Saturday, July 6, 2013

Moscow: Deeky Vostok

All aboard,
High speed Sapsan train
After saying good bye to the beautiful city of St. Petersburg we boarded Sapsan (Russian for the peregrine falcon) for a comfortable 4½ hour trip to Moscow. The high-speed Sapsan is not unlike Japan's Shinkansen or France's TVG. The train travels at a maximum speed of 155 mph. We settled into our seats: Gus and Joan in seats 13 & 14; Izak and Sarah in seats 17 & 18 ~

As you might notice, a red arrow pointing to Moscow indicates we would be seated traveling backwards. Once the train started moving, left the city while picking up speed the "traveling backwards" posed no bother. A hot meal service, coffee or tea, and soft or alcoholic drinks were offered and enjoyed. Arriving in Moscow ~

we disembarked and were met by a car service. After a short ride we were comfortably delivered to the Hotel National,  our residence for the next three nights.
Located at the very heart of Moscow's historical, cultural and business
Izak and Gus registering for our stay at the hotel
The clock, second from the left, is local Moscow time and reads 6:30 pm. Before leaving for our rooms Izak and Gus agreed to meet for dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel around 8:30 and that Izak would make reservations.
Our room was spacious with an adequate bathroom yet it was the fabulous view, the view ~
Studio Kremlin View
View of Red Square and the Kremlin from our room. Wow!
 Dinner this evening was at Moskovsky restaurant  ~

Gus & Joan with their amuse-bouche

Dinner was exquisite. Since we did not have our camera, I do not remember what everyone had; however, I do remember what Gus had: Russian white asparagus, Kamtchatka crab, and foie gras. Delicious! Yet very expensive!

Next morning, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, Joan and Gus had two coffees and one breakfast roll for 3,500 rubles (equivalent to $106). Rather than accommodate the misunderstanding, the hotel refused to waive the charge while pointing to an obscure sign announcing that the price of the breakfast buffet was 1,750 rubles per person. They're bad... 

After "finishing breakfast" we, along with Izak and Sarah, met our tour guide. Our guide, Anna Kalnberzina, was tasked with the following ~
Day - One
9:00 meeting at the Hotel National
Tour the Moscow Metro
 "Old" Tretyakov Gallery
Yeleseyevskiy Grocery Store
13:00 Lunch at Café Pushkin
14:30 Driving tour of Moscow to include ~
Theatre Square and Lubyanka Square
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
 Pushkin Fine Arts
New Maiden Convent
Gorky Park
 Sparrow Hills
19:00 Return to the Hotel National
9:00 meeting at the Hotel National
Alexander Garden and Manege Square
Visit to the Kremlin including ~
 Kremlin grounds with the Cathedrals
 Amoury Museum
12:30 Lunch on Red Square
Tour Red Square, including ~
 Saint Basil’s Cathedral
State Historical Museum
16:00 Diamond Fund
17:30 Return to the Hotel National
Anna was punctual and we were soon off to begin our expedition of Moscow's magnificent metro or the "first wonder of the urban world."

Anna Kalnberzina, tour guide extraordinaire

Teatralnaya Metro Station
It's easy to recognize the metro in Moscow. It's marked with the Latin
 letter M. Above is the entrance to both Ploshchad Revolyutsii and
Teatralnaya Metro Stations.


However, navigating the metro can be difficult,
 if not impossible, for travelers without some
familiarity with the Russian Cyrillic  alphabet

As of 2013, the Moscow Metro consists of 12 lines, has 188 stations and its route length is 195 miles (NYC Subway route length, by comparison, is 209 miles). The system is mostly underground, with the deepest section 243 feet at the Park Pobedy station. The Moscow Metro is the world's second most heavily used rapid transit system after Seoul Metropolitan Subway. Our route ~

Beginning at 1 (Ploshchad Revolyutsii) travel  west
on the Dark Blue Line to 2 (Kievskaya) then north on
the Ring or Brown Line to 3 (Belorusskaya) and finally
 south on the Dark Green Line to 4 (Novokuznetskaya)
To step onto the Moscow metro is to step back in time and immerse yourself in a museum rich in architecture and history. As you travel on Moscow’s Metro, the history of the city’s past eight decades unfolds before your eyes. The stations range in design, from palatial baroque marble and granite structures to modern iron and glass, revealing the tastes, ideas, hopes and disappointments of the times in which they were built.
Ploshchad Revolyutsii or Revolution Square Metro Station
Lenin’s face is everywhere; Stalin's was removed
 in 1956, three years after his death. Khrushchev's
 de-Stalinization program sought to remove references
 to the dictator responsible for the deaths of millions
 of Soviet citizens.
Above and below: Famous bronze statues.
Each red marble arch is flanked by a pair of bronze sculptures by
 Matvey Manizer depicting the people of the Soviet Union, including
soldiers, farmers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers, and
 schoolchildren. There are a total of 72 sculptures in the station.

