Day 5 Thursday June 11, 2015
This place has some history! I got four miles of walking today exploring Sitka for the first time. Last fall on a similar cruise, the ship was unable to stop here. There was too much wind a chop for the “tenders” to safely move passengers from ship to shore. Not so this time around. It was cool (48F), and it drizzled rain off and on all day; but no matter. It all started as an Indian fishing village that the Russians liked because there were pelts to be had, so they took over and used the indians as slaves for more than fifty years. Russian Orthodox missionaries had already been here, and when the fur trade moved it, it was a easy transition. Those missionaries called this place: “Archangel”. The early missionaries were tolerant and respectful of the culture, and it was an easy match that gradually won over indians because of the first Bishop’s wisdom and kindness. He is a canonized Orthodox saint. He built the Cathedral of Saint Michael, and the Fur trading company (at the direction of the Czar) built him a palatial home. “Palatial” must be defined by Siberian standards. It was two storied, warm, and it had windows. That’s a place. The furnishings were exceptionally fine shipped from Siberia. A small pox epidemic reduced the native population by more than half. Those that survived had been inoculated at the urging of the Bishop, and that turned the tide. The survivors began to look favorably upon the Orthodox Church from then on. As the Russian revolution ruined the fur trade, it did not take long for the economy of Russia to see some benefit to selling this territory to the U.S., and the site of that transfer of ownership was a place I visited today. The building is gone, but the site and flag pole along with some old canons remain.
The day was so interesting that I missed Royal Dutch Tea which I am beginning to enjoy. I didn’t get back in time for Russian Vodka tasting, so I just settled for a big cold Alaskan Beer. There was a film, ”The Alaskan Film Series” that I missed, but Ronaldo (the sacristan) told me that it’s a five part series, and one part is missing. He told me to come back next week when he will have all the parts. “Abs Class” was on the schedule for 7:00 am this morning, but even though my cabin is hidden in a “Staff Only” area of the Sports deck (Irony of Irony) I wasn’t up that early. We sailed away from Sitka at 4:00; and it’s rocking and rollin right now. It must be wind because there is not much swell on the water. Below is my encounter with an Alaskan Bear this afternoon, a look at the St Michael Cathedral, and some of the very beautiful flowers blooming here this week.