Leaving London, as we checked in
at Heathrow, we had two
different people review our visas for validity! And then they were
examined again once we arrived, very carefully. Our hotel is required to
register with the authorities that we are here, and we carry an
official document along with our passports at all times. These are the
things that you expect. Yet, when you walk around Moscow, it is barely
indistinguishable from many other big cities. Many of the same stores and
restaurants we saw on Oxford Street or Michigan Avenue are here on Tverskaya
Arriving in Moscow was impressive.
First, we actually got all of our luggage, and it came out right away.
(You will recall that we lost a bag at Heathrow, which took a day to repatriate!
This has led us to create a pool of sorts. Would you hazard a guess as to
how many bags will be waylaid during the course of our trip. For details,
see Yannis' Notes.) Our drive into Moscow
(Mocквa) was also interesting. As you drive into the city there is one
gold-leafed onion dome after another!
Moscow in flowers!
First up on our list of things to
see - Red Square with Lenin's Tomb, St. Basil's Cathedral, and the Kremlin. (These
are all adjacent.)
As we arrived at the Kremlin,
there were barricades and military men blocking our way on to Red Square and
also the cathedral! As we watched, there were some people who appeared
to have tickets and were allowed by the military men to pass through the
barricades (after a close inspection of the ticket and their passports, of
course). We watched for a while, and there were a couple of hundred
uniformed military men standing in formation in front of Lenin's Tomb. Occasionally, a band played
and then several speakers spoke. When the whole thing broke up, a platoon
of men marched off the Square carrying tables two by two. Other groups
marched off. Lastly came a ragtag platoon, two of whom were carrying a
rolled up red carpet between them. It much have been heavy. Every 20
steps or so the put the rug down and switched places. (We learned from the
English language newspaper, that this was a graduation ceremony.)
A parade on red square.
And from the other side of Red Square.
And off they go.
Not everyone was interested in
the parade, but we appreciate her effort to
reduce the book load ;-).
Since Red Square was still blocked off,
we walked around the Kremlin. We can assure you, this place is huge.
To get past Red Square, we walked through an enormous, gorgeous shopping mall,
referred to as G.U.M. (Sorry, no idea what it stands for!).
After a spot of lunch, Red Square was
finally open, but Lenin's Tomb was still closed. That's okay, the kids
were not looking forward to seeing a "dead guy."
In front of Lenin's Tomb
St. Basil's Cathedral
A couple of looks at St. Basils
Not being thrilled with the lighting, Yannis really wanted to go back to
catch the evening light on St. Basil's towers, but of course, the whole of
Red Square was closed off that evening for some event, so the rightmost
photo was the best he could do - from the other end of the square and across
a busy street. Maybe next time :-)
fun in the Alexander Garden, playing in the fountains and looking at all the
fairytale statues. Unfortunately, the line to buy tickets for the Kremlin
was hours long. We'll try again tomorrow.
Touring the Kremlin is a little like touring the White House - there are
lots of people actually working there! The police were vigilant - no
one was allowed to walk on the streets or to enter certain areas which made
it look like a ghost town or Hollywood studio set. We noticed one
couple stray into the street in the interest of a picture, and a policeman took them aside, demanded their passports and then spoke to them
for a long time. I am not certain they could have actually understood
each other since Moscow police are not known for their foreign language skills and
the couple spoke no Russian.
Domes, domes and more domes.
The kids got a little "churched out" with all these cathedrals! Here
they're taking a break.
Left: The Czar Cannon.
Right photo: The Czar Bell. Tasha gets creative to get everything into the frame.
The Moscow Zoo
Yes, there were animals as well...
Interesting observations about
the zoo: 1) It was very crowded, as it was a Sunday.
Russians in a crowd are interesting. They did not observe any
discernable conventions - walking on the right or walking around people or
standing in a queue. They seem to have a much smaller need for personal
space. 2) The raccoon exhibit was one of the most popular!
They were as cute as any monkey!
Yes, that would be the Moscow subway system (note the train on the right
side of the 1st image). It is inexpensive (about $0.70 to ride
anywhere), clean, and fast.
Trains come every 2 minutes or so - no exaggeration! We waited for 90
seconds once, and the kids started looking around impatiently. Usually
the train had just arrived as we came around the corner. Every station
is differently decorated - but many are as ornate as a fancy ballroom or art
gallery. Some with statues, some
with mosaics (one in gold), some in marble, some with stained glass.
It was very impressive! At one station we actually saw a tour group.