Kievskaya (Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line) Metro Station

This richly decorated station shows Baroque influences
 and inspiration from Ukrainian life and folk motifs. The
 large panel at the end of the corridor celebrates, in Kiev's
 central square, the unification of Ukraine and Russia.
Kievskaya (Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line) Metro Station
Ornate plasterwork frame surrounding a colorful fresco 
of a popular Ukrainian floral design.
Kievskaya (Koltsevaya Line) Metro Station
Named after the capital of Ukraine, was the first station to be completed
 after the reign of Stalin. Nikita Khrushchev, who succeeded Stalin at the
 helm of the Soviet Union, was born in Kiev. He didn't feel that his
 homeland's contribution to the creation of the USSR was being properly
 recognized, so he decided to use this station as a tribute. Along the main
corridor are colorful mosaics depicting scenes from Soviet history.

Kievskaya (Koltsevaya Line) Metro Station
Mosaic board of smalt and precious stones by  artist
 Aleksandr Mizin, and devoted to the friendship between
 Russian and the Ukraine.
Belorusskaya (Koltsevaya Line) Metro Station
The station has low, white marble pylons, an elaborately patterned
 plaster ceiling, light fixtures supported by ornate scroll shaped
 brackets, and a variety of decorations based on Belarusian culture
 Belarusian themes .

Belorusskaya (Koltsevaya Line) Metro Station
Light fixture supported by ornate scroll shaped brackets
Belorusskaya (Koltsevaya Line) Metro Station
Overhead, twelve octagonal mosaics depict Belarusian daily life. Made
 in Florentine mosaic technique with the use of greenstone, jasper and
other semiprecious stones from the Urals.
“Belarusian Partisans,” by Sergey Orlov.
Located in the passage between Belorusskaya
(Koltsevaya Line) station and Belorusskaya
(Zamoskvoretskaya Line) station.

Belorusskaya (Zamoskvoretskaya Line) Metro Station
Presently the station receives 139,700 passengers per day from
 the Ring and 45,950 from its vestibule which is built into the
 Belorussky Rail Terminal.
Novokuznetskaya Metro Station
The station features marble panels and ceiling mosaics depicting
 wartime industry and Red Army soldiers in combat. The mosaics
 are based on designs by the artist   Aleksandr Deyneka and
 assembled by the mosaic artist Vladimir Frolov
Simple yet elegant chandelier. Many Moscow Metro stations have
 been likened to an “artificial underground sun”.
One of seven octagonal ceiling mosaics depicting the Soviet wartime
We exited the station onto Pyatnitskaya, a wonderful old street. After a short, 15-20 minute, walk through the picturesque area ~
Church of the Holy Martyr Clement, Pope of Rome
St. Clement is the only Roman Pope to have a 
Russian Orthodox church dedicated in his name.
One of several colorful "licensed" vegetable stands that we passed by on
 our neighborhood walk
Bolshaya Ordynka Street
­The street’s name goes back to the 14th century, and is linked to the
 great Golden Horde – “orda” in Russian – a powerful Mongol khanate
 to whom Russian rulers paid tribute. Collected goods were sent to the
 Horde down this road, where people responsible for gathering them
 lived. In the 17th century, Ordynka became popular with wealthy
 merchants and nobles, so it is filled with Tsarist-era mansions.
Surprisingly enough, though the mansion looks like it is made of
 bricks, it is in fact wooden, painted to look like stone.
Two men painting the exterior of a five-story building while
 hanging/swinging from ropes. Soviet-era practice, while relatively
 low cost, quality is sacrificed.
Fountain of Arts
On Lavrushinsky,  a little pedestrian side street, near Tretyakov Gallery
Fountain “Adam and Eve”
This fountain was sculpted by Russian sculptor Marina Levinskaya in 2008.
we found ourselves standing in front of the "old"  Tretyakov Gallery ~ 
The State Tretyakov Gallery possesses a unique collection of Russian art which includes masterpieces which span a period of a thousand years. The Gallery was founded by a Russian merchant and patron of the arts Pavel Tretyakov. He donated his collection to the city of Moscow in 1892. The State Tretyakov Gallery has since become a world-famous museum. Nowadays it contains more than 170,000 works by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art.
We were not allowed to take any photos within the gallery, yet ~ 
The Washer Women by Abram Arkhipov
(image courtesy of Joe Donaghy)
The Unequal Marriage by Vasily Pukirev
(image courtesy of tywkiwdbi)
Apprentices Fetch Water by Vasily Perov
(image courtesy of aeliita123)
Dispute on the Confession of Faith by Vasily Perov
(image courtesy of

