Friday, June 9, 2017

Magnificent Moscow!

Russia has been on my bucket list for a long time!  It’s a place packed with the history of the world and we had never been there!  When we emailed Charity and Ian to tell them that we were going to stop and see them in London on our way around the world, she said they weren’t going to be there. They were going to be in Russia that week. Serendipity! They would be in St. Petersburg while we were in Dubai and so we headed for Moscow on a day that fit perfectly with our plan to follow the sun west, and in this case about 8 hours of flying north as well. 

Ian is a guru on miles for flying and points for hotels after their extensive travels. He had free nights for their little family at the Ritz in Moscow already booked. It is a wonderful hotel located exactly two blocks one way to Red Square and  the Kremlin and two blocks the other way to the Bolshoi Ballet. He arranged for a room for us right next to them, which was definetly not free, but was certainly worth it considering all our other accommodations along the way were with our kids or free. Good deal! 

What we saw during our taxi ride from the airport was just what we had expected…lots of gray cement block housing built during a gray time in the history of Russia! 

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With an occasional magnificent building here and there:

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Our first view of Red Square as we walked through the gates far exceeded our expectations! We had a splendid reunion with the little Wright family and were completely dazzled by St. Basil’s Cathedral straight ahead. It was AWEsome to actually be there after seeing pictures of this place my whole life! 


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Is this baby about as cute as they come or what? He’s a keeper!  As you can see, it was cold. Really cold! In the 30’s but we were warmed by our wonderful adventure! 





Charity, Ian and Moses had arrived a day earlier and were filled with glee to see this spectacular sight! Thanks to Charity for a lot of these beautiful pictures. iPhones just don’t cut it very well in subway halls. When you see a picture with great light (like the one below), It’s from Charity’s camera.  Check her blog posted on posted on May 2, 2017  for a plethora of beautiful photos. 




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Here’s a glimpse of the astonishing of this grand old Cathedral taken by Charity:



Here is that magical place at night! On the left is "The Gum", Moscow’s famous shopping/extremely high end shopping mall, right across  the pavement of Red Square from Lenin’s Mausoleum which you can barely see..This is an ironic and fascinating twist in history as the idea of that giant shopping mall is exactly what Lenin abhorred!  The large clock tower on the right is part of the Kremlin on the other side of the wall. 



There’s Charity hanging out the window of our hotel with the Four Season’s hotel on the left and Red Square in the background



The next morning Charity had arranged for a delightful guide to take us to the two most important tourist destinations in Moscow.The first will surprise you but was highly recommended by friends who had just returned from living in Russia for three years. It was the Moscow City Metro System!

Our guide was astonishing!  She knew everything about everything and was a young mother who was also enchanted by Moses! 

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Nobody can explain this amazing Metro system better than Charity. Here is a quote from her blog at  “We learned before our trip that moscow’s metro stations are actually a super impressive museum of art and history! forty four of the stations are listed as world heritage sites and are ornately decorated and almost palatial. the moscow metro, constructed in the 1930s, was one of the ussr’s most extravagant architectural projects, meant to show off russia’s prominence and power as luxurious “palaces for the people.” stations are brightly lit with high ceilings and include marble and bronze statues, stained glass, and scenes of industry, agriculture, warfare and leadership in frescoes and mosaics. it’s all pretty amazing and fascinating and we loved seeing this wild underground world – especially at rush hour! the crowds made it all even more dynamic and cool to experience."

We saw only four of the stops but each was a museum in it’s own right!  The concourses were enormous!  People hid here during the war and 217 babies were born in these halls! Now millions of people use this metro system every day! 



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We saw only four stops, this one with gorgeous brass statues on each of the four sides of many arches just like this….


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Another stop displayed gorgeous stained glass, another mosaics of Russian History and one stop was dedicated to the folk history of the Ukraine. As you might have noticed, there was not one trash bin anywhere, and also not one scrap of trash anywhere. When we thought of what this beautiful place might look like in NYC, our guide explained that the Russian people are very proud of the beauty of their Metro system. Each stop looked like a museum and each was treated like one. 

