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May 2007 trip to Russia

MOSCOW

The first thing we saw at Moscow airport was one of the biggest traffic jams we had ever seen (with the possible exception of Cairo). We found out that traffic jams are normal in Moscow nowadays; in the last 3 years there has been such an explosion in car ownership that the city is rapidly heading for total gridlock. Every morning and evening huge numbers of workers take to the roads, all of which have been widened to take them, but there are so few parking places that when they reach their destination they tend to just park anywhere they can, whether it is on the pavement (which they may well have just driven along anyway), on a junction, in the middle of the road, in fact just anywhere. With all the jams and the pollution, the citizens of Moscow now joke that people from Siberia are sent to Moscow as punishment, instead of the other way round!

We had two days in Moscow before the ship sailed. A full programme of excursions was available to us, and we were quick to plan our time to see as much as possible. Although the docks were only a few miles from the City Centre, in the traffic it took our coach an hour and a half to get there so our guide had plenty of time to tell us all about Moscow’s history before we were let off to take a walk around Red Square (not across it, it was closed to the public that morning) next to the amazing cathedral of St Basil. The whole of one side of Red Square is now the wall of Moscow’s prime salute to capitalism, the famous “Gum” store which is actually a giant shopping mall selling designer-label clothes.

 

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Our first view of Moscow, the airport
St Basil's cathedral, the oldest in Moscow
The Red Square
One end of the Red Square
Inside Gum
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Statue of Alexander II, facing ...
... the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Russia's most important cathedral. Boris Yeltsin's funeral service was held here in April 2007
The designer of this decorated lion had probably never seen a picture of one
Statue to Peter the Great, famed as a Navigator
Moscow University, built on the 'Stalinist' style

In the afternoon we visited the beautiful and ancient walled Convent of the New Maiden, where we were treated to a brief performance by an small choir who were selling CDs of their performance; a feature which was repeated in almost every building that we visited throughout our two-week trip. Another much-repeated feature was that much of it was “closed for renovation”; inevitably this will be the case for some time to come as Russia struggles to restore hundreds of previously derelict potential tourist attractions.

 

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New Maiden Convent
Fortified walls of the convent
Fortified walls of the convent
The church inside the convent
Moscow as seen from 'Sparrows Hill'
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Beautiful handmade dolls were for sale ...
... as were many other traditional Russian souvenirs
We even found a McDonalds
Moos-Cow ?
On the Metro

We were taken to Moscow’s main tourist area, Arbat Street where there were market stalls, local artists and crafts-people, souvenir shops (where we bought some excellent Vodka) and even a branch of McDonalds. The lengthy coach trip back to the ship for dinner, was followed by a return half-way to the city for the start of a tour of the highly efficient Metro system, which had been built in fabulous style with stations decorated by sculptures, mosaics, stained glass, murals, and massive chandeliers. Arriving back in the City Centre on the Metro, we then walked the area by night, taking in the bustling atmosphere especially on the Red Square which was now open to the public. It is worth noting that nearly every Russian town has a Red square (it is a pun, as the word for Red is the same as the word for Beautiful) and also a Kremlin which may be a fort or just a Town Hall.

 

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The Moscow Metro map is clearly based on the London tube map
The Metro is richly decorated ...
... with mosaics on the ceilings ...
... wonderful stained glass ...
... chandeliers ...
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...mosaics ...
... murals ...
... more mosaics ...
... statues ...
... and more statues.
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The Gateway into Red Square at night, with St Basils Cathedral in the distance
One side of Red Square is the wall of Gum, which is beautifully  illuminated at night
The opposite side of Red square is the wall of the Kremlin, with Lenin's tomb
Red Square is busy in the evenings
The other end of Red Square

The following day started with a tour of the Kremlin, with more sightseeing, more places “closed for renovation” and more choral performances with CDs for sale. We saw countless ornate churches with various onion-topped towers and incredibly highly decorated interiors, and had an optional visit to the Armoury Museum where many of the famous Imperial Faberge Eggs are displayed, before returning to the ship just in time for lunch as we set sail along the Moscow Canal.

 

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The fortified entry to the Kremlin
The Kremlin gatehouse
A small theatre in the Kremlin, with its own chapel so that on your way out you may stop and purge the sinfulness of spending an evening there
This is Putin's office
The richly decorated churches in the Kremlin have a fairytale atmosphere
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The richly decorated churches in the Kremlin have a fairytale atmosphere
This huge cannon was cast on-site, for ceremonial purposes only
The Kremlin Foundry was not so successful with casting this giant bell
A striking WW2 memorial
The fountains at the WW2 memorial are most  impressive

 

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