Moscow--August 3, 2005--City Tour, Red Square, Sparrow Hills, Arbat Street, Subway, Circus
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We docked at the northern Moscow river terminal (213) in the early afternoon and immediately boarded a bus for a tour of the city. On the way into town, we passed a huge new apartment building (214) which the guide informed us is typical of many such structures about to be built. We passed one of the city's railway stations (215) and shortly thereafter entered the glitzy part of town, apparent from the Fauchon store, a branch of the world famous Parisian gourmet food store. At the other end of the scale, we passed one of the many McDonald's (218) we would see in Moscow and then saw the Bolshoi Theater (219), which recently began a multi-year renovation.
Soon we were in Red Square (220-244), one of the most famous venues in the world. Although considerably smaller than Tiananmen Square where we were last year (but nevertheless 1,600 feet from one end to the other), it is still a huge space. St. Basil's Cathedral (220-222) with its multicolored spires is a magnet for cameras. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to celebrate the capture of Kazan, it was completed in 1561. Legend has it the Ivan was so dazzled by the results that he had the architect blinded so he could create nothing to compete with the structure. Saviour's Gate and Tower is at Photo 223. We would be here at midnight two days later to hear the clock ring. Lenin's Tomb is at 227 and 233. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to stop in to see his embalmed body. Next to the tomb are the graves of Stalin, Brezhnev and others (236). Photo 228 shows the Historical Museum at the northern end of the square; it houses four million exhibits on Russian history. Photos 229, 234 and 241 show GUM, the famous department store. Pronounced "goom," it once housed hundreds of ordinary retail stalls but today is nothing but very upscale retailing, competing well with other glitzy shopping around the world.
Photo 237 shows Kazan Cathedral, constructed in the 1990s to replace the church demolished in 1936 during the Soviet era. Photos 242-244 are immediately adjacent to St. Basil's Cathedral. The statue at 242 is of two heroes from the Time of Troubles. Photo 243 shows what appears to be an archeological excavation next to St. Basil's and 244 shows the difference in appearance of the church before and after renovation.
From Red Square, we continued our city tour, passing the usual statue of Lenin (247) and the large apartment building at 248. During Soviet times, the apartment building was used for persons who were political "problems." Supposedly, on many nights, there would be a knock on various apartment doors, and the occupants would be taken away in black cars, never to be seen again.
Photos 249-250 and 253 show the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer. It was blown up by Stalin in 1931and exactly rebuilt in 1994-1997 at a cost of about $200 million. It is Moscow's largest interior church space and was quite controversial due to the cost of renovation, given the competing funding needs for social purposes.
Photo 254 is a monument to Peter the Great while Photo 256 is the Tolstoy House-Museum. Tolstoy lived here until 1901. Photo 257 shows the Novodevichiy Convent; Peter the Great confined his half sister here under house arrest so that he could reclaim his throne. She never left the Convent after entering.
High above the city at Sparrow Hills, we were able to look down at the Moscow skyline (266,269) and, in the opposite direction, view the skyscraper Moscow State University (268). The bride and groom (270) posed willingly when they saw their picture being taken; they were one of several bridal parties seen that day. Off to the side of the hill is a ski jump (271).
Coming down from Sparrow Hills, we drove along the Moscow River (273-275) and noticed the White House at 275. In 1991, a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev was put down here as Boris Yeltsin passed through lines of tanks surrounding the White House, then the seat of the Russian Federation's Parliament. The coup by hard line Communists failed and Yeltsin prevailed, signaling the end of Communist rule.
Soon we were on Arbat Street, a lively pedestrian commercial street (277-279) and looked in the McDonald's (280-281). It consisted of a more upscale cafe and a traditional McDonald's--both were doing great business. Then it was off to the subway (282-290). The Moscow subway is justifiably famous for the ornate beauty of its stations. Started in the 1930s, it today is a very efficient system for moving large numbers of people throughout Moscow. Our guide got a little carried away as we tried out a few of the lines; older tour members, not used to subways were a little frightened by the noise and the crowds. The stations are very deep as evidenced by photo 283, taken on an escalator about half way down. In World War II, the stations also were available as bomb shelters.
Our last stop of the day was the Moscow State Circus (291-294). Russians love circuses and some cities of even modest size have a year-round arena for them. Moscow has more than one; the one we visited was a modern version of the circus. One visitor described it as a poor man's Cirque de Soleil. Because the circus was not the more traditional version, some were disappointed with it. However, one could not argue with our front row seats which were fine until the act with several cross bows commenced which were pointed in our direction throughout. Photos were strictly forbidden once the circus started and several matrons throughout the arena enforced the policy.
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