St Petersburg Day Two

Up early and off the ship for a canal cruise on the Neva River through some of the city’s waterways. We took a short drive from the port to the canal pontoons and boarded our canal boat by 8:15 am and thankfully, this morning, the weather turned out so much better than yesterday!  Cool and clear, blue skies and a lap rug… what more could you want.

The canal cruise left from right near the Kunstakamera, which is the St Petersburg science museum, also known as the Cabinet of Curiosities.  It was established by Peter the Great (he seems to have done a lot of establishing), in 1727 and it hosts an enormous collection of over 2 million items of anthropological and ethnographical importance.Directly opposite is the amazing Winter Palace, also known as the Hermitage Museum, which has been on my bucket list for some time now… but more on that a bit later.  🙂 Further down the canal, we finally got a better look at the unique lighthouses that we tried to see last night in the rain – they are known as the Rostral Columns and they are placed on the square directly in front of the Stock Exchange building.  At 32 meters tall, the red brick towers were used as lighthouses from 1727  until the mid 19th century, at which the Spit of Vasilyevsky was a functioning port still.  They are decorated with prows of conquered ships and mythical sirens.

The ‘Little Mansion’ built by Catherine to entertain her private guests along side the enormous Winter Palace. St Peter and Paul’s Fortress from the canal…St Petersburg has many beautiful bridges – over 500, according to Maria, and the widest is  a huge 99m wide.  St Petersburg has so many canals and bridges, that many have dubbed the city, ‘The Venice of the North’… though we are reliably informed that Russians prefer to think of Venice, as ‘The St Petersburg of the South’, because SPB has far more bridges than Venice!
Some beautiful 18th century buildings… the names and purpose of each, now completely escape me barely 12 hours later!The Stock Exchange building.
One of the many statues lining the canal.

Next stop was the State Hermitage Museum, which is one of the largest and most prestigious museums of art and culture in the world, let alone just Russia.  It was started in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive number of paintings and objet d’art from a Berlin art merchant by the name of Johann Gotzkowsky.  The museum has been open to the public since 1852, and other than the taint from it featuring heavily in an unfortunate and completely traumatizing piece of cinematic ‘art’, “The Russian Ark”, the Hermitage has been somewhere I have been wanting to visit since studying visual arts in the mid-90s.

The Hermitage gets its name from, a ‘dwelling of a hermit or recluse’… Because naturally, this elaborate palace is the type of place you build when you want to withdraw from society and spend some time on your own!  The building was originally given this name because of its exclusivity – Catherine only allowed her family, and her favourite grand duke courtiers to visit.
Of its extensive collections (Egyptians antiquities, classical antiquities, pre historic artworks, jewellery and decorative arts, Italian Renaissance paintings, Spanish fine art, Dutch Golden Age works, Flemish masters, Russian Art, French Neoclassical art, Impressionists, Modernists, German Romantics, and Lord knows what else!), only a very small portion is on permanent display.  The collection, which contains the largest collection of paintings in the world, is comprised of over three million items, of which one-third of that is made up of coins, historical documents, and medals. The palace itself is spectacular… The Military Gallery – contains 330 portraits of generals who took part in the Patriotic War of 1812, all were painted by English artist, George Dawe and his assistants. Regalia of a member of the Order of the Garter. German herald’s tabard, c.1520. 11th century ivory mirror case. Limoge enamels. Mosaic floor panel, done in the Italian style copied from the Vatican. The private courtyard of Catherine the Great.Medieval chairs, 12th-13th century.

A Raphaelo here…

Another one there… As we gallop on through the museum, Maria points out a ‘disciple-ah of zee school-a ova fine-a artses’ who ees painting-a zee copy-a of one-a of zee paintings’, but somehow she fails to mention that the lady is painting from an original van der Weyden as we skip on by!  Masterpieces at every turn!Some 16th century textiles…Games box. Ebony, with silver and ivory inlay. c1620. Passageway elaborately painted in the style of the Vatican’s Passeto di Borgo… seriously, this is uncanny.  I was at the Vatican in July last year, and the style is very very similar. Skipped through an entire room of Majolica ware (can email more pics to anyone who is interested). Michelangelo’s, ‘Crouching Boy’ Malachite urn in the Spanish masters room. I simply include all the photographs of individual artefacts, so I have focused here on including the spaces in the Palace. I have already determined that I will have to come back to St Petersburg one day and do the Hermitage at my leisure.  They say that if you stood in front of every piece on public display at the Hermitage for barely one minute, it would take you three years to see everything – and I well believe it.  I imagine a week in St Petersburg is probably going to end up on the schedule at some point in the next few years. Oh and look, here is one of the twenty-four Rembrandts in the collection!  If but one of them were appropriated? relocated? to an Australian museum, it would probably cause an entire wing re-named, the “Northern Renaissance Gallery”… and here?  Here they have twenty-four.  Greedy, if you ask me.  😉  They could share them around with the rest of the world, don’t you think? Stunning sweeping central staircases are a feature of all the palaces it would seem.

The Malachite Room.

I took many, many more photographs of items in the museums, but they are too numerous to include here, I may make a separate post on the Hermitage when I get home (ship internet is dreadful for blogging… it’s dreadful full stop really, but particularly so for uploading images and blogging).

The Menshevik party, (literally meaning, ‘the Minority’, who were moderate socialists) had formed a Provisional Government after Tsar Nicholas abdicated in 1917.  They maintained power for only eight months but were apparently moving too slowly for the Bolshevik party (hard-core lefty communists) with their prevaricating over the electoral processes and legislation associated with elections – so the more radical Bolsheviks decided to depose them. Below is the actual dining room in the Winter Palace where the Bolshevik party overthrew the Menshevik Provisional Government which started the Soviet era. On temporary display – these ‘flowers’ are entirely ceramic.

After we left the Hermitage, we bundled back into our little bus and head over to the most iconic of St Petersburg landmarks – the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (aka the Church of the Spilled Blood, or the Temple of the Spilled Blood or the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.

Construction began on this church in 1883, during the reign of Tsar Alexander III, it was intended to be a memorial to his father, Alexander II – as this was the exact site where Emperor Alexander II was killed by political nihilists in March 1881. Maria claimed that the construction cost was somewhere in the realm of 4.5 million rubles, funded by the Imperial family and many wealthy donors. The Cathedral was not completed until 1907 during the reign of Nicholas II.

Being in a Medieval Russian style, the Cathedral is very different from the rest of St Petersburg’s other architectural wonders, which are mainly baroque and neoclassical.  The Church of the Spilled Blood was created in the Russian romantic nationalism style, and with its onion domes and ceramic tiled roofs, it deliberately mimics the 17th century Yaroslavl churches and the famous St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow (Been there!).