My iPhone just couldn’t do justice to these amazing pictures but you’ll get the idea! 


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I have to say that it was an absolutely incredible sight! 


From the Metro, Ian and Richard went back to the hotel to borrow a wheelchair for our tour through the Kremlin!  Richard  can play tennis for hours and jog forever, but his back hurts really bad when he has to stand or walk slowly for a long time. SO we headed out for our tour with a wheelchair, a baby stroller and a pretty excited bunch to see the famous Kremlin. 


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I was stunned by he number of churches on the Kremlin. I thought it was just going to be a massive bunch of political buildings. But no! The history behind what we saw is far too complicated to attempt here, but who we learned was amazing! 






We were not allowed to take pictures in the National Armory Museum which is sad because it was filled with historical carriages, crowns, the clothing of queens and kings and even their collection of Faberge’ eggs! But we did get to take pictures of the biggest bell in the world which rests on the grounds. Sadly, it never rang and actually cracked and broke before they could use it! 


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There were cannons everywhere and a memorial to the destruction that occurred in the Kremlin during the war! 


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After exactly four hours we bid goodbye to our perfectly lovely guide. Ian and charity had a car waiting to wisk them off to the airport for home. These two are so fun to be with! Ian faked a kiss to thank Richard for our few hours together and this was the result: 

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Wow, did we have fun with those three. A couple of days that we’ll never forget!  

After they left we had dinner at a well-lovedl place called Dr. Zhivago a few doors down from the hotel and then we headed for the famous Bolshoi Ballet. It was an incredible Russia Ballet that kept us charmed for 3 1/2 hours in that historic building that is the home of probably the best ballet company in the world! 

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The next morning we enjoyed the lobby of our hotel before heading out for another very special hotel lobby nearby….


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Destination: the Metropol Hotel which was only a few blocks away. It was the. setting for a novel that Richard just happened to find before we left and had been enjoying immensely along the way.  It was about a Count who was imprisoned there during the Russian Revolution. After being isolated n an attic room for a long time, he was promoted to being the head waiter. Since it was the headquarters for party meetings during that time he garnered a wealth of information about the politics of what was going on during that time. It was a fascinating story that Richard had been continually updating for me on those long flights while I was working on my own book. It was a special pleasure to have breakfast there on our last morning. 


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…..and find the ceiling described in the book...

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From there we walked back to Red Square to walk through Lenin’s Mausoleum. No pictures allowed of course. We were not even allowed to put our hands in our pockets. But I have to say that he looked excellent for being dead for 146 years! (Cute photo bomber…) 


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Before we left we took a quick tour of the inside of St. Basil’s Cathedral which was truly amazing! I even got to hear a men’s quartet echoing their hymns thoughout the  many-cubilcled spaces!  Chills! 

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There is so much more to learn about icons and Russian history in general that I was committed to learn when we get home. I sigh when I say “History is wasted on the young.”  I used to think history was so boring. Now I just can’t get enough! 

What a country! My bucket was filled with the wonders of this incredible city.  


Willis said...

Hi Linda,

Wow, this looks awesome!!! My name is Carleen. I happened to see your blog of your trip to Sweden!!! Swen and Thilda are my ancestors as well. I have seen an old picture of the school house and wondered if it was still there. I was thrilled to see in your blog that it was. I am planning a trip to Sweden and would love to get in touch with Erik who you mentioned had a great knowledge of the area. Would it be possible to pass on his email address? Thank you so much.


Unknown said...

Hi Linda,

I really enjoyed your pictures of Moscow. Thanks for sharing!

You might enjoy Bears in the Streets - a non fiction book by Lisa Dickey (recently published) about Russia and the changes that have occurred in the past 20 years. I just found a youtube video in which the author describes her approach:

What was the name of the novel Richard was reading?

- Linda