Easter Procession in the Region of Kursk by Ilya Repin
(image courtesy of Bsketti)

Morning of Execution of Streltsy by  Vasily Surikov
(image courtesy of Tsarist Russia)
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 by
 (image courtesy of WIKIPAINTINGS)
Dance Amongst Daggers by Henryk Siemiradzki
(image courtesy of Tretyakov Gallery )
Birch Grove by Arkhip Kuindzhi
(image courtesy of ru.wikipedia)
Morning in a Pine Forest by Ivan Shishkin and Konstantin Savitsky
(image courtesy of en.wikipedia)
Unfortunately, the exchange of art between America and Russia is in a deep freeze because of a legal battle between the Chabad-Lubavitch sect and the Russian government over the Schneerson Collection —  featuring 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents that Moscow has and Chabad wants. After failing to secure the collection through the Russian courts, Chabad sued in an American court and won. Now Russia is refusing to loan artworks to American museums, citing fears that they might be seized in retaliation, and American museums are refusing to send their artworks to Russia in a tit-for-tat that could drag on for months, if not years.

This was one of the most wonderful museums that we have ever viewed. Maybe it was the fact the paintings were new to us, maybe the curation was original and provoking, maybe it was that we limited our visit to the 19th and early 20th century, maybe Russian painters are underrated, maybe...maybe...
Leaving the museum we were picked up by our van and we were driven to possibly one of the most remarkable boutique food emporiums in the world... 
Eliseevsky is probably one of the most
 famous stores in all of Moscow.
Amazing fretwork, gold coating and crystal chandeliers are more
 than enough to blow anyone away! There are all kinds of foreign
goods – olive oil, French truffles, oysters and more. However,
 the choice of Russian goods is no less, as you can easily buy caviar,
 fish, ham, milk and anything else a Russian heart desired.
This is not a grocery store but rather a museum.
Leaving Eliseevsky we were ready for lunch, even if we had not already arranged for a seating in 15 minutes, at Café Pushkin.
In a mansion meant to recall the days when the writer Pushkin
 strolled the 19th-century avenues of Moscow, staff members dress
like household servants; the menu resembles an old newspaper, with
letters no longer used in the Russian alphabet; and the food is fit for
 a tsar. All the favorites can be found here—blini, caviar, pelmeni (meat
 dumplings)—and there's a fine, if over-priced wine list. Prices rise with
 each floor (there are three) of the house. If you don't want to splurge on
dinner, the three-course business lunch is an excellent way to sample
 Pushkin's food without breaking the bank.

The second floor - "the Library."
Our wonderful waiters Yan and Alexi
Sarah, Izak, Gus, and Joan on the first floor, "the Pharmacy."
(starting from the lower left moving clockwise
Izak and Sarah each had roasted chicken with fried potatoes, mushrooms, and garlic sauce. Joan had a herb salad along with pasta with vegetables and seafood. Gus, being the "I have to try whatever," had seven different Pirozhki; stuffed with potatoes, with meat, with cabbage, with mushrooms, with lamb, with pickles, and with fish. We also ordered salted tomatoes and mixed pickles. While Café Pushkin is world renowned, Gus was a bit disappointed...the "Business Lunch" was reasonably priced (except for the Perrier at $9.50 a 750ml bottle) yet the food was a bit ordinary; however the service was superb.
Not to be missed while in the vicinity of Café Pushkin ~
The Bolshoi Theatre
Located on Theatre Square along with Maly Theatre, and
 Russian Youth Theatre. In addition to the three theatres the
square also contains the neo-gothic TsUM, a luxury department
We would very much liked to attend a ballet performance at the Bolshoi but the season did not begin until three weeks after we left Moscow. 
 Headquarters of the KGB or today the Lubyanka
Located on Lubyanka Square. After the dissolution of the
 KGB, the Lubyanka became the headquarters of the
Border Guard Service of Russia, and houses a prison and
 the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).
In addition a museum of the KGB (Historical Demonstration
 Hall of the Russian FSB) was opened to the public.
Back in our van, we did not stop at either Theatre Square or Lubyanka Square as it had begun to drizzle. We had a full afternoon schedule. Our first site, was a view of ~
Peter the Great
In Commemoration of the Tricentenary of the
 Russian Fleet, by Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli
 unveiled on September 5, 1997
Next we were on our way to ~
The enormous - and extremely expensive - cathedral was consecrated in 1883, and its vast copper domes dominated the Moscow skyline. However, the cathedral had taken almost as much time to build and to decorate as it would remain standing in its original incarnation. For fairly obvious reasons, it was singled out by the Soviet government for destruction and, in 1931, blown to pieces to make way for a proposed Palace of Soviets, one of the most influential pieces of architecture never to be built. The design approved by Stalin would have stood over 1,300 feet high, with a vast statue of Lenin at its peak. Only the foundations had been laid when the Second World War brought an abrupt end to such an ambitious project, and Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, had no stomach for such grandiose displays of hubris. The project was abandoned, and the site turned over to become an open-air swimming pool, the largest in the world, which was kept at a temperature of 80°F all year round. The result was a thick covering of fog that shrouded a number of gruesome deaths (and murders) among the swimmer.
The symbolic significance of the site was reaffirmed after the fall of the Soviet Union, when ambitious Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov joined forces with the Orthodox Church to resurrect the cathedral in a $360-million reconstruction project. Completed in 2000, the new cathedral is loosely based on its original architectural designs, but constructed with modern building materials and fitted out with all modern conveniences including air conditioning, telecommunications facilities, elevators and underground parking. Visitors can only see the inside of the Cathedral as part of an organized tour, which we had not arranged.
If we had been allowed inside  