The interior is inimitable… it contains over 7500 square meters of detailed mosaics, which according to the restorers, is more than any other building in the world. The walls and ceilings are completely covered in mosaics depicting biblical scenes and figures, surrounded by decorated borders and motifs. The central altar contains the Holy Gates, which were lost in the 1920s during the Soviet era, but were recreated and replaced in 2012, on the 129th anniversary of Alexander II’s assassination.  Gate detail: The main dome must easily be 100 feet high.  Easily. After the Russian Revolution (which saw the end of the Tsarist autocracy and the rise of the Soviet Era), the church was ransacked, looted and badly damaged – Maria described the Bolsheviks as ‘people who destroyed everything, and they build nothing’. The Soviet government actually closed the then very damaged church in 1932.  During WWII, when many people were starving due to the Seige of Leningrad at the hands of Nazi Germany, the church was used as a morgue for people who died in combat, and from starvation or sickness; bit gruesome.  The Church suffered, even more, damage during this period.  After the war, the buildling was so little thought of, that it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the name, The Saviour of Potatoes!  I just can’t imagine what led people to use a building like this to store vegetables!  I guess when you are starving though, you don’t have much use for gold mosaics.    

It was not until the 1970s that the management of the Church of the Spilled Blood was handed over to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and it was turned into the mosaic museum that it is today.  Proceeds from the profitable St Isaac’s Cathedral were used to fund the restoration of the church, and it was eventually reopened in 1997 after nearly 27 years of extensive restoration work.  The church was never reconsecrated and is now a major tourist destination as a mosaic museum and monument to Alexander II. Just outside the Church of the Spilled Blood is tourist central…  we were told to watch for pick pockets, but I think they are all working stalls here – souvenir prices were ridiculous!

After our amazing visit to the Church of the Spilled Blood, we walked across a lovers bridge (yes another one covered in locks), to a local restaurant to have a bite for lunch.  Lunch consisted of pumpkin soup, beef stroganoff (how unsual for Russia!) on mashed potatoes, and some honey cake.  We had forgotten about the Russian honey cake we tried in Moscow, but I am going to have to hunt down a recipe for it, it is super sweet but quite nice.

Lunch done, we made our way to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral (aka Isaakievskiy Sobor) which is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city, and the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the world, and the fourth largest cathedral of any denomination in the world (apparently – something to do with the volume of the cuppola).  It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, because Peter the Great (who seems to have built nearly everything in St Petersburg) was born on St Isaac’s feast day, so he adopted him as a patron saint.

The church was built on instructions by Tsar Alexander I to replace an early chruch that had been built by Vincenzo Brenna, and it is the fourth church to be bulit on the same site.  A specially formed committee examed designs until the French-born architect, August de Montferrand (1786-1858) was appointed to build the current cathedral.  Montferrand, who had studied under Napoleon’s pet desinger Charles Percier, had create a design that was criticised by some members of the commision for the allegedly boring rhythm of it’s four identical octastyle porticos.  Some thought that even though the design had enormous proportions, it would look short and squat and not particularly impressive.  There were also apparently concerns about building a 100m tall cathedral on old and insecure foundations could be problematic.  However, the emperor favoured the design and things worked out in Montferrand’s favour after all.


Montferrand moved to St Petersburg from 1818 to 1858 to oversee the construction which took a full 40 years to completion – the cathedral’s foundations were strengthened by driving 25,000 piles into the fenland of Saint Petersburg and innovative methods were created to erect the giant columns of the portico.  Montferrand dedicated his life to creating this edifice, and his one wish was to be buried here in his creation, but the Emperor would not allow it, as Montferrand was Roman Catholic and this was an orthodox church.


The Cathedral has had a spotted history – during the Soviet era, most of the building was stripped of its religious treasures and iconographies, and in 1931 it was turned into the Musuem of History of Relgion and Atheism.  The dove sculpures were removed and replaced by a Foucault pendulum.  Further, during WWII, the dome was painted over in gray paint to avoid attracting enemy air craft, and on it’s top in the skylight of the dome, a geodesical intersection point was installed to assist in determining the positions of German artillery.

By Maria’s account – the church continues to have a somewhat dubious place in social history.  The state has funded any restoration, management and administration of the Church in recent years.  It has been a pet project of Putin’s to maintain and upkeep this particular cathedral, however recently, it has been handed over to Church control, which means the income from St Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Church of the Spilled Blood will no longer be open to public scrutiny.  Instead the Church will be able to do as they please with tourist income received from these two iconic sites… the people are not happy about this change of plan, and there is some speculation that Putin’s cronies stand to benefit from these new financial arrangements.  So much so, that various sectors of the public and the tourism industry in particular are considering striking and protesting actions to attempt to return the control of these public treasures to public administration. Incredible mosaic work, and so much carved and gilded timber, it was really quite breathtaking.  The only church I have seen more impressive than this one was St Peter’s in Rome… and that I think was largely due to the sheer scale of it. Detail of the mosaic work… 

Next stop on our tour was the Yusupov Palace which was also known as the Moika Palace.  It was the primary place of residence of the Family of Yusupov who were very close to the Romanovs.  The building was also the place where the younger Yusupovs murdered Ra-Ra-Rasputin on December 17th, 1916.

The palace was built around 1776 and from 1830 to 1917, the palace belonged to a noble Russian family called the House of Yusupov.  They were immensely wealthy, close to the Romanovs and known for their philanthropic tendencies and their art collections.  They had personally amassed more than 40,000 works of art, including works by Rembrandt, and expensive sculptures decorated the palace and expensive jewels decorated their persons.  During the Russian Revolution, the family fled for their lives unable to take their treasured possessions with them, and the Yusupov art collection was nationalized and relocated in the Hermitage and other museums.

The palace was as lavishly decorated and appointed as the royal palaces of the time, the Yusupovs were extremely wealthy – though the rooms and spaces are not as large as the royal residences. Inside the Yusupov Palace is a private theatre that was built to entertain family and friends for private ballet and opera performances.  This was the start of the current home theatre trend, I am sure of it! Though today, most people don’t do them in quite so much style.  😉 

Yusupov Palace is where the assassination of Grigori Rasputin was played out.  A monarchist group led by Prince Felix Yusupov, heir apparent to the vast Yusupov family fortunes, together with Vladimir Purishkevish and the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich invited Rasputin to the Yusupov Palace to a dinner in Felix’s lavishly appointed private rooms in the cellar of the palace.

