Tag Archives: #ToursByLocals

Moscow: Saturday tour

I’m in Vienna now, but need to update on my last full day in Moscow, where I was a tourist!


March 25
Now 3.55 p.m. in Moscow, I’m in seat 2F on Austrian 602 to Vienna.

Saturday was my tourist day in Moscow.

I was met at 9.30 a.m. by Anatoly, my hired guide, and the driver Viktor, in his black Mercedes.

For the next 3.5 hours we tootled around Moscow:

  • several of Stalin’s Seven Sisters
  • a diorama of the Kremlin, housed at another of the Seven Sisters
  • the new skyscraper development on the Moscow River
  • the largest of the Seven Sisters, a massive and overwhelming edifice at Moscow University
  • Swallow Hill, and the view over Moscow
  • the old Soviet expo center, and the Cosmonaut Monument
  • Church of the Savior, the largest and most important Orthodox church building in Moscow
  • the Moscow River, and the southern wall of the Kremlin.

We passed by the Bolshoi, various government buildings, and ended up at the Kremlin.

And once inside:

  • cannons salvaged 200 years ago from Napoleon’s disastrous winter in Moscow, now lining the walls outside the old armory
  • the building built in the 1960s for the meetings of the party congress
  • Cathedral Square, and the five cathedrals and a bell tower
  • the gardens
  • a 207 metric ton bell that broke before it could ever ring
  • a massive cannon

Anatoly explained for me Orthodox iconography, and I was grateful to know more about the adornments in the church.

The Kremlin includes five cathedrals, each for a different purpose — one for coronations, one for daily use, one for Sundays, and so on.

Cathedral Square:

We exited onto Red Square, and the breathtaking sight of St. Basil’s Cathedral and those inexplicable, have-to-see-them onion domes.

The interior is made of nine different church, one under each dome, and each one with a different purpose and focus.  The cathedrals and St. Basil’s are all part of the Kremlin Museums, and are loosely consecrated for the occasional service.

A group of four men sang a Russian church song whilst we were in the central church, and I caught some of that on video.

Crossing the giant expanse of Red Square [that’s a link to an hour-long video, and worth watching if you love military splendor and want a sense of Russian pride], and thinking of all the military parades that once passed there, I stepped up to the entrance of GUM department store, turned back, and saw Lenin’s tomb on the center line, under a Kremlin tower, perfectly aligned with the store, and under the window of Putin’s office. Lenin is still on view five days a week, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

GUM is really a huge indoor shopping mall, now filled with top-end retailers.  It’s incredibly impressive.

And then we did the subway tour.  Various subway stations are now ignored by the inured locals, but are feasts for a tourist.  The hammer & sickle, and the sheaf of wheat — these are everywhere. As is Lenin. The Belorusskaya stop is a tribute to Belorussia, with mosaics of people in native dress, and symbols of nature.  Another stop is filled with bronze statues celebrating the virtues of the Soviet people, doing things like being students and farmers and workers. (All the men are sculpted with hunky arms.). Another stop celebrates great Russian military victories in mosaics.  Yet another has stained glass raided from the cathedral in Riga. (I took a great photo at this stop.)

Anatoly explained some architecture to me — the inverted swallow-tail ramparts at the Kremlin (which means fortress or citadel), the Seven Sisters, the decoration on various buildings. And we talked some politics and quite a bit of history. I taught him the American term for chair-lift or tram, and a few slang phrases.

Security is tighter than I realized.  Even to go in the church or department store, or a hotel, one passes through a metal detector.  I was surprised by the security at the airport today. At one of the subway stops yesterday, I grabbed a photo of the gaggle of 18-year-old policemen fulfilling their one year of compulsory military duty.  Anatoly said that he finds them rather useless, but I find the sight of policemen (and a few women) everywhere to be quite reassuring for a tourist, and a bit forbidding. The police with riot gear and helmets at Sportivnaya were positively scary though, and for the first time in my traveling life, I wondered what might happen if I were caught in a public demonstration of some sort.