Interior of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
(image courtesy of Catholic Answers Forum)
On February 21, 2012, five members of the group Pussy Riot staged a performance on the soleas of the Cathedral. Their actions were stopped by church security officials. By evening, the performance had been turned into a music video entitled "Punk Prayer - Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!". The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader's support for Putin during his election campaign. Three members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Two other members of the group, who escaped arrest after the protest, reportedly left Russia fearing prosecution. Following an appeal, one member was freed on probation, her sentence suspended. The sentences of the other two women were upheld and are now in prison. The trial and sentence attracted considerable criticism,[particularly in the West. The case was adopted by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which designated the women prisoners of conscience, and by a wide range of musicians including Madonna, Sting, and Yoko Ono. Public opinion in Russia was generally less sympathetic towards the women. Putin stated that the band had "undermined the moral foundations" of the nation and "got what they asked for".
The drizzle had now turned into rainfall. The idea of leaving the van was quickly becoming unappealing...our plans were altered. The next sites of interest, rather than becoming stops, became "run-bys" or "drive-bys."

Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
Has one of the most representative collection in Russia of foreign
 art dated from ancient times to modern days. Located just opposite
 the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour 
 We drove to the entrance to Gorky Park, debated getting out but decided otherwise ~
Entrance to Gorky Park during short let-up in the rain. 
Novodevichy (New Maiden) Convent
The Convent was known to have sheltered many ladies from the
 Russian royal families and boyar clans, who had been forced to
 take the veil, such as  Sophia Alekseyevna (Peter the Great's sister),
 and Eudoxia Lopukhina (Peter the Great's first wife), and others.
Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills
One of the  Seven Sisters, and even a rainy and cloudy day could not
 thwart a view of this impressive building and surrounding landscape.
On a clear day, the observation platform across from Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills  affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Today was definitely a clear day.
On our drive back to our hotel we passed by Moscow City ~ 
Since the beginning of 1990s when communism finally fell, the Russian government had the ambition to create some kind of financial center that would look and function like Wall Street in New York and the City in London. So, in 1992, the Moscow International Business Center project was conceived. The project occupies an area of 148 acres, the territory chosen being the only area in central Moscow that can accommodate such a commercial development. Before construction began, the area represented an old stone quarry where most of the buildings were old factories and industrial complexes that had been closed or abandoned. Twenty of thirty-two plots have been or are close to being completed. The total cost of the project is estimated at $12 billion.
We returned to the Hotel National. Today was a limited but very full day. We were a bit tired and glad to be returning to rest before an early dinner at  The Ragout Café and Bar
Risking the consequences of an unsolicited confession, Gus experienced a serious lapse in good judgment. After acquiring the confidence to navigate the Moscow Metro Gus set out on traveling, under protest from Joan, to the restaurant via the subway. Joan exercising much better judgment, arranged for a taxi to deliver Izak, Sarah and herself to the restaurant. Gus indeed had learned the "ins-and-outs" of using the subway earlier in the day. However, once exiting the Metro and encountering street signs solely lettered in the  Cyrillic alphabet he was lost. Lost for the next 45 minutes. The reservation was for 8:00 pm. Three members of the party were on time. Gus arrived at 9:15! Embarrassed, feeling guilty, yet grateful that his three comrades were still there, Gus ordered an Old Fashion. The Old Fashion was maybe the most welcomed cocktail in recent or long-term memory...perfectly prepared. But as good as the cocktail was the dinner selection was fabulous and most unforgettable.