Here, Rasputin was served poisoned wine, and the others made an excuse to leave him for 30 mins.  When they were sure he would be dead, Felix returned to the cellar to find him unaffected. Rasputin, immediately clued onto their surprise and knew that something was up.  He attempted to run, but Felix Yusupov retrieved a revolver and shot Rasputin from the side.  Felix then went back upstairs to inform the plotters that Rasputin was dead, but he took Felix’s absence as an opportunity to flee from the cellar through a side door.  The plotters chased Rasputin out onto the street, where Purishkevich shot Rasputin in the back.  He was then dragged back inside and a third, close range bullet, was shot into his forehead.  The murderers then wrapped him up and drove outside the city to dump his body into the Neva River!  Only according to Maria, they did not allow for the fact that the river was frozen, and it took them a long time to dig a hole through the ice in order to dump his body.

Felix Yusupov must not have been a particularly bright fellow, as he immediately started telling everyone that he had killed Rasputin and saved the aristocracy from his influence over the Romanovs, and was promptly arrested. (Gotta admit, I don’t love the wax dummies.)

Well, after this it was a final stop for some souvenir shopping in lovely St Petersburg in what must have been the most expensive souvenir shop in all of Russia – or perhaps we only thought that because we had seen prices in Moscow where they don’t have thousands of cruise ship passengers to fleece on a semi-regular basis.  🙂

We had a marvelous, if hectic, two days in St Petersburg and for now, it remains firmly on my list to go back to – mostly to see the Hermitage properly.  I feel we had sufficient time in each of the other historical sites we visited, and it was only here that I could have spent many, many hours wandering the galleries and corridors.

Tomorrow – Helsinki!


St Petersburg Day One

Where to start?  We had a huge day in St Petersburg today. We have an overnight stop here and the Russian authorities won’t let anyone ashore without an official Russian visa, unless they are on an organised tour, and while we have visas because we visited Moscow on the way to Stockholm, doing a tour was going to maximise what we managed to see of the city.  So we chose to do a two-day tour with SPB – the ship tours are just crazy expensive and everything is done in large groups… there are two main companies that people recommend very highly for small group tours in the Baltic, SPB and Alla tours.  We met our guide, Maria, just outside the customs area (which wasn’t as bad as we were expecting, about a 30 min wait to be processed, but still…. what a pain in the arse), and we were whisked off to take a ride on the St Petersburg Subway.

Unfortunately, I have no idea which subway station we were at – as we discovered in Moscow, the maps you pick up at the desk are written in Latin alphabets as well as Cyrillic alphabet, but the signs underground are all in Cyrillic so I couldn’t even make an educated guess as to where we were.  The stations they chose had some lovely mosaic art works in them, though not as decorative as the Moscow stations we saw…

Now, you’d think this was a pretty easy exercise – leave everything on the bus except yourselves and the subway token that Maria had just handed out and off we go for a quick subway ride, but no, we had several people who left their tokens in their bags on the bus!  So they ended up lining up to buy a subway token, which was less than a $1 on their credit cards, because even Maria had left her bag on the bus and no one had any Rubles,  It did not bode well for the rest of the day… between that and the weather I wasn’t feeling too positive.  It was raining fairly steadily and looked to be quite set in, so standing around waiting for people who couldn’t follow instructions wasn’t really going to made for a fun day.  But we would see.

Our next stop was to Kazan Cathedral or the Kazanskiy Kafedralniy Sobor or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan… yep, we were back in the Land of the Mulitple Naming Protocols!  It is a Russian Orthodox Church on the Nevsky Prospekt and is considered one of the most venerated icons in all of Russia.  It was built in 1801 and took nearly ten years to build, the architect Andrey Voronikhin apparently modeled the building on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, according to Maria, but you wouldn’t know it; it’s very small in comparison.

Beautiful inside, the church is still in everyday use, there was a service happening, so only a few photos from the back of the church.

Next, it was dodge the puddles, and head to the famous Peter and Paul Fortress, which is the original citadel of St Petersburg.  It was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built by an Italian architect, Domenico Trezzini from 1706 to 1740.  In the early 20th century, the building was being used as a prison and execution square by the Bolshevik government – Maria did not shying away from the less pleasant aspects of the Russian history which was refreshing.  Currently, the fortress complex is part of the State Museum of History.

The square is normally flooded with tourists, but the rain seems to have kept many indoors this morning – there was still a ridiculous crush to get inside as the tour guides were vying to get their groups in our of the rains… seriously I got claustrophobic being pushed around in the crowd and was concerned I was going to be hurt.  People need to chill out. Inside is an extravagant gold leaf interior, in what would become a familiar pastel green colour that was favoured by Catherine II.   Tombs of Peter the Great, Catherine I and their daughter Alexander who played a large part in public life. The cathedral is the burial place of all the Russian tsars, from Peter I to to Alexander III (with only the exceptions of Peter II and Ivan VI). The chapel of St Catherine is dedicated to the Romanovs.  The remains of Nicholas II, his entire family and entourage were reinterred here in 1998 on the 80th anniversary of their deaths. About ten years ago, the remains of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna were removed from Roskilde Cathedral near Copenhagen and also reinterred here, beside her husband, Alexander III.

After this we had a stop at the Pushkin Art Gallery… mostly for some souvenir shopping and of course to find some clean bathrooms – very important while traveling!  Here I learned that not all Russian dolls are made equal.  I mean, you can tell the difference between the cheap and quickly knocked out dolls, that are probably made in China, and the ones that are practically works of art… but I didn’t know that different artistic schools of Russian doll makers have very different styles, and that the eyes usually give them away.  Interesting.

Anyway, next we were off to Peterhof Palace to see the famous, UNSECO World Heritage Site, gardens. These waterfalls are often referred to as the Russian Versailles, and it sounds very much like they were modeled on the gardens that were constructed for Louis XIV.  There is a magnificent cascade made out of an artificial grotto two stories high. The water then flows into a large semi circular pool that contains a large statue of Samson tearing open the jaws of a lion, which is supposed to represent the great Russian victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War – the lion is part of the Swedish coat of arms, and the war was actually won on St Samson’s Day (learn something new every day!).  From the lion’s mouth shoots a 20m vertical jet of water, which today was blowing all over the place and we couldn’t tell if the water was from the rain or the fountains.   The statue was created by Mikhail Kozlovsky but was looted by invading Germans during WWI, and a replica was installed in 1847.

