23 PICTURE ALBUM
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
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