Lamb shank with creamy polenta
(image courtesy of

To further compound the guilt Gus does not have a clue of what Izak, Sarah, or Joan had other than margaritas and white wine...maybe graciously expunging the memory of bad judgment. The Ragout Café and Bar  was a great find and should not be missed.  

Returning to the hotel we turned-in for the night. Morning came all too early as Gus woke up around 4:30 am and decided to venture out. A walk down to and along the Kremlin Embankment ~
Picturesque spot providing a view of Moscow River (on the left) and the south wall
 of the Kremlin and the domes of the cathedrals of Cathedral Square accompanied
 by the Ivan the Great Bell Tower (on the right)

Returning to the hotel and realizing that it would be another 2 hours before we met our guide, Gus set out for Old Arbat Street  
Arbat Street ~  early Monday morning. There’re were almost
 no people. Paved, planted with trees, spectacular old-style street-lamps.
 Places to see: monument to Pushkin and his bride, Natalya Goncharova,
 monument to Bulat Okudzhava, Melnikov House, The Wall of Peace,
Victor Tsoi’s Wall, Vakhtangov TheatreSpaso House,  personalized tiles
 on the sidewalk, gold Turandot, a huge number of small souvenir shops,
 and of course the remnants of old Moscow’s architecture.

Tepemok is a popular fast food chain that specializes in blini (on the left). A standard
 street sign (on the left). 

Gus started on the east end of Arbat and walked west. The pedestrian street was near empty of any other people and most all of the shops had not opened yet. While not planned, Gus' stroll down Old Arbat was the perfect way to explore Moscow's most famous street without the crowds, smells, and noise ... it was ironically calming.

Joan, on a separate expedition, captured Red Square and Manege Square in some magnificent, early morning photos ...

 (viewing of slideshow requires most recent version of Adobe Flash Player)

Returning to the hotel we met our comrades along with Anna. We would be walking today. Our plans  were to see what every tourist to Moscow sees...Red Square and the Kremlin. We started out walking through Alexander Garden on our way to northwest entrance to the Kremlin.

Alexander Garden
The initial name of the grounds was the Kremlin Gardens with
 three discrete gardens. The Upper Garden, extending from
 Revolution Square to the Troitskiye Gate was the first to open in
 1821. The Middle Garden covers the area between the Troitskiye
 and Borovitskiye Gate. The Lower Garden has the shortest span
 and was the last to open in 1823, running from the Borovitskiye
 Gate to the Kremlin Embankment. Three walkways were laid out
 along the Kremlin Wall and Manege Square through the Upper
 and Middle Gardens. Numerous species of trees (lindens, maples,
 blue spruces) and ornamental bushes (lilac, jasmine, bird cherry
 trees, acacia, hawthorn) decorate the lawns between them and
 blossom at different times of the year. In the spring and summer,
 visitors can enjoy breathtaking flower beds of tulips and roses.
Reference to the detailed map of the Kremlin directly below, with the key to sights, is helpful ~ 

(Map courtesy of Smart Moscow)

 We entered the Kremlin through Troitskiye Gate (17.) and proceeded pass The Arsenal (14.) and The Senate (15.).

The Kremlin Senate
While the Senate Building, a late 18th-century Neoclassical structure,
used to house the government during the last century, it is now the
 Russian President's, Vladimir Putin's, residence. The interior has been
updated accordingly, but the exterior retains its original façade.