Samson is in there somewhere – there was just so much water. Like Versailles, one of the greatest achievements of these gardens is that all the fountains operated without the use of water pumps.  The water was supposed to come from the nearby Gulf of Finland, but eventually, architects decided to supply the cascade and fountains from natural springs that collect in reservoirs in the Upper Gardens.  The elevation differences allow for enough pressure to create the fountains in the Lower Gardens including the cascades.  The Samson Fountain has an independent aqueduct that is 4km long and draws water and pressure from a higher more distant elevation source.

After the lovely gardens, we went to a local restaurant for a bite to eat – and of course, they must feed the tourists local food, so we had vodka, Russian beers, borscht, chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes, (chicken cutlets that were suspiciously like chicken rissoles!), followed by tea and ice cream even though it was such a cold day!  We had quite a relaxing stop at lunch because we rushed through the gardens somewhat – everyone was keen to see it, but not too keen to stand around in the rain.

From there we were off Catherine Palace, which is an enormous rococo palace located in the town of Tsarkoye Selo, 30kms south of St Petersburg.  Peterhof and Catherine Palace were the summer palaces built for the Russian tsars. Maria mentioned many times how Peter and Catherine I didn’t really get along, so they had separate palaces and pretty much lived separate lives.

The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I hired a German architect Johann Fredrich Braunstein to create a summer pleasure palace for her and her friends to recreate in.  In 1733, the Empress Elizabeth commissioned extensions to the Catherine palace, though apparently, Elizabeth found her mother’s palace to be ‘outdated and incommodious’, and in 1752 asked her pet architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli to demolish the old structures and replace it with a much grander building in a more flamboyant rococo style.  It took four years to build and was completed in July of 1756 – Rastrelli presented a 325m long palace to the Empress much to the amazement of her courtiers and foreign ambassadors.  It’s not hard to see why people would have been flabbergasted at the sight of it – it’s enormous and at 300m+ long and hundreds of rooms, it seems to go on forever.

Our guide Maria, doing her best to keep everyone’s spirits up as we waiting in the rain to gain entrance to Catherine Palace… she had lots of jokes about St Petersburg weather that no doubt have been used to good effect over the years that she has been showing visitors her city. We were given lovely booties to cover our shoes – jeans all rolled up to stop the hems from getting soaked… it was cold, wet, gray and gloomy, but we were in St Petersburg!  So all good.  🙂  A blue ‘dressing room’.  The Empress Elizabeth was reported to have had over 15,000 dresses and would change 7-9 times a day in the performing of her normal court duties of receptions and parties.I love the ceilings – we just don’t take this sort of care in our building these days.  😉  The grand hall… gilded carved timber as far as the eye could see.  The room has large windows on both sides, along with long mirrors inserted into every panel between the windows giving the impression of more light and even more space in what must be a 20m x 10m room.  The amount of light, mirrors, and gold here definitely give Versaille a run for its money. The dining room – for family parties and receptions.  Mostly only family and their private guests were hosted here. Fabulous ceramic heaters. The grand ballroom – which looked as elaborate and lavish as the grand hall, but was about four times as large.  Just enormous… and so much goldwork! View out to the gardens. A re-creation of one of Empress Elizabeth’s dresses… of which she is reputed to have had over 15,000.   The Amber Room… has an extraordinary history – the TLDR is:  this Amber Room is a recreation only, the original Amber Room was pillaged by the Germans in WWII and the location of the famous amber panels is still unknown (shortest version of that story you’ll ever see!).

And yes, of course you are not supposed to take photos in here because they want you to buy the guidebook, and yes, of course I bought the guidebook to get the good photos, and yes, of course I may have accidentally clicked the shutter on my camera that was cradled in my hands a few times.  On the scale of ‘good’ to ‘going straight to hell’, this is right up there with having overdue library books – I’m such a rebel.  After the Amber Room, there was another grand reception hall. And this was Catherine II’s favourite room… she had a penchant for pastel green and light rose decor in a Wedgewood sort of style.  You can see this colour scheme evident in many spaces that were dedicated to her use.  Personally, I find it rather insipid…

The Palace from the rear garden.

After this we left the rest of our party and went off to have some dinner at a local hotel.  Lots of stroganoff and potatoes all round!  😉

Then a private tour of the Faberge Museum.

The Faberge Museum is a privately owened museum that was establised by Viktor Vekselberg’s Link of Times foundation, which attempst to repatriate lost cultural treasures to Russia.  The musuem has been located in the middle of St Petersburg in a refurbished palce, called the Shuvalov Palace – I love that the city has so many run down or empty palaces that they can just appropriate an amazing building like this and turn it into a museum!  The Shuvalov Palace is on the embankment of the Fontanka River and has only been renovated in the last five years or so – it now contains a fabulous collection of more than 4,000 decorative arts objects, including gold and silver items, porcelain, paintings, bronze ware and so many many beautiful things.  The centrepiece of the collection is the Imperial Easter Eggs created by Faberge for the last two Russian Tsars.

We had a great audio guide that took us through the palace to see all the items, however most items were not labelled in English, and the best guidebook of the museum was also not available in English.  So I have a massive pile of photos here, and not a lot of information on ost of them…  the bulk of items were from the 17th century onwards, and many were fairly locally made.
19th century model of the Tsar’s Canon that we saw in Moscow at the Kremlin. Beautiful 18th – 19th century enamel pieces filled cabinet after cabinet. A card holder designed to hold visiting cards, displaying the imperial arms. Tea/coffee set.
This item appealed to me a great deal – anyone interested in decorative arts would recognise this design as appearing on marble/stone work in places like Athens, Pompeii and Ephesus, though to art nouveau pieces, to the edging on the carpet in my dining room!  It is a truly classical design motif that has been continuously replicated through the ages. Imperial design on a tea spoon. Punchbowl. The Red Drawing Room in the palace, with it’s beautiful silk damask wallpaper! Malachite was a favoured material during the time of the Romanov Family. Crazy huge drinking horn adorned by St George slaying a dragon. Detail in the restoration – gold filigree work added around the wallpaper. The Blue Drawing Room which houses most of the Imperial Faberge Egg collection. The Order of St George Egg. The lovely blue silk damask wallpaper design… The ceiling in the Blue Drawing Room. The Duchess of Marlborough Egg, which is also a clock. Bay Tree Egg. Fifteenth Anniversary Egg. The Renaissance Egg Keith Chanticleer Egg. Lillies of the Valley Egg. Carriage of the … … Coronation Egg. Cockerel Egg. Gold Drawing Room Malachite wax seal. Cigarete boxes, card boxes, pill boxes etc. Salmon enamel work.

