Russia: Vodka and a Swim!

Day 8 was my favorite day on the Russia trip.  It started out with beautiful clouds over the Volga River and only got better as the day went on.
Looking over the itinerary before leaving the States, I noticed this was the Vodka day.  There was a scheduled Blood Mary Happy Hour and then a vodka-presentation / tasting later in the day.  I was looking forward to that!

A funny thing happened at breakfast that morning.  Mo and AC were talking about how they brought their bathing suits and Mo said she wanted to jump in the Volga River.  (Mo travels all over the world and seems to jump in whatever body of water she comes across).  I didn't really think anything of it but later that day they told me they had talked to Konstantin (our Program Director) and he had told them to wear their bathing suits and bring a towel when the boat stopped for our monastery tour in Goritsy.  They asked me if I was in and I said OF COURSE!  We were laughing about this on our way to the Bloody Mary Happy Hour.  So random to go jump in a river in Russia....
The Bloody Mary Happy Hour was fun and the drinks weren't bad either!  Each drink on the boat came with peanuts.  I don't know why.  We thought that was funny too.
We arrived at Goritsy and hoped on a bus to take us to the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery for a tour.  Grand Circle calls these "Discovery Stops" and if you have been reading my previous posts about Russia you should hear the sarcasm when I say "Discovery Stop".  I thought the only good thing about this tour was going to be the swim at the end.  Above is a photo of Mo and I above getting off the boat.  We were excited to swim!

And now, another funny thing happens on Day 8.  The tour of the monastery had just started and we had walked into some museum.  The room was fairly small and I thought, "Forget this!" and went to leave the room only to find Mo frantically waving me out of the museum and away from the tour.  It was time to swim!  Right now? Yep.  Konstantin lead the way.  He took us out of the monastery and around the outer wall.  It was Mo, her mom, AC, Konstantin, and I.  The girls were laughing and Konstantin showed us the best place to go in.  Turns out he swims here every time he comes to Goritsy!  He jumped in and then made sure we all got in okay.  

Here we are surveying the lake.
And here we are swimming around in the VERY COLD water.
This swim made my Russia trip.  The water was freezing.  Mo jumped right in.  AC only got in for pictures.  Mo's Mom was rocking it and I got so cold I couldn't feel how cold it was and said I was going to swim all day.  After a short while Konstantin told us we had to come in.  He said he was our "Russian Mother" and didn't want any of us to get sick.  Then he opened his bag and brought out vodka, glasses, cheese and chocolate!  He poured us each a shot and then an other.  We ate our cheese and chocolate and I felt like a high schooler ditching school to go have fun at the beach. 
All too soon we rejoined the tour and no one realized we were missing.  Even my Mom hadn't noticed.  Mo, AC, and I kept avoiding eye contact.  When we would catch each others eye we would all start smiling so big that I was sure someone what going to catch on.  Lucky for us the rest of the group was so into the monastery they never missed us.

The monastery was pretty cool.  It was a functioning monastery and not perfectly restored like so many other places I had seen.  This place seemed older.  Like it had seen its' share of sunshine and rain.  Small meadows inside the gates spoke of laughter and time passing.  It was a beautiful place.

Here we are with Konstantin in the monastery after the swim.
We arrived back on the boat and it was time for "Arts and Crafts".  

I met a great couple on the boat who I have mentioned and called J&J.  They would be J-her and J-him.  J-him and I got along really well.  In addition J-him was a common allies to bitch about things that were bugging us on the trip.  One of the things J-him said about the Grand Circle cruise was it was like summer camp.  He was so right!  When I saw that we had an option to do something that could be considered "Arts and Crafts" I called him right away and we had a good laugh about it.  Never the less, I went anyway with my Mom and we had a good time painting our Matryoshka Dolls.
Here is our table painting our dolls.
After "Arts and Crafts" it was soon time for the Vodka Presentation and tasting.  Two of the Program Directors taught us how to drink Vodka in Russia.  Five steps.
  1. Toast (remember Nice Driveway?  Say it really fast and it sounds like a Russian toast to your health).
  2. Clink glasses
  3. Exhale
  4. Drink
  5. Smell something (this part was a little weird but did explain some of the appetizers being served).
Our little group of nine had a great time with the Vodka tasting.  AC was able to drink a shot of Vodka off her shoulder and elbow.  Impressive!
We tried 3 different Vodkas in ice cold glasses.  It was a great way to end a great day!

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