The Tsar Cannon (8.)
This unique artillery piece was cast at the Moscow Cannon
 Foundry in 1586. This gigantic weapon weighs more than
39 tons. Since 1960 it has stood in Ivanovskaya Square
 surrounded by vast cast-iron cannon balls, each of which
weighs about a ton. The cannon balls are purely decorative,
 as the Tsar Cannon has never been used in military action,
 although it was originally intended as a powerful weapon in
 the Kremlin's defenses. The gun's barrel is decorated with
 figurative reliefs and a portrait of Tsar Fedor Ioanovich on
The Tsar Bell (9.)
This is the largest bell in the world, weighing almost 202 tons
 and standing more than 20 feet high and 22 feet across. The story
 of its construction is marked by a series of almost supernatural
misfortunes. Craftsmen prepared for the casting for two years, but
 work had to be stopped when leaking metal caused a fire that burnt
 down the wooden derrick designed to lift the future bell. But that
was not the end of the disasters, during a later fire, overheating and
 uneven cooling caused a large chunk weighing more than 11 tons to
 crack from the bell. For another century the bell laid in its casting pit.
In 1836 the bell was at last raised from the pit and placed on its
 pedestal. Today visitors to the Kremlin can admire the rich relief
work on the bell's exterior, depicting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary,
 John the Baptist, Russian rulers and their patron saints.
(unknown, in lower right, unavoidable due to crowds posing around bell) 
Entering Cathedral Square ~ The oldest and largest church in Cathedral Square - Assumption Cathedral was commissioned by Ivan the Great to be the main church of Moscow. From the 16th Century until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, all of the Russian Grand Princes and Czars were crowned here. The massive, virtually unadorned grey limestone façade, capped with its 5 golden cupolas was the work of Russian masters, under the guidance of the Italian Aristotle Fioravante. Inside, well over 100 figures of saints and martyrs adorn the pillars, window jams, and reinforcing arches. The floor to ceiling partition, that divides the sanctuary from the nave consists of tier after tier of icons. 
The Assumption Cathedral (2.)
Izak, Sarah, Joan, and Gus in front of the south façade;
to the right is The Patriarch’s Palace and the Twelve Apostles’ Church
 and to the left is The Church of Laying Our Lady’s Holy Robe as well as
the main entrance to the Cathedral.

Royal Procession door on the Cathedral.
Once again we were not allowed to take photographs, yet ~

The inside of the Assumption Cathedral, whose walls and ceiling are
completely covered in intricate yet austere religious paintings and icons.
(image courtesy of The Flying Kiwi)

The pillars, covered with  fresco compositions of the 15th to
17th century, form a consecutive narrative, each scene leading
 on to the next full of profound content.
(image courtesy of Benjamin Tolleson's Pinterest Board)
Monomakh’s Throne: Seat for the Tsar
Created in 1551 for Ivan the Terrible, the first Russian Tsar.
(image courtesy of

Ivan the Great Bell Tower, with Assumption Belfry (7.)
 It was built in 1508 for the three cathedrals in
 Cathedral Square, namely the Assumption, Archangel
 and Annunciation cathedrals, that did not have
 their own belfries. It contains 22 bells, 18 in the
base and middle of the bell tower. There are four
 bells at the top, the largest weighing over 65 tons,
which rings on the largest religious festivals such
 as Easter. Right next to the bell tower is the
Assumption Belfry which was completed 1543.  
The Water Supplying (Vodovzvodnaya) Tower (21.)
The tower stands in the southwest corner of the
Kremlin. The Vodovzvodnaya Tower had a well
 and a secret underground passage to the  Moskva
 River. In 1633, a water-pumping machine was 
installed inside the tower to take water from the
Moskva River and send it along lead-coated pipes
 to the Kremlin Gardens.
Next we walked to the Armoury Museum (1.). The museum's collections include precious items that had been preserved for centuries in the tsars’ treasury and the Patriarch’s vestry. Some of the exhibits were made in the Kremlin’s workshops, others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts. Once again, photos were not allowed, yet ~ 

Catherine the Great’s Coronation Gown
(image courtesy of furinsider)

Imperial Carriage used by Elizabeth I
(image courtesy of worldisround) 
Fabergé Imperial Pamiat Azova Egg
(image courtesy of mieks)
Display of defensive armor, misyurka,
firearms, swords, sabers, and a shield.
(image courtesy of xenophon-mil)
Orb and Sceptre of Tsar Alexei Michailovich in
gold and heavily decorated with rubies, sapphires,
turquoise, amber, pearls, enamel filigree work.
(image courtesy of g-to-g)
Upon leaving the Armoury, it was getting to be close to lunch time. While we had not made reservations it was our desire to take lunch at a restaurant in Red Square. After a few minutes of walking we were being seated outside at BOSCO BAR
BOSCO BAR is perched on the perimeter of Red Square itself, and is accessible
 via the epic and iconic GUM department store. Outdoor seating provides a
wonderful view of Red Square.
A bit pricey, service a bit slow, the food was for the most part forgettable; yet there was a nice breeze, wonderful people watching, and it is hard to beat a cold draft beer or two on a gorgeous sun washed day. 
Finishing lunch, we rejoined our guide, Anna. Next stop ~

Saint Basil's Cathedral
There is no more prominent landmark in Russia than St. Basil's on Red Square.