Imperial Fidget Spinner… just kidding, this was a bell.  It used to have a metal dome that sat over central screw there, and was decorated with three enamel coins. Gothic Room – most of these paintings were medeival in period, but were ‘added to’ with gold and silverwork and lavishly enameled.  After the Faberge Museum, we drove back to the port.  It was still raining and I attempted to take a photograph of a lighthouse that Mr K liked the look of… as you can see that was spectacualarly unsuccessful, but I kinda liked the image, it summed up out day – lots to see but it was pretty damn wet out!Tomorrow we have another big day – I have rushed this post so I don’t fall behind, but I am hoping to come back to it once we have our next sea day.  🙂


Sheremetyevo Airport sucks balls…

So our initial impressions of Sheremetyevo Airport were not so favourable – I mentioned how we came off our flight and were ushered down two flights of stairs into a tiny ‘holding area’ for two plane loads of people, with no rope lines to ‘assist’ with queuing before getting processed through customs…? Well, I found this map:

The holding area is the dark grey parallelogram shape at the top (left one for us) of this diagram next to the little customs dude icon.  The unlinked circular squiggles are a baggage claim area that is roughly the size of a usual baggage claim area… meaning the holding area was stupidly fucking tiny for 700+ people to wait, cheek to jowl, for over an hour. No wonder people were getting restless and in each other’s faces.  And what a bloody fire hazard!

Our, now cemented, impressions are that this place, this particular airport, is a Traveller’s Special Circle of Hell.  What a nightmare.  We left our hotel this morning early, very early, given that our transfer from the airport TO the city took a full two hours instead of the 43 minutes that Google maps said it should.  I had tried to look for an airport map of Sheremetyevo Airport on the way to Moscow in the in-flight magazine, as is my habit, but the maps were all in Russian and I couldn’t make head nor hide of it.  Then I promptly forgot all about it until we went to fly out through here this morning.

With the benefit of high speed internet, I have found one and provided it here for illustration purposes… it is much more detailed and useful than the mud map I saw on the plane.
Our taxi driver dropped us off at Terminal D, as was indicated on our pre-checked in boarding passes that we printed out at the hotel, which is the grey funnel shaped area at the bottom of this picture.  When we went through the process of handing over our passports and dropping off our luggage, it was just in that first grey area where there was approximately 50 or more numbered check in counters. Vitaly, who checked us in, told us our gate had changed from Gate 5 to Gate 44 and he directed us to go to Terminal F to find our gate.  So, we walked all the way around to Terminal F (about 1.4kms) on the outside immigration and clearance, ‘grey area’, on the map, landing us at the red ‘i’ site on the concourse (it’s depicted just above the green text boxes in the map above).  When we got there, there were check-in counters all numbered 100-150, but no signs directing patrons to Gate 44 at all.  Each terminal has multiple security clearance entrance points, but we had no idea where we were going so we asked the lady as the ‘i’ site to check if we were in the right area.

Big mistake – we handed over our boarding passes, and the woman told us that we needed to enter through Terminal D!  Seriously?  Fucking unimpressed. It is at this point that I should probably mention that I have walked my chronically pained body more than 50kms on foot over the previous 3 days or so… which, while exhilarating and amazing things were seen, had left me in a state of more than usual sleep deprivation (it’s hard to sleep when your pain levels are up) and serious energy depletion all round.  So at this point, ‘Hey, you need to waste time and energy walking 1.4kms back the way you came!’ was NOT happy news.  I did what usually do in these situations though, and STFU, gritted my teeth and trudged back to Terminal D.  There’s nothing else to be done.

So we walk back the way we came and enter the customs area through Terminal D, only to finally find signs with numbered gate directions on them and wouldn’t you know it – Gate 44 was back in Terminal F only we now had to navigate the 1.4kms back there again, wiggling back and forth through the most overcrowded shopping centre you have ever seen. It is at this point I started to have to fight to hold back the tears.  My back pain is through the roof, my feet are stupidly sore and I’m done.  Just done.  This is what happens when expectations don’t match reality for chronic pain sufferers – I anticipated a fairly easy morning of check-in, find gate, sit and wait patiently for our flight to board.  When reality turns out to be an ever increasing amount of walking required, when I am already feeling shattered, I just had no energy budgeted to do this.

Additionally we discovered this wasn’t a normal airport concourse with large open spaces, lots of seating areas and a few shops scattered about.  No, it is full on, tight and tiny shopping centre that seems to incidentally to have planes arriving and leaving from it!  No shit…  So many stores, so few seats, and crowds of people to navigate around, as we walked all the way back to where we went originally.  A great deal of the signage directed you through the duty-free stores to find your gate too, so dodging ladies with perfume samples and display stands of alcohol were more obstacles to be navigated.

The further we went, the more incredulous I became. Nearly the entire gate ‘lounge’ area (and I use that term loosely, as there is no space to lounge at all), is taken over by shopping and retail past the immigration control.  I should have taken some photographs.  And not even useful retail spaces if they wanted people to spend some money – cafes and restaurants and newsagents or bookstores may have been more heavily patronised… no, all this area is taken up with duty-free alcohol and cosmetics stores, and stand alone Chanel, Rolex, J’Adore, Raybans and all sorts of other bullshit high end retail spaces where rows and rows of seats should be for weary travellers to sit.

We finally find our gate, which is squished in beside a Subway and yet another duty-free cosmetics store, and there are people standing around everywhere – and this is fun… people were sitting on the stairs that are marked near Gate 44/45 that leads to the upper part of the concourse.  So we drag ourselves and our hand luggage over to the flight of stairs where we can keep an eye on movement at our gate and finally plonk ourselves down to wait for our flight – on the cold hard and dubiously clean concrete steps.

See this map?  And the icons for ‘Shop’ and ‘Dury-Free Shop’… note also how there are not present on the map?  That is because the entire map would have measles if they were included.

We sat on the hard and uncomfortable steps for about half an hour, watching the people enter and leave the ladies toilets, and for me, taking the opportunity to try and calm my pain and regain my composure,  And during that time, I saw no one, and I mean that literally, NO ONE shopping in these retail spaces. The staff were lollygagging around bored, and the travellers were all exasperatedly looking around for somewhere to sit.  If they had lined the concourse with cafes and restaurants people would have gone in, bought a drink and maybe a snack, just to have a chair to wait on instead of cramming onto the flight of concrete stairs with us.  I don’t get it at all.

