The train trip to Moscow resulted in a cabin with two Russian guys and an older Russian woman. They seemed to share their time between the corridor and the cabin, obviously disliking each other’s behaviour. The guys were nice though, a little too much at times, but still nice. They made my bed for me, put my pillowcase on my pillow, held out my coat for me to put my arms into and helped put my pack on my back. Seems chivalry is not completely dead.
On the other side of the story, we had two drunken Russians try to communicate with us in the dining cabin. Interesting combinations of “yes?”… “yes”… “good!” for about an hour. The staff in the dining cabin were fairly helpful though, teaching us a bit of Russian and helping us order some food that wasn’t on the “English Menu”.
Arrived in Moscow about nine o’clock in the morning and headed to our hotel where we met a completely uninterested Russian “Mo-mo” who was supposed to help us settle in. Didn’t even help us check into the hotel…not that I mind except that I paid for the service.
Anyway, got settled in and headed off to find the Metro and eventually the Kremlin. Went to visit the Armoury first; a bit of a museum that holds all sorts of things. The best included the old carriages from a couple of the Russian Empresses, the battle gear from across the centuries and the gifts given to Russia by various countries.
Afterwards I had a fairly disappointing time looking through the Kremlin. I know that it’s the centre of Russian history for the last few centuries but it didn’t have the same imposing feel as the Forbidden City or even the London Tower. The buildings were impressive but I think that the overall drabness of Moscow is affecting the way that I see things.
Thought it was time for a break so I had some food at a great Russian restaurant near Koliv-Godby Metro station where the waiter helped me choose random Russian dishes that turned out to be excellent. I’m loving the Russian dumplings, which are just like Chinese dumplings but served with sour cream.
Then I headed to the Bolshoy theatre to book tickets for the following night’s performance. Turns out that there wasn’t a following night’s performance but they had tickets to the performance tonight. Turns out that they were the crappy seats in the corner where you couldn’t see anything but a few people didn’t show so I got moved to much better ones. In the end, I managed to see Giselle at the Bolshoy for 50 rubles. The program cost more than that and three quarters of it is in Russian! I was incredibly impressed with the dancing although I thought the choreography of the first half was a bit boring. Music was excellent though so I’m giving it a thumbs up!
Day 2 in Moscow and I thought that I would head out of the main drag and visit the Novodevihcy Convent and Cemetery. Founded in 1524 by Tsar Vasily III (1479-1533) to commemorate the capture of Smolensk from Lithuania, it was intended to serve not only as a religious institution but also a fortress. Until the 20th century, the convent marked Moscow’s southern edge.
Within the convent complex are several churches. The most important is the huge five-domed Cathedral of the Virgin of Smolensk (below), dedicated in 1525 and built by Alexei Fryazin. Listened to an enthusiastic story of how a brave nun extinguished the fuse of the dynamite ordered by Napoleon “just in time”.
Headed over to the adjoining cemetery, which was first used primarily as a burial place for Moscow’s feudal rulers and church officials. Later it came to be used for Russia’s intellectuals and merchants, while in the 20th century, it was the burial place for many of the Soviet Union’s most well-known citizens. Today, the cemetery holds the tombs of Russian authors, playwrights, and poets, as well as famous actors, political leaders, and scientists. More than 27,000 are buried at Novodevichy.
The tombstones below were some of my favourite. In particular, the grave of Andrei Gromyko, whose gravestone depicted the strength of his political career over time.
|Unknown||Nadezhda Alliluyeva-Stalin, second wife of Joseph Stalin
||Andrei Gromyko, Politician|
The cemetery was just amazing! Words fail me for how beautiful and ideallic the setting was.
I headed back to the city after a fantastic day for some ice-skating in the middle of the Red Square. Not bad for an evening of fun, even if I did happen to get a blade in my shin by tripping over some kids who fell in front of me! Finished the day with a pleasant walk through Alexander Gardens.
Day 3 in Moscow, and I had fallen in love with the Red Square and decided to spend the morning there! What a vast square that somehow turns grey into beautiful. Appropriate given that the name is given to the square, not because of it’s red coloured bricks nor the link between red and communism, but because the Russian work ‘Krasnaya’ (from Krásnaya plóshchad’ meaning Red Square) can be translated to either ‘red’ or ‘beautiful’.
Stood in line for an hour to get into Lenin’s Mausoleum and somewhat spoilt the original mood by almost tripping down the stairs into several of the stern-faced guards. After viewing Lenin, I can honestly state that he looks like a wax version of himself. An interesting sight to see nonetheless. No photos were allowed, sorry. Then, I took a tour through the amazingly designed Saint Basil’s Cathedral,
|State History Museum
||The amazing Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Went for a walk through the inappropriately named Gum department store, which as you can see below, was decorated in lavish Christmas style. Note: no purchases were made due to the expensive nature of most of the goods.
After lunch, I travelled to Poklonnaya Hill or Victory Park, a huge memorial complex celebrating the Great Patriotic War. For those of you who are not aware, the Patriotic War is the section of World War II where Russia was involved (1941-1945). The dominant monument is a 142m obelisk (each 10cm represents each day of the war).
|Victory Park from afar
||The obelisk up “close”
||The top of the obelisk
The Central Museum of Great Patriotic War is located in the round Winners’ Square on the top of the hill. The museum contains around 50,000 exhibits of military history; my favourites were a series of large paintings depicting scenes from the Great Patriotic War as well as the 385 volumes of Memory Books containing the names of those who died during the Patriotic War displayed in special showcases (below).
Such was the end of my trip to Moscow. For those of you who thought it wasn’t particularly cold there, I’ve enclosed an image of water freezing as soon as it leaves the tap. Onwards to Saint Petersburg I say…