quietly for two minutes in silence.

  • Stranger should not look at a new born baby before it is a month old. Anyway, if you look at a baby, don't compliment it - compliments can put evil eye on the baby. If you do, spit three times over your left shoulder.

  • Cut bread only with a knife. Don't break it with you hands. Otherwise your life will be broken.


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