Eventually we started to board and ‘lo and behold, two lines had formed on either side of the round Chanel counter/stand thing and then it became a bullshit, ‘can you people fucking merge politely?’ clusterfuck.  Jebus… not looking forward to coming through here on the way back, though mind you, now we know the lay of the land, we will just go find a seat in TGI Friday’s near the central D terminal and wait it out.  Though Mr K is likely to just go buy lounge access somewhere to skip the entire mess.

Sheremetyevo Airport – 2 out of 10.  Do not recommend.



Izmailovsky Markets and Gorky Park

The village of Izmailovo dates back to the 14thC when it would have been on the edge of a thick forest that stretched to the east.  It reportedly took its name from a boyar family – Izmailov – who owned the village at the time.  Sometime in the early 1600s, Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich decided to build a model economy in this village and more than 700 families were moved there in just six months.  Parks and gardens were developed, exotic crops were introduced – melons, cotton, grapes and orangeries, a menagerie of rare birds and animals was built, and large ponds were dug out for fish farming as well.


The market was the thriving centre of this village and is still located near the ceremonial gate house and the bridge tower near the town’s cathedral.  So much amazing architecture in Moscow – it was actually the images of these building that enticed me to come see these markets.

The Izmailovsky Markets (aka the Vernisazh Markets. I don’t know why… I’ve given up trying to figure out why everything has more than one name?!), are contained in a crazy, eclectic, remarkable collection of old timber buildings with a very alpine feel to them…

The Izmailovsky Markets are Moscow’s largest flea markets. With plenty of permanent vendors selling all the usual tourist offerings – dolls, furs, scarves, ceramics, wooden wares – right along side part-time or one-off vendors, selling collectable coins, military paraphernalia, tools, lapidary supplies, Soviet era memorabilia, gemstones and bayonets and spare magazines for your AK47.
So many dolls!

The markets are very heavily patronised, particularly on weekends – though I was told that if you visit in winter, it is often the case that there will only be a couple of die hard vendors set up, so it’s really a ‘summer must do’ for Moscow.

After our visit to the market, we decided to take the trains to Gorky Park, aka The Central Park of Culture and Recreation (TSKKiO) that was named after the famous author and philosopher Whatsisname Gorky.  Built in the 1920s, the 219.7ha site is now a favourite place for Muscovites to come meet friends, participate in community activities and enjoy the rare sunshine in the summer.  Today there was water ski jumping activities, a hot rod and car show going on, a retail expo seemingly aimed at young people as well as all the usual activities, including a mini Luna Park and lots of people enjoying cafes restaurants and sunbathing on the lawns.

The car show was unexpected.  Lots of fancy looking hotted up cars – all dropped to the deck, very flashy paint jobs and obviously lots of time and attention lavished on them. The locals were loving it – taking their photos in front of the cars, and some of the young girls even managing to convince the owners to let them drape themselves on the bonnets.  🙂

Not far from Gorky Park and the Oktyabryskya metro station is the Muzeon Park of Arts (aka the Park of the Fallen Heroes, or the Fallen Monument Park. It surrounds the Krymsky Val building which houses the modern art division of the Tretyakov Gallery.  The Muzeon Part of Arts is a large open-air sculpture museum which has over 700 pieces of sculpture on display throughout the open space, which was once a military site.   Being right beside the important Krymsky Bridge, this space was used to house military hardware and anti-aircraft weaponry during WWII (or the ‘Great Patriotic War, as WWII is known in Russia).   After that, the vast empty space was laughingly referred to as ‘snow storage’ until the ’60s when all sorts of proposals for the site were put forward.  The Central House of Artists was started in 1965 and a thriving artists’ community has been here since.

Around the Central House of Artists are a number of these large pavillions where local artists are exhibiting and presumably selling their paintings.  The artistic genres and styles vary as much as the subject matter, and it is a great place to see how Muscovites are interpreting and representing their experiences here.  The artworks were very impressive, if they were not so annoying to transport home, I would have loved to have delved in and chosen a special piece.

The Muzeon Park and the fallen monuments themselves turned up here in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in October 1991.  Statues of Soviet leaders, representations of social realism, and unidentified workers and peasants, were removed from their locations and pedestals and brought to the park left literally fallen on the ground.  They were later re-established though without their original pedestals and they were the start of the sculpture gardens.  Now, with many modern art sculpture pieces added, the Soviet monuments are only a minority part of the collection in the park.

After this, we decided to head back into the city (via a small nightmare on the buses… Why so many number 4 buses?  All we want is one number 1 bus?) to pop into the Kremlin Museum shop to try and find some English catalogues of the collections.  Some had English translations but many did not.  Russia is a little behind on this front, most European museums have their collection catalogues available in a multitude of language – we have found so far that Russia seems reluctant to publish this way.

Already it had been a long day – we have walked 15kms each day since we got here and were well on target to exceed that today, was feeling mighty footsore, though pleased to have been able to walk around on grass instead of pavement for quite a bit of the day.  We had planned to hang around Red Square until dark to see these amazing buildings lit up at night.  So we found ourselves a bar (actually we were looking for the Beluga Caviar and Vodka Bar, but the one in the GVM doesn’t have the same menu as the others *sad face*) and had an early dinner and a few drinks and enjoyed some people watching.  Moscow Mules, chicken Kiev with mashed potato and pureed beets, and layered honey cake for the people!

Over dinner, and waiting for nightfall, we spent some time discussing Russian Weirdnesses – little things that are different from home that you notice when you travel, and came up with the following list:

Dining out is fairly cheap compared to home.
There is always lots of staff everywhere, and lots of older people in cleaning jobs.
Nothing opens until 10-11am but shops and museums are open until really late.
Free caviar tastings in the delis and markets are amazing!
Soft drinks and water bought from cafes and shops are never cold (what’s with that?)
Even when it’s stupid hot and the sun is scorching, locals are not wearing hats.
Public bathrooms are super clean (well, compared to China, Greece, and Turkey!)
No ice in your cold drinks unless you ask for it.
Men wear wicking work out shirts as everyday wear with jeans.
Women seem to wear whatever the hell they want – no obvious fashion trends.
People don’t smile much – and apparently, won’t unless there is something to smile about.
The toilet paper is rough everywhere – airport, hotel, cafes, public bathrooms.
Brand label tracksuits, fitted t-shirts, bright white sneakers are a stereotype for a reason.
Man bags are totally a thing here… every guy has one.
Children are remarkably well behaved here, I did not see one screaming nightmare of a kid in a shop or public space.