Not on their way somewhere; they were touring a series of subway
It is interesting to try to decipher
some of the Russian signage, if you can figure out the pronunciation, sometimes
you can actually tell what it says. This is interesting, as we cannot
understand a thing when people talk. Tasha picked
out right away. But we also got
and of course
Resting for a spell with Fiona. Shrek was everywhere in Moscow - in
the form of statues, like this one, and dressed up characters who walk
Anika and Yannis continue their "research" - though they decided
against trying to request "only ketchup" on Anika's cheeseburger.
At the outdoor stand the next day Newenka was successful in obtaining a
hotdog with only ketchup - hum...
We took a train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, and thoroughly enjoyed
ourselves! Our car was configured as a sleeper, and the kids spent
much of their time up on the top bunk!
Our hotel in St. Petersburg was
across a canal from the Hermitage, much of which was the former Winter
Palace of the Czars.
Our hotel on the canal (left) and
the canal that connects ours to the River Neva (right).
The Hermitage and the Winter
The Winter Palace, from
Okay, so when Catherine
the Great was the Empress of Russia, she was a great patron of the
arts. (By the way, she was also a patron of education and in
particular educating girls.) She had a great art museum,
the Hermitage, built right next to her Winter Palace, which sits on
the river Neva.
The Winter Palace from
across the river Neva, far left is a small part of the Hermitage.
The inside of her museum
was beautifully appointed, with amazing painted ceilings, and lovely
wooden floors. Then she filled her museum with some of the
world's best art work. Standing in a room filled with
Rembrandts, we stood first starring at the ceiling!
The Winter Palace from
across the Neva 5 minutes later.
|It rained every
day we were in St. Petersburg. And I don't mean just a little
drizzle! Interestingly, people don't wear raincoats, or sensible
shoes. The umbrellas are everywhere, though, once the rain
starts. The serious downpours only lasted 10 minutes, so you
could wait the shower out under cover.
What - you are disappointed? Did you think that Yannis didn't
spring for a photo permit? Of course he did! We have posted
all the photos of the inside of the Hermitage together.
Click here to
The Church of Savior of the
This church was around the corner from our hotel. It was erected by
Alexander the III as a tribute to Alexander the II on the spot where the
former was mortally wounded. It was only used on the occasions
important to Alexander the II until 1917, at which point it became a parish
church until the 1930s, when it became a warehouse. Restoration began
in the 70s, following which the church was opened as a museum, which is what
it is now. All the walls on the inside are covered with ornate,
Peterhof - The Summer Residence
of Peter the Great
We took a boat from in front of
the Hermitage to the island in the Bay of Finland on which Peter the Great
built his summer residence. The residence is surrounded by amazing
gardens and fountains. Let's begin with the inside of this great
Inside the Palace
The palace is three stories tall,
and sits on a bluff. Only the second story (called the first floor
here) is open for viewing. The ground floor is used as an entry area
for the museum and as stores. I assume that this was once the kitchens
and the staff quarters. The third floor must have been sleeping
quarters, though it was not open.
The fabulous entrance to
the first floor
A room dedicated to a
As you see, we were not
alone on our stroll through the palace!!!
This was a
room decorated by Catherine the Great. She purchased all the
paintings from the estate of a moderately well known Italian artist.
She had them all cut to be the wall paper on all four walls of this
room. The portraits are of Italian peasants, the same 6 models
make up most of the paintings!
One of the
after room after room of splendor!
Peterhof comprises the upper
gardens and the lower gardens. The upper are very formal and orderly
or as orderly as Russians can make them. The Lower Gardens are
separated by an amazing series of fountains. They are a huge informal
ramble of woods and gardens interspersed with fountains, both formal and
^ The formal Upper
The Magnificent Main Fountains
We did not capture much
of the informal gardens, but we did get these shots of the fountain
that got Anika.
If you sit on this bench
to admire the whimsical fountain, the sprinkler may get you from
Touring Around St. Petersburg
A common theme...
St. Petersburg is charming in a
very European way. The citizenry is much less regimented here.
In Moscow there were streets that could never be crossed - you had to walk
several blocks out of your way to get to a subway to get underneath them.
You would not want to cross those streets, they are one way, 6 lane and the
traffic moves at 50 miles an hour! Even in areas that look like
walking streets, people stay on the side walk and cross at the crosswalk.
The difference was apparent the moment the hotel van pulled out of the train
station parking lot - the traffic here moves at a snails pace. People
walk right out in front of cars - if fact that is often the only way to
cross a street!
Here we are along the river Neva, each in a typical pose!
two, three tickle-fest!!
Well, that's all for Russia!
Next stop: Finland