Originally referred to as Trinity Church yet was consecrated as The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. The collection of churches that comprise the Cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561 under orders from Ivan the Terrible. The construction of the churches served to commemorate the capture of The Khanate of Kazan  (what is now European Russia and included what is now St. Petersburg and Moscow) and  The Khanate of Astrakhan (area adjacent to the mouth of the Volga river) from Mongol (Tartar) forces. The foundations were built of white stone and the churches were built of red brick. All nine churches are identifiable from the outside by a roof ornament. The largest church, the one in the center, is dedicated to the Intercession of Mary, and it stands beneath a tall, tent-roofed spire.

A tenth church, The Church of Saint Basil the Blessed,  was added by the Tsar Fyodor in 1588 to house the remains of Basil the Blessed or Basil the Fool for Christ.
Basil the Blessed or Basil the Fool for Christ (a term derived from the writings of Paul, for those using unconventional behavior to challenge social norms) was an apprentice shoemaker in Moscow who started shoplifting to give the stolen goods to the poor. He went naked and weighed himself down with chains. He rebuked Ivan the Terrible for not paying attention to the church and predicted that Ivan would be damned. Basil died while Kazan was under siege, in 1552, and was buried next to the stone wall of the old Trinity Church. Ivan the Terrible was one of the pallbearers at his funeral. Basil was formally canonized as Saint Basil in 1588.

Entering from the northern porch, we passed through a corridor, lavishly decorated, that runs between The Church of Saint Gregory (on the right) and The Church of the Selected Saints Cyprian and Justina (on the left). Now inside the central church we saw icons and paintings from as far back as the 16th century.  
The central church that is dedicated to the
Intercession of Mary is crowned with a tented roof. The
vault  (dome) incorporates an octagonal lantern drum
 and is decorated with  the image of the Mother of Church of
 St. Vasily the Blessed “The Sign.”
Beautifully decorated walls, columns, and window
openings exquisitely adorn the central church.

Moved into the Church in 1770 from the
Kremlin's Cathedral of the Miracle Workers
of Chernigov , which was dismantled at the
time. The iconostasis is decorated with gilt
cornices, convoluted columns, corbel arches,
 and a dramatic ornamental work of pewter
The Church of St. Basil the Blessed
Upon his demise, Saint Basil the Blessed was laid to rest on the
 northwestern side of The Cathedral of the Protection of Most
Holy Theotokos on the Moat. In 1588 this highly venerated Moscow
 man of faith was canonized. At the time, this church, which later
 became an integral part of the cathedral’ 1st floor, was built over his
 tomb. The holy relics of St. Basil the Blessed became one of Moscow’s
 most highly revered sacred objects. A silver reliquary with a carved
 wooden canopy, included in this room but just outside this photo, 
was placed over the grave of the saint.

Dome of The Church of Alexander of Svir
The walls in this church are painted to resemble brickwork, the
same way they were in the 16th century.
The Church of the Selected Saints Cyprian and Justina
The gilt iconostasis (the screen decorated with icons that divides the
 sanctuary from the nave of the church) is made of carved wood.
The Church of the Selected Saints Cyprian and Justina
The tall octahedral tower of the church is topped by a
  octagonal drum  and a dome painted with an image of the
Mother of God “The Burning Bush.”
Many of the corridors and connecting galleries are painted with a
 floral design. The lush flowers, executed in tempera, symbolize the
 Garden of Eden. The galleries unite the Cathedral’s side churches into
 a single ensemble.
After being totally wowed by St. Basil's Cathedral we crossed to the north end of Red Square and visited the State Historical Museum.
The State Historical Museum 
 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 and are on display
 on three floor in eleven halls (many were closed for restoration).
The Main Entrance Hall
The ceiling is painted with a Tsar "family tree"
We hurriedly visited three of the eleven halls as we were only 45 minutes away from our scheduled time to visit the Diamond Fund (which was 5-10 minutes away). Anna was excellent in moving us through the Museum while at the same time capturing for us the highlights of the recent Russian history and culture. After spending most of two days with Anna it became clear, at least to Gus, that if she had been born in the U.S. she probably would have become a tenured university an excellent professor, her insights always go beyond the rudimentary.
Today had become a very long day for all of us. While we all looked forward to returning to our hotel and resting we pushed on and visited the State Diamond Fund. The exhibition is located in the Armoury building yet it is a separate institution run by the State Fund of Precious Stones within the Ministry of Finance. After passing through security and relinquishing our bags, purses, cameras, and cell phones we entered a single room with a display that could only be described, at a minimum, as a fabulous collection of jewels and precious stones. The extra push was well worth the effort. Once again no photos, yet ~
The relatively small room is painted black. Every part of it is black – its walls, ceiling and floor. The lights are dimmed. Only the exhibits are illuminated. The Great Imperial Crown is one of the most dazzling exhibits on display. It shines a rainbow of colors.
The Great Imperial Crown
Made for the coronation of Catherine the Great by court
 jewelers, Georg Eckart and Jérémie Pauzié, represents
the height of creative imagination, lavish beauty and skilled
 workmanship. It is adorned with 4,936 diamonds weighing
 2,858 carats arranged in a splendid pattern of laurel wreaths
     and oak branches. The glitter of the diamonds on the Crown
 is enhanced by two rows of 75 gleaming pearls and the Crown
 is topped by a huge red spinel, the second largest in the world,
 which weighs almost 400 carats.
(image courtesy of Smart Moscow)
Tiara of Empress Maria Fedorovna
(image courtesy of Anna Kalnberzina)

