Days 64 & 65 – 22.7.16 & 23.7.16

We had arrived in Moscow on the 21st evening and spent a relaxed evening as we expected to have a hectic next day of sight-seeing.

Susanne had arranged a guide, Sophie, to show us around Moscow. She gave us a lot of information about Moscow.

Moscow, derived it’s name from the Moskva River. It is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 20 million residents within the city limits and 16.8 million within the urban area.

Moscow is considered to be the largest city on the European continent and northernmost, coldest megacity and metropolis on Earth. It’s well known for its architecture, particularly its historic buildings such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its brightly colored domes, which we actually witnessed. 40 percent of its territory is covered by greenery and considered to be one of the greenest capitals and major cities in Europe and the world, having the largest forest in an urban area within its borders.

Sophie took us around to show some of the buildings where only the very well off, influential people stayed. During Stalin’s reign these houses were gifted to the people he liked. Now most of the buildings were owned by the Government and they were rented to business houses at very high rentals. All the public places were nicely decorated with flora and fauna by the present Mayor of Moscow.

Then, we got out through the Red line to the Red Square. The Red Square never ceases to inspire! The vast rectangular stretch of cobblestones, surrounded by architectural marvels, was an imposing sight. In fact, our guide mentioned that in old Russian – krasny was the word for ‘beautiful’, and the square lives up to the original meaning of its name. Furthermore, it evoked an incredible sense of awe while we strolled across this place where Russian history had unfolded. We had actually arrived early to beat the crowds, and were awestruck with the architecture of each of the buildings.

Red Square, we understand used to be a market square adjoining the merchants’ area in Kitay Gorod. It used to be a place where occupants of the Kremlin chose to congregate, celebrate and castigate for all the people to see. Red Square used to be the top spot for high-profile executions such as those of the Cossack rebel Stepan Razin in 1671 and the Streltsy – Peter the Great’s mutinous palace guard in 1698.

The Moscow Kremlin is situated around the Red Square like a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence of the President of Russia. Both Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are also one of several World Heritage sites in the city.

We met a few Indian tourist groups at the Red Square who had also come to visit Moscow, among them were a big group of people who had come to attend a pharmaceutical conference from Alembic.

The Spasskaya Tower, which means “Saviour Tower”, was the main tower with a through-passage on the eastern wall of the Moscow Kremlin, which overlooked the Red Square.The tower gate was once the main entrance into the Kremlin. In czarist times, anyone passing through the gates had to remove their headgear and dismount their horses. This tradition was broken in the soviet era. Cars approached the gate head on from the place of skulls and the road beside GUM. In order to pass through the gate, you had to be a head of state, top politburo member, or top government member. All other traffic was routed through the Borovitsky gate. Nowadays, we understand the gate opens to receive the presidential motorcades on inauguration day, for the victory parades and to receive the new year’s tree.

The building, originally known as “Trinity Church”, was consecrated on 12 July 1561, and was subsequently elevated to the status of a sobor – similar to Roman Catholic ecclesiastical basilic. “Trinity”, refers to the easternmost sanctuary of Holy Trinity, while the central sanctuary of the church is dedicated to Intercession of Mary. Together with the westernmost sanctuary of Entry into Jerusalem, these sanctuaries form the main west–east axis (Christ, Mary, Holy Trinity), while other sanctuaries are dedicated to individual saints.

Feature: Metro Stations of Moscow

We travelled through the Metro lines, the fourth-largest in the world and largest outside of Asia in terms of passenger numbers, and the busiest in Europe. It is recognized as one of the city’s landmarks due to the rich architecture of its 200 stations. We got off at various stations on different lines to see the Architecture of each station. Each station was done up exquisitely and was better than the other. We also understand from Sophie that the deepest station in Moscow is 84 metres underground. It also contains the longest escalators in Europe, each one is 126 metres long and has 740 steps. The escalator ride to the surface takes approximately three minutes. Some of the stations that we had the opportunity to travel on were:

Mayakovskaya Metro station – on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line, in the Tverskoy District of central Moscow. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the system, it is a fine example of pre-World War II Stalinist Architecture and one of the most famous Metro stations in the world. The name as well as the design is a reference to Futurism and its prominent Russian exponent Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Novokuznetskaya Metro station is on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line, opened on November 20, 1943. Construction of the station began shortly after the launch of the second stage in 1938. Despite the World War II the station was opened on time. Later in 1978 the platform was lengthened. This part is in a more modern style than the rest of the station.

