Saturday, August 23

Paula: On our last day in Moscow we toured the Kremlin. We had hoped to have a private tour but found that only group tours are admitted, and there are only a few options for English speaking tours. We were told that because of the threat of security concerns, several changes had been made in the past two weeks-including the closing off of Red Square and now only allowing tourists into the Kremlin under escort by tour guides.

The Kremlin is large and impressive. The red brick wall which surrounds it was originally built in the 12th century. The design and red brick of the wall are distinctive and quite different from the other fortresses we have seen so far on our trip. The fortress is triangular (the only one this shape in Europe) and originally was surrounded by water (rivers on two sides and a moat on the other) and draw bridges. Inside the Kremlin are 70 acres of land with numerous government buildings, a church square, gardens, armory (now a museum) and a large palace. It was here that numerous tsars resided as well as Lenin and Stalin. Most of the buildings were built before the 18th century making the large modern House of Congress (built for the Communist Party congress) look out of place. The Russian Federation and President Putin currently work within the Kremlin but no government officials reside here. We saw the largest cannon in the world (8 tons) as well as the world's largest bell (200 tons). Ivan the Terrible's Bell Tower is the highest point in the Kremlin and for many years was used to watch over Moscow. The most impressive buildings are in Church Square where three beautiful Russian Orthodox churches stand.

It was interesting to see the tight security throughout the Kremlin grounds. The areas allowed for visitors are very restrictive, and guards were often blowing their whistles at people who took steps outside these boundaries. It was strange to see all the tourists herded into groups, with no one allowed to venture outside the immediate presence of their tour guides. Our group was extremely large, and this made our visit somewhat less enjoyable than we had hoped.

The Assumption Cathedral has five gold domes and was used for the Tsar's coronations and weddings. The church very different from the other churches in Europe and has a flat stone exterior and small narrow windows. The interior is wall-to-wall frescos and icons. Large chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There were no seats except for elaborate stands for the tsars. The other churches in the square were used for royal burials and private services for the tsars. We were also guided through the Armory Museum, and enjoyed seeing garments, carriages, crowns, armor and a variety of state gifts from the pre-Revolutionary days. We especially enjoyed seeing Catherine the Great's coronation dress, and wondering how she ever fit into it!

After having lunch near the Kremlin, we walked briefly through a large shopping mall which has been built underground next to the Kremlin. It was crowded with "New Russians" and was very much like the malls in the U.S. The outside of the mall was lovely with many beautiful fountains. We took a leisurely walk back to the hotel along Tverskaya Street viewing the Bolshi Theater and other busy squares with shops.

While walking back, David and Katie spotted a street-side vendor selling DVD's including a copy of Bruce Almighty, which is a relatively new release (too new for DVD) that they wanted to see. After the vendor assured us it was in English (we had our doubts), we sprung for the 150 rubles (around $5). When we watched the movie in our room after dinner, it was obviously a pirated copy of a pre-release version of the movie. The DVD kept flashing messages giving us an 800 "anti-copy" number to call if we had been sold this movie. There were other messages telling us that the movie was the property of Universal Theaters, and that it may not represent the content that ends up in the final film. We had read that Moscow doesn't recognize the word "copyright", and now we saw why!

David and Katie went swimming in the hotel pool while we began planning our trips to Greece and Italy. We finished the evening at a nice café close to our hotel. The Saturday night streets were hopping with activity, and we remarked that the neon lights and night life reminded us of New York City.

Distance Walked: 4.40 miles












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