The day after our arrival in Moscow we were shown the main tourist attractions around the city. Our guide was, euphemistically speaking, methodical and, less euphemistically, a field marshal. By the end of the day we could see her heave a great sigh of relief at finally being rid of eleven Americans who wouldn't listen to directions and had eleven different ideas of what they wanted to see and how far they wanted to walk. First, we visited St. Basil's Cathedral at the edge of Red Square, built by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Tatars in Kazan in 1552.
Next came the Red Square itself where troops and cavalry were practicing for Russia Day, the anniversary of start of the new Russian Republic on June 12. The Square was closed to tourists for the rehearsals and apparently for the parade also. In what may be a carry over of very old habits, the parade viewing is by invitation only.
This is another view of Krasnaya Ploschad which is better translated as "Beautiful" Square since the old Russian word for red and beautiful were the same (Krasnaya) and the name predates the communist era. Russia has readopted the double-headed eagle as a national symbol and it was prominently displayed along with many colorful regional symbols.
The walls and spires of the Kremlin as seen from across the Moscow River shine in the sun. They have been recently reguilded with gold leaf and are astoundingly bright and beautiful (as well as expensive).
Inside the Kremlin, the public is allowed to visit several grand and historically important cathedrals, but the kids were especially impressed by the 40 tonne tsar cannon. The 202 tonne tsar bell is also close by. We also saw the Armoury where some of the Imperial Russian treasures have been gathered - it is a lavish and overwhelming collection. The Faberge eggs were very interesting and the silver and gold dinner services were vast and intricate artworks - and this collection is only part of the original! Several people were heard to mutter "No wonder they had a revolution."
We made some brief photo stops at a number of other spots. This is the Novodevichy Convent founded in 1524. It became a convenient place to send inconvenient noblewomen. Two prominent inmates were Peter the Great's sister Sofia whom he deposed from the throne and his first wife Yevdokia who he apparently thought was a nag...
The GUM department store, roughly translating as "State Universal Store" was probably the world's first megamall. It is now a compendium of upscale boutiques. In other shopping news, Catherine spent half a day riding the Moscow Metro trying to find a bookstore with English guidebooks to St. Petersburg (more shipping woes) only to find that the ones on her list had either moved or were out of business. There is a high turn-over for retail business in the current economy. She did find an English book of Russian fairy tales at the "Dom Knigy" (House of Books). It has very nice illustrations in the Palekh style found on Russian black laquer boxes.
We had fun exploring Moscow on our own for a couple of days. Here James is taking a break in front a statue of Karl Marx with the Kremlin in the background. The weather was pleasantly brisk and showery. If you want to see what he was looking at see the photo below...
The theatre of the Bolshoi ("big" or "grand") Ballet. Although we did not see a performance here, we were staying nearby so we spent quite some time in the wide square in front of the theatre. The theatre itself is showing signs of age and is scheduled for refurbishment so that it will soon be as grand as its name.
Sophie tried her hand at photographing the fountains in front of the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre. They were splendid in the spring sun.
The Lambert clan invaded an Uzbek restaurant on the last night in Moscow. Catherine was sweating profusely while trying to negotiate dinner for the whole table in Russian, but after (among other things) borscht, kebabs, stuffed cabbage and meat pies along with a good bit of Georgian wine everyone seemed to have been satisfied.
Despite Sophie's expression, the girls enjoyed, bread, chicken soup and chicken skewers. Valerie is reading the Russian fairy tale book.
The next evening we boarded the overnight train for St. Petersburg.