Komsomolskaya Metro Station – is located in the Krasnoselsky on the Koltsevaya Line, between Prospekt Mira and Kurskaya stations. The station is noted for its being located under the busiest Moscow transport hub, Komsomolskaya Square, which serves Leningradsky, Yaroslavsky and Kazansky railway terminals. Because of that the station is one of the busiest in the whole system and is the most loaded one on the line. It opened on 30 January 1952 as a part of the second stage of the line. The station building features an immense octagonal dome topped by a cupola, and a spire crowned by a large star and imposing full-height portico with stylised Corinthian columns. Inside amid the Baroque-style ornaments, rich torchères and chandelier lights, two escalators descend. The theme of the design is the historical Russian fight for freedom and independence, expressed in eight large ceiling mosaics reminding about the historical heroics of their Russian forefathers.

Prospekt Mira Metro Station is on the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya Line of the Moscow Metro. It was opened on 1 May 1958. The station features flared pylons faced with white marble and trimmed with sharp-edged metal cornices. The walls are faced with off-white ceramic tile with horizontal black stripes.

Novoslobodskaya Metro Station is on the Koltsevaya Line, between Belorusskaya and Prospekt Mira stations. It was opened on 30 January 1952, best known for its 32 stained glass panels, surrounded by an elaborate brass border set into one of the station’s pylons and illuminated from within. Both the pylons and the pointed arches between them are faced with pinkish Ural marble and edged with brass molding. At the end of the platform is a mosaic entitled “Peace Throughout the World.”

Ploshchad Revolyutsii is one of the most famous stations of the Moscow Metro, named after Revolution Square, under which it is located on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line. The station was opened in 1938, and its features red and yellow marble arches resting on low pylons faced with black Armenian marble. The spaces between the arches are partially filled by decorative ventilation grilles and ceiling tracery. Each arch is flanked by a pair of bronze sculptures depicting the people of the Soviet Union, including soldiers, farmers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers, and schoolchildren. There are a total of 76 sculptures in the station.

Shosse Entuziastov Station is on the Kalininsko-Solntsevskaya Line. It is located between Aviamotornaya and Perovo stations. The station is named after the Entuziastov Highway, under which it is located. The design theme of the station is the struggle for freedom during Russia’s history. It is decorated in various colours and shades of marble, with colours ranging from dark grey to yellow. Sculptures and pictures relating to revolutionary subjects adorn the walls and a large sculpture — “Flame of Freedom”. It was opened on December 30, 1979.

Kiyevsky railway terminal also known as Moscow Kiyevskaya railway station is one of the nine railway terminals of Moscow. It is the only railway station in Moscow to have a frontage on the Moskva River. The station is located at the Square of Europe, in the beginning of Bolshaya Dorogomilovskaya Street. As the name suggests there are regular services to Kiev as well as Belgrade, Zagreb, Varna, Bucharest, Sofia, Niš, Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Venice. It was built between 1914 and 1918. The station’s building is flanked by a gigantic landing platform covered by a massive glassed arch structures in the form of a parabolic with open-work steel trusses.

Arbatskaya Metro station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line built in 1953, meant to serve as a bomb shelter as well as a Metro station, Arbatskaya is both large (the 250-m platform is the second-longest in Moscow) and deep (41 m underground), with low, square pylons faced with red marble and a high vaulted ceiling elaborately decorated with ornamental brackets, floral reliefs, and chandeliers.

Elektrozavodskaya Metro Station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line. It is one of the most spectacular stations. It is one of the most spectacular and better-known iconic symbols of the system. It was named after the electric light bulb factory nearby. The station’s hexagonal shaped vestibule, features a domed structure on a low drum, on the corner niches of which are six medallions with bas-reliefs of main pioneers in electricity and electrical engineering. The interior of the vestibule is further punctuated by the same bright red salietti marble. Outside the vestibule in the archway and there is a sculpture to the metro-builders. This station was opened on 15th May 1944, 72 years ago.

We were then walking through a pedestrian bridge crossing the Moscow River, while it was drizzling admiring the gargantuan Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which we were informed that the original was completely destroyed by Stalin during the Soviet period but reconstructed during 1990–2000 as an exact replica of the original. The original 19th-century church was built at this place to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. It then started raining heavily and we rushed inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour for shelter. While there we actually witnessed the grandiosity of imperial Russia at this Cathedral. This opulent replacement was built in 1997 in honour of Moscow’s 850th birthday with financial aid from Kazakhstan, based on the design and documents traced by the Government.

From here we could see the statue of Peter the Great on the other side of the river. The statue looked to be out of place among the flowerbeds, fountains and street art adorning the river embankment along this stretch. It is a 98-metre-high monument to Peter the Great, located at the western confluence of the Moskva River and the Voodoo Vodny Canal in central Moscow. It was erected in 1997 designed to commemorate 300 years of the Russian Navy, which Peter the Great established and is the eighth tallest statue in the world. It weighs around 1,000 tons and contains 600 tons of stainless steel, bronze and copper.

