October 21, 2013
I woke up on the overnight train just as we were arriving in Moscow. The train was a lot of fun but I did not get that much sleep because there was extreme heat blowing directly on my face all night.
Katie’s 23rd Birthday in the Train Station
Overnight Train Cart
When we got to Moscow we loaded on a bus and took it to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, one of the Seven Sisters. The Seven Sisters are a group of seven skyscrapers in Moscow that are considered to be the Stalinist skyscrapers and were built between 1947 and 1953 in Russian Baroque and Gothic styles. From the Ministry we dragged our bags 10 minutes until we reached our hostel. We then met up with Josh, our tour guide and he took us on a walking tour of the city. After touring the Old Arbat area we had lunch at My My (Moo Moo), a cafeteria style restaurant.
When we were done eating we walked up to New Arbat and I was surprised by the amount and types of Western companies I saw along the way: Shake Shack, Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Johnny Rockets and the Hard Rock Café.
From New Arbat we walked down to the Kremlin, across to the Cathedral of Christ our Savior, over the bridge to the Chocolate Factory and then to the sculpture titled “Children are the victims of Adults’ Vices” created by Mihail Chemiakin. The vices that are represented are: alcoholism, drug addiction, war, child slavery, prostitution, etc. I enjoyed taking a closer look at the statue because each sculpture was extremely detailed. Luckily all that was left of the tour was to walk over the bridge with the tree of locks and then we were getting on the metro home.
When we got back to the hotel we relaxed for a while before going out to dinner. Today is Katie’s birthday so the whole group went out to the Hard Rock Café to celebrate. We had such a great time and it was wonderful enjoying one another’s company.
October 22, 2013
Today was a very big touring day. We started early by visiting Red Square and Lenin’s Tomb. There was very intense security and we were forced to put all of our electronics in baggage check.
Seeing Lenin’s embalmed body made me feel very uncomfortable and I was glad we only had to be inside for seconds. Lenin’s body has been laying here on display since shortly after his death in 1924. We then walked to St. Basil’s Cathedral, a Russia Orthodox Cathedral commissioned by Ivan the Terrible in 1555 to commemorate the capture of Kazan and Atrakhan. While we were inside a group of singers performed for us and I was amazed by how deep the men’s voices were.
After St. Basil’s we walked over to the Kremlin and had a tour of the grounds. When we passed through the Kremlin gates it was just hitting the hour and we were able to watch the very serious guards change places so formally. We then walked to the largest cannon in the world and the Tsar Bell, the largest bell in the world. The Tsar Bell is made of bronze and was broken during metal casting. Therefore, the largest bell in the world has never even been rung.
We then walked to Cathedral Square and visited the Cathedral of the Archangel and Dormition Cathedral. The Cathedral of the Archangel is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and many of the Tsars before Peter the Great were buried here. The Dormition Cathedral is another Russian Orthodox Cathedral dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.
After Cathedral Square we visited the incredible Diamond Fund. The Diamond Fund is the third most expensive set of crown jewels in the world and is protected and controlled by the Russian Federation Department of Finance. The Diamond Fund contained many natural nuggets, gems and diamonds but also contained elaborate earrings, crowns, necklaces, rings and much more.
The last visit of the day was to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. The original cathedral was destroyed in 1921-1928 antireligious campaign when Russia became officially and nationally adopted atheism. After the Revolution Stalin wanted to build a “Palace of the Soviets” and on top off a monument create a gigantic statue of Lenin, big enough to have a two story library in his head and a helicopter pad on his raised hand. Naturally, there were a lack of funds to complete the plan therefore the structure was demolished and transformed into the world’s largest open air swimming pool. The swimming pool became too expensive to heat year-round and in 1990 the Cathedral of Christ the Savior as we know it today was created.
After the Cathedral I was so excited to be done for the day because now I was free for the night to finally see my mom! When I reached her hotel we were so excited to catch up and we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Café Pushkin. The restaurant was in an old palace and the interior was beautiful. We enjoyed the most famous Russian dishes: mushroom dumplings, beef stroganoff and a chicken dish similar to chicken kiev. Dinner was delicious and I was very excited to spend the whole next touring the city with my mom.
October 23, 2013
After a nice American coffee at Starbucks, we met up with Arthur our tour guide and were ready for the day. Our first stop was The Armoury Chamber at the Kremlin. The Armoury Chamber has collections of items that have been preserved from the centuries of the tsars. In the museum we saw silverware, weapons, gospel casings, and gifts to the throne from other countries. I had three favorite exhibits in the Armoury Chamber: the ceremonial horse harnesses, the royal carriages and the precious textiles and ornamental embroidery. The royal carriages were so ornate and beautiful and some were heavy enough that they would need twelve horses to carry it.
We were beginning to feel a little worn out but Arthur was very persistent on showing us more. We went to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and Arthur taught us about the importance of the icons on and above the alter. We also visited the cathedral underneath Christ the Savior.
Arthur left us at Red Square and then my mom and I had some time to shop around GUM. After trying on a lot of shoes and enjoying the view over the square we went outside for sunset and walked across to the Ritz Carlton to enjoy dinner at O2 Lounge.
Our final day in Moscow and last day in Russia before we leave for India! The last two places on the itinerary to see before leaving were the Novodevichy convent and cemetery. The convent was where many women from Russian royal families were sent to get them away from the throne. The cemetery is where many famous Russian politicians, writers, ballerinas and more lay. Nikolai Gogol, Nikita Khrushchev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Boris Yeltsin and many more are buried in this cemetery.