Getting off our overnight train, the first thing we noticed was that Moscow is colder than St. Petersburg. We were visiting from September 16-18, so hardly winter. By the end we were talking about caps and gloves.
That didn’t stop us from enjoying the sights. Having traveled for about five months at this point, we are a bit “palaced-out” and “museumed-out” so fancy rooms and great paintings aren’t as much of a draw. Despite this, the Moscow Kremlin was a great half-day. The artifacts, jewels, and clothing in the Armory is impressive. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the dresses — apparently one Tsarina fainted five times during her marriage ceremony from her tight corset.
Sorry no photos from the Armory (prohibited).
The Kremlin still hosts the Russian President and other government offices, so much of the complex is off limits. Rather than a tall fence like the American White House, the Kremin uses open space and a few assertive guards to keep tourists across the plaza from Putin’s office.
The Kremlin also hosts a handful of churches and the former residence of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The churches never had regular congregations — they are better understood as shrines, used for coronations, weddings, and funerals. The Tsars before Peter the Great, including Ivan the Terrible, are buried in the Archangel Cathedral. The interior walls of the churches were each covered in painted icons and glittered with gold. Each of the churches in the Kremlin complex was unique in its own and worth a short visit (they are all included in the general ticket to visit the Kremlin grounds).
The most impressive church exterior — and the image most