The Orlov Diamond in the Imperial Sceptre
The Orlov is mounted in the Imperial Sceptre, made during the
 reign of Catherine the Great. Its weight has been recorded as 190
 carats. The clarity is typical of the finest Indian diamonds and its
 color possesses a slight bluish-green tint. The shape of the diamond
 has been described as resembling half a pigeon's egg and its upper
 surface is marked by concentrated rows of triangular facets, with
 corresponding four-sided facets appearing on the lower surface. The
 total number of facets is roughly 180.
(image courtesy of Lang Antiques)

The Imperial Orb of Russia
 Smooth polished gold ball (30 ounces) girded with ribbons
 of diamonds; an Indian diamond of 47 carats is located at
 the cross of ribbons; a huge Ceylon sapphire of 200 carats
 crowns the orb.
(image courtesy of Viola)
Parure of Aigrette and Pendent Earrings
Gold, silver, sapphires and diamonds. Made for Elizabeth
 of Russia, the daughter of Peter the Great & Katherine. The
 inspiration for design was drawn from the fountains of Peterhof.
(image courtesy of Local Fashion)

Medallion Emerald
Gold, silver, emerald, and diamonds
(image courtesy of

The Shah Diamond
An oblong diamond which actually looks like a miniature
 coffin and weighs 88 carats. It is the only great stone in the
 world whose history is literally engraved upon it. There are
three separate inscriptions, which could only have been
 accomplished through the use of other diamonds, and because
 of that the history of the stone is a matter of specific facts and
dates, with no legend attached to it whatsoever. 
(image courtesy of Treasures of the Diamond Fund)

Camel Nugget
This nugget weighs 328 ounces ($405,900 based
 upon the day's spot price). It was found on Kolyma
 River (far northeastern area of Russia) in 1947. 
Fashioned by nature into resembling a lying camel.
(image courtesy of Bridge to Moscow)
Certainly, the Diamond Fund's extraordinary collection ranks among the world's most spectacular displays of jewels and precious stones. Our experience was enhanced by the fact that Anna, our exceptional guide, had made special arrangements to accompany us inside the exhibition; private guides are typically excluded from the Fund as matter of protocol.
Leaving the Armoury we found ourselves in the middle of a rain shower. Here, once again we enjoyed the benefits of Anna's experience. The distance from the Armoury to Hotel National was navigated, for the most part, via an underground shopping mall beneath Manege Square.
Arriving back at the hotel we settled up with Anna, thanked her, and bid her farewell. Tomorrow we depart Russia...Izak and Sarah back to the U.S. and Gus and Joan to Berlin.
But tonight, Izak and Sarah made plans to celebrate Joan's upcoming (two days away) birthday at Jon Joli. Jon Joli is a Georgian (with Turkish influence) restaurant conveniently located in an "alley" off of Tverskaya Street not far from the hotel...finding the "alley" provided a bit of a challenge, but we found success and a few laughs.

Sarah in the Restaurant Lobby

Our English speaking waiter for the evening who was very patient and helpful
Sarah, Joan, Gus, and Izak
Birthday Celebration

Tonight, being our last night, moved at our pace. We had a table that was secluded and seemed to afford us as much or as little time as we cared to spend. Joan and Gus being relatively unfamiliar with Georgian food relied on Izak and Sarah to set the menu. We ordered a number of delicious "starter" items which we shared; one worth remembering was khinkali. The main dishes were all very good, albeit large portions; Gus had the shashlik The wine list was short but interesting and very reasonable. Shared deserts from the menu substituted for birthday cake. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening we spent with our "most excellent comrades."

We returned to the hotel, each acknowledging that Moscow is in history, culture, and its people.

Tomorrow Berlin!





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