Since its inception, the statue has courted controversy. In November 2008, it was voted the tenth ugliest building in the world by Virtual Tourist. In 2010, it was included in a list of the world’s ugliest statues by Foreign Policy magazine.

We could see the Ostankino Tower from a distance. Of course we did not have enough time so we did not go on the Tower. But from information gathered, we understand that this television and radio tower is currently the tallest freestanding structure in Europe and eighth tallest in the world. The tower was the first free-standing structure to exceed 500 m in height. It was built to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Extensive use of prestressed concrete resulted in a simple and sturdy structure. It surpassed the Empire State Building and was a masterpiece of Soviet engineering in the time period it was built, to become the tallest free-standing structure in the world. It held this record for nine years until the CN Tower was completed in Toronto, Canada in 1976, which surpassed its height by 13 metre. It remained the second-tallest structure in the world for another 31 years until the Burj Khalifa surpassed both it and the CN Tower in height in 2007. The Ostankino Tower since then has remained the tallest structure in Europe for 49 years.

Novodevichy Convent also known as Bogoroditse-Smolensky Monastery is probably the best-known cloister of Moscow. Its name, sometimes translated as the New Maidens’ Monastery, was devised to differ from an ancient maidens’ convent within the Moscow Kremlin. Unlike other Moscow cloisters, it has remained virtually intact since the 17th century. In 2004, it was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

State Historical Museum is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow. Its exhibitions range from relics of prehistoric tribes that lived on the territory of present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum’s collection comes to millions.

Next we walked alongside the Moscow River of western Russia. It rises about 140 km west of Moscow, and flows roughly east through the Smolensk and Moscow Oblasts, passing through central Moscow. About 110 km southeast of Moscow, at the city of Kolomna, it flows into the Oka River, itself a tributary of the Volga, which ultimately flows into the Caspian sea.

On our third day in Moscow after finishing the walking tour, we walked to the river pier near the Basilica and after buying tickets at the booth, boarded the boat, or “river tram” as the locals call them. It was a 90-minute one-way cruise gradually building up a spectacular climax as it passes sights of ever-increasing renown building – the beautiful Novodevichy Convent, the Stalinist skyscraper of Moscow State University, the newly revamped Gorky Park, Zurab Tsereteli fanciful Peter the Great statue, the reconstructed Christ the Saviour Cathedral, and, finally Moscow’s stunning Kremlin and iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral.

River Cruise allowed us to see all the best vantage points from a different perspective and we could sit back and enjoy the views without the distractions of trying to negotiate unfamiliar streets.

We saw the police headquarters in Moscow where we found all the high end top Model cars like BMW, Audi etc parked probably belonging to the cops.

The first gateway, built in 1680, was destroyed because Stalin thought it an impediment to the parades and demonstrations held in Red Square. The present-day exact replica was built in 1995.

Through the gateway we saw the bright Chapel of the Iverian Virgin, originally built in the late 18th century to house the icon of the Iverian Virgin.

We wandered through the blooms of Alexander Garden and at 12 noon we rushed to catch the ceremonial changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a short and nice ceremony.

There was huge crowd of people to witness the changing of the guard ceremony, which we understand takes place every hour at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which is a war memorial, dedicated to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War II. It is located at the Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden in Moscow. The remains of the unknown soldiers killed in the Battle of Moscow in 1941 are buried here. In front of the monument, there is a five-pointed star in a square field of labradorite, which emanates the Eternal Flame from its center. The flame illuminates a bronze inscription which means “Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal”.

At the southern end of Red Square was the St Basil’s Cathedral built in 1561 with crazy confusion of colours, patterns and shapes, considered to be a major edifice of Russian Orthodox art. It was built to commemorate the victory of Ivan, the Terrible who captured the Tatar stronghold of Kazan on the feast of Intercession, over the grave of the barefoot holy fool Vasily (Basil) the Blessed, who predicted Ivan’s damnation. Vasily, who died while Kazan was under siege, was buried beside the church which St Basil’s Cathedral soon replaced. He was later canonised.

The original building, known as Trinity Church and later Trinity Cathedral, contained eight side churches arranged around the ninth, central church of Intercession; the tenth church was erected in 1588 over the grave of venerated local saint Vasily (Basil). In the 16th and 17th centuries, the church, perceived as the earthly symbol of the Heavenly City, as happens to all churches in Byzantine Christianity, was popularly known as the “Jerusalem” and served as an allegory of the Jerusalem Temple in the annual Palm Sunday parade attended by the Patriarch of Moscow and the tsar. The building is shaped as a flame of a bonfire rising into the sky

We spent a perfect day in Moscow walking through history, discovering the city’s medieval foundations and modern flare.