One thing we both noticed was the lack of any major security presence.  We don’t know why, perhaps it is because we both grew up with the ever present propaganda associated with the Cold War in the 80s, but we both had a sense that there was something menacing about Russia.  It wasn’t until we actually entered the Kremlin complex yesterday that I realised I was expecting a sense of impending menace.  Mr K said he was surprised not to see security guards with machine guns in the street – and come to think of it I have seen this in the last few years in places like Rio and Barcelona and Rome, but there was none of that here.  We haven’t seen even any regular cops here carrying side arms.  Everything feels calm, relaxed and safe – and we weren’t expecting that.  Perhaps these expectations weren’t helped by the Australian Government’s current travel advisory:

Overall, I have to ask… ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.  Yeah.  Why exactly?  We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here and are looking forward to seeing St Petersburg in a few weeks on the way back too.

It was getting dark so we found ourselves a space to sit in the middle of Red Square and watched the crowds taking their last selfies in front of St Basil’s and the Spasskaya Tower before nightfall.  Saw some German guy taking photographs of his heavily pregnant wife/partner in front of the Cathedral – I did my good deed for the day and offered to take some photos of the two of them together.  He was thankful but obviously not expecting much, but when I handed the camera back, and he looked at the results his jaw dropped and he was near tripping over himself with gratitude.  He was shooting in the wrong mode for those lighting conditions, and I altered a few settings and framed some nice off centre portraits of the two of them… I hope they made for a nice souvenir.
I am just in love with this building.  It is simply spectacular.
So I got some night pictures and was very happy with my wash.  Another big day.  Off to the hotel with us after that – we have an early start tomorrow to transit to Stockholm… and I was now officially ‘trudging’ all the way there.  My poor feet!


The Kremlin and St Basils and the Cosmonaut Museum, oh my!

Up and at ’em!  We had a quick and early breakfast this morning in the hopes that we could get ourselves up to Red Square before the hordes of tourists arrived so we could take some better photographs of the Cathedral, without people and in better light.  The efforts paid off and I must have taken about 50 photos, many of which were completely devoid of tourists!  Sweet success!  Anything else that happens today is now pure gravy!  😀
Such an impressively unique building.  Spasskaya Tower – currently the exit from the Moscow Kremlin State Museum precinct, which we are going to explore this morning before doubling back on St Basil’s to go inside once it is open.Red Square – currently drowning in bleachers under construction for an upcoming military tattoo.So, first up the Kremlin.  We arrived early to line up and get tickets – along with everyone else it seems!  No Red Square was empty!  There were hundreds of people queued here to buy tickets to enter the complex.  Mr K, who like me, tends to do some research before arriving at our destination, walked right around the queues and used an automated machine in the ticket hall to buy our tickets!  An hour saved right there… at least!  We did, however, line up with massive lines of tour groups at the entrance gates – for about 15 minutes before realising they were staggering the entry of said large tour groups, and that people who were entering on their own could just march right around those huge groups and walk on in… which we promptly did once it dawned on us.  This is one of the disadvantages of not speaking the language – there were possibly plenty of people around us saying that the long queue was for tour groups only, but we couldn’t read any of the signs and couldn’t overhear any instructions.  Oh well.

Our only disappointment in this morning’s endeavours was the discovery that there were only 200 tickets available to enter the Kremlin Armoury for the day and that we were definitely not going to be one of the lucky 200 to get some judging by the never ending line for them.  So we had to abandon that part of our planned day.

C’est la vie.  We will just have to come back some other day. We got away from the tour groups and entered the Kremlin.  The first building you notice is the Kremlin State Palace, which is better known apparently as the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. It is a very large modern building just inside the complex of the Kremlin and it stands out like dog’s balls as you enter through the Troitskaya Tower.  It feels like it doesn’t belong in here at all.  More than half the building, 17m of it, is underground and it contains over 800 rooms, including the main hall which seats about 6000 people.  It was mainly used for state congresses but now is also used for concerts and such – the Bolshoi ballet performed here while their theatre was undergoing restorations, and people like Tina Turner, Cher and Mariah Cary and Lenard Cohen have performed here as well.  Unfortunately, rock concerts are the only time plebs like us are allowed inside.

The Patriarch’s Palace and the Church of the Twelve Apostles houses museum exhibits that represent the everyday life of wealthy 17thC Muscovites.  Many of the items in the exhibit were owned by famous people – items of patriarch clothing, silverware, household items, paintings and furniture were on display.  Unfortunately, there is a no photography allowed – as per usual.  But I did manage to sneak a couple of pics because the staff here were heavily distracted by a large Chinese tour group who walked in just behind us being loud and setting off alarms by walking into barrier ropes… like I said, the group kept them very distracted.  We were ushered quickly through one room that was set up like a 17thC home interior with exquisite furniture, lovely caskets and household items, only to see the museum staff then hurriedly close the door to that room entirely, so that the tour group couldn’t enter – the staff were probably concerned that the tour group would have all tried to squeeze into the small space and put the items on display at risk!

The iconostasis from the Church of the Twelve Apostles.  This altar/edifice was moved here in 1929 from the cathedral of the demolished site of the Ascension Monastery. Oddly it reminded me of many of the displaced altars I’ve seen in various monasteries and museum sites in South America… similar iconography, loads of heavy gilt woodwork, and not entirely dissimilar painting styles and subject matter.

A medieval casket I tried to sneak a photograph of this drinking vessel – it was made in Nuremberg in the 1600s in the shape of a crowned person with chicken’s feet.  These style of goblets were made to be kept in cupboards to amuse guests, but not for actual use…? 

Unfortunately, I could not get photos of the textiles in the Patriarch’s Palace, of which there were many elaborately embroidered and beaded items… and, of course, there is no guide book with pictures of them either.  *sad face*

Around the corner from the Patriarch’s Palace is the Tsar Cannon.  The Tsar Cannon is the largest piece of medieval artillery in the Moscow Kremlin museum and it is an amazing testament to the art of Russian artillery casting… cast in bronze in 1586, right here in Moscow by a master bronze caster named Andrey Chokhov, it was never actually used in war.  It apparently has signs of having been fired once, so perhaps test fired and it is the largest calibre bombard in the world, but it has never been fired in war.  Now it seems it is mainly a major tourist attraction – and I know this based on how long you have to wait to get a photo with no one standing in front of it!  😉   It is seriously impressive.

Next stop was Uspensky Sobor, the Assumption Cathedral, which is an Orthodox church located in the centre of Cathedral Square inside the Kremlin.  It was built around 1475-79, having been designed by an Italian architect, Aristotle Fioravanti.  It is the main cathedral in the square and contains the burial tombs of all the Moscow Patriarchs of the initial patriarchal period (roughly 1580-1720).  Of course, you are not allowed to take photographs inside, so I have blatantly stolen some photos from Wikipedia that have obviously been taken by braver souls than I!