We had a glimpse of the Red October chocolate factory one of Moscow’s most beloved manufacturers while we were cruising through the Moscow River which now we understand has been converted as a post-industrial centre for art, design and nightlife. The original Red October Chocolate Factory now moved to a site further out of the city centre a few years ago. The Art Strelka design college is also located here and regularly has lectures and workshops as well as concerts on their outdoor stage. On the food/drink side, this place is very happening and at the weekend the area really fills up with party animals for those looking to explore Moscow’s famous nightlife. And chocolate lovers can still pick up some of the beloved Red October chocolates from a small shop in the complex

Ministry of Foreign Affairs one of the Stalin’s “Seven Sisters” towers are a group of seven skyscrapers in Moscow designed in the Stalinist style. They were built from 1947 to 1953, in an elaborate combination of Russian Baroque and Gothic styles. The seven towers are Hotel Ukraina, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Apartments, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs main building, the main building of the Moscow State University, and the Red Gates Administrative Building. There were two more skyscrapers in the same style that were never built: the Zaryadye Administrative Building and the Palace of the Soviets.

Monument to the Conquerors of Space, which has been erected directly outside VDNKH in 1964 to celebrate achievements of the Soviet people in space exploration. It depicts a starting rocket that rises on its exhaust plume. The monument is 110 meters tall, has 77° incline, and is made of titanium. The Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics is located inside the base of the monument.

VDNKH Main Entrance – Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva (VDNKh) which means Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy; pronounced “ve-de-en-kha”, is a permanent general purpose trade show and amusement park in Moscow. Some of the memorials, pavilions, fountains, etc are here:

The Stone Flower Fountain built in 1954 stands in the “Industrial Square” of the Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKH) in Moscow, Russia, named and designed after the eponymous flower from Pavel Bazhov fairy-tale “The Stone Flower” and decorated with figures of birds, fruit and ears.

Friendship of the People Fountain – The spatial focal point was the bronze and gold-plated fountain, located in the plaza near the Russia Exhibition Centre, with its ring of female figures representing each of the fifteen republics – Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Latvia, Tajikistan, Estonia, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan dressed in their “national” costume being doused by jets of water from a giant bundle of wheat. The figures majestically form a circle around a wheat sheaf made of gold-plated copper sheet. The bowl that encircles the monument is made of red granite and is powered by eight pumps that process thousands of liters of water. Eight hundred jets that spray water ensure stunning and ever-changing displays of beauty. Nonetheless stunning, this statue evokes memories of an era long gone, but not forgotten.

We visited Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva, a permanent general purpose trade show building open only when there are some shows.

Eliseevsky Store – In normal circumstances one may just walk pass this building the first time as there is no indication outside the building as to what lies within. Our guide took us inside to see the Eliseevsky Store and we didn’t know where to look first, everywhere we looked was so amazing. We asked the staff if we could take photos and they gestured that it was ok. It really was breathtaking as it still looks like a palace inside.

We then went to the Izmailovsky Park which resembled a Fairyland which used to be a favourite relaxation spot for Muscovites. Much of Izmailovsky Park has retained its original beauty. Apart from the glorious birch woods, the main attraction of the park is the beautiful Pokrovskiy Cathedral on Silver Island, which was completed in 1679. Although badly damaged during Napoleon’s 1812 invasion, the cathedral was restored in 1840. There are two more buildings which surround the cathedral, originally designed as a military hospital.

Two buildings from the original estate, the Ceremonial Gate and the Bridge Tower, lie in front of and behind the cathedral respectively. We observed that lot of young couples came there to get married. It seemed to be quite a famous place for marriages and of course very picturesque surroundings.

We also visited Izmailovsky Market. By far not all booths were open, but we found a vast variety of things from typical tourist souvenirs to decent handmade russian crafts. Most of the vendors speak English, but our guide said it was better to be with a local person to have even more successful negotiations. Prices she said were way lower than in the shops in the city center, so in her opinion it was definitely worth a try in case we were interested.

Finally we went on a Boat Cruise to see Moscow from another angle. Our guide bid us goodbye after she left us to take the cruise. It was very beautiful. Took a lot of pictures. Worth a visit!

Tired after a long day, we were guided by our guide, Sophie, we walked to the Metro and took the Metro train to our hotel just a few metres away from the station we got off.

After deciding upon a meeting time for dinner, we went to our rooms. It was our last day in Moscow and also, the company of Michael & Susanne. We had a nice Chinese dinner at one of the restaurants in the mall. After dinner, we bid farewell to Michael & Susanne as we had to leave early the next day morning to cross the Russian border to the Baltic countries.