Fresco of the Virgin Mary and the Archangels Micheal and Gabriel. There are 246 scenes painted in the frescoes inside the church with 2066 individuals depicted… no, I didn’t count them, that is what guide books are for!
Across Cathedral Square from the Uspensky Sobor, is the Arkhangelsky Sobor, Archangel Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin, which is a Russian Orthodox church dedicated (oddly enough) to the Archangel Michael.  It sits between the Great Kremlin Palace and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower and is the main necropolis of all the Tsars of Russia until the capital was relocated to St Petersburg.  The cathedral was built by another Italian architect, Aloisio the New in 1505-08, on top of an older cathedral that was on this site since 1333. The inside of this Cathedral is also a no-photo zone and the museum staff were very diligent and very stern here.  The interior is similar in style to the Assumption Cathedral, but this place is full of stone tombs, taking up nearly every bit of floor space.

Behind this cathedral is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower aka Kolokol’nya Ivana Velikogo (I like to try and pronounce these things, though I tend to fail miserably).  The bell tower is 81 metres tall and is the tallest structures inside the Kremlin.  It was built in 1508 by another Italian architect named… name? name? where is his name?  Bon Frianzin!  Seems the medieval Russians preferred their architects to be Italian. Anyway, it was built because the three main cathedrals in Cathedral Square do not have their own belfries.

There is a story of questionable origins, that when Napoleon invaded Moscow in 1812 after the Battle of Borodino, he attempted to remove the cross on the central dome of the Annunciation Cathedral because he had been told it was cast in solid gold. Apparently, he confused the cathedral with the Ivan the Great Bell Tower – the cross on which is only gilded iron.  Anyway, the French engineers were unable to remove it from the tower and it was only after a Russian peasant volunteered to climb up to the dome to dismantle it, that the cross was eventually lowered down on ropes. As the story has it, when the peasant approached Napoleon seeking a reward, the little man had him shot for being a traitor to his fatherland.  As I said, of questionable veracity, but interesting nonetheless.

Beside the Ivan the Great Bell Tower is the Tsar Bell, also known as the Tsarksy Kolokol or the Tsar Kolokol III or the Royal Bell (no idea why things have so many names here!).  It is enormous!  Being approximately 6.1m tall, and 6.6m in diameter it is on display in the ground here because it cracked during a fire after casting.  It is considered the largest bell in the world and weighs a whopping 201 tonnes.  The fragment that has broken off the bell weights 11.5 tonnes alone.  It was commissioned by Empress Anna Ivanova who was niece to Peter the Great and the decorations on the bell depict Alexius I and Empress Anna, as well as images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and various canonised Moscow citizens.  The bell has never been suspended or rung. Which is kinda sad.  So now it sits forlornly beside the bell tower swamped by tourists all day.

After this, we had a stroll around the grounds of the Kremlin before coming out the Spasskaya Tower back into Red Square to go into St Basil’s Cathedral.

That would be St Basil’s Cathedral aka:  Sovor Vasiliya Blazhennogo OR the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat OR Sobor Pokrova Presvyatory Bogoroditsy, chto na Rvu, OR Pokrovsky Cathedral!!! Crazy.  When we arrived, one of those rare tourist confluences happened to occur – there was no queue for tickets to enter the cathedral museum, and we were ten minutes before the ticket booths were going to close for a lunch break… so there were not many people coming in after us!  Brilliant!

Scale model of the Cathedral. Sanctuary of St Basil the Blessed.

So much detail in every panel…Holy Banners bearing the Image of the Mother of God “Eleuza” (“Tenderness) of St Serafim.  c1904.  Copper alloy, enamel, oil; forging, stamping, embossing, engraving, gilding, and painting on metal… WOW!  These are unique monuments of the church made for the 350th anniversary of the launching of the construction of the Cathedral of the Protecting Veil.

I aslo took photos of the many interiors – the Cathedral is made up of nine interconnecting chapels, so it is a winding rabbit warren of archways, corridors and small chambers.  All of which is lavishly covered in colourful frescoes.  I can’t include many of the photos I took here (yale will kill me for the number of images in this post already!), but here are some samples of what is inside…

Detail of frescoes: Floor – stamped copper? bronze?Inside the domes:
One of the cathedral altars: Detail of the painting on the alter panels: Everything inside is so lavishly decorated…  but there are also museum artefacts in here too – most dating from the 16th to 17th centuries.
FETTERS:  Moscow, 17th century.  Forged and engraved iron.  Heavy chains and other metal articles such as bands, girdles and crosses.  The wearing of fetters on one’s body became one of the types of Christian asceticism.  Presumably the iron cap, cross and girdle belonged to St Ioann the Blessed, called the Big Cap… Church banners c.1930. Iron roof panel – forged and painted. Examples of the colourful tiles on the external sections of the cathedral. Medieval locks.We finished up at St Basil’s around 2pm, I could have spent all day in there discovering the little chapels and photographing the tiny details of the place – but my camera battery went flat and I had to go find a cord so I could charge it over lunch.  After we did this, we were having a slight change of pace and heading for the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics which meant – hitting the Metro!  Since we were going to be using the subway, we had looked up where some of the most beautiful and famous Metro stations were and circuitously planned our route to the Cosmonaut Museum via these stops.

I will come back and label these pictures with the names of the stations that they were at… but off the top of my head – I can’t remember where the names at all! So after our train adventures, we make it to the Cosmonauts Museum… which is probably all very exciting, but it turns out the bulk of the information available here is in Russian!  I guess they don’t get many foreign tourists here either, as they were out of English audio guides.  :/  Oh well, I have a bunch of photos so am adding them to a gallery here… Many of you may know more about all this than do!


The most interesting thing here (given I couldn’t read anything!) was the puppies in space.  These are the actual stuffed puppies who went to space pioneering men being sent into space.  Their names are probably google-able, but our google translate we thought would help – but kinda amusingly let us down a little I am sure!  🙂

These are the space dogs.  🙂  And their space craft…
And what Russian Cosmonautics Museum would be complete without a mixed genre modern art exhibition in a random corridor!

So, our plan after this was to go back to the hotel for a break, then head to town for dinner near the GVM… but instead I got side tracked by a fur store, and then we decided that 15kms and 14 hours on our feet was more than enough so we pulled the pin, called it a day and set about planning tomorrow!

I’m really, really tired and there’s still so much to see!
Sorry for so many images…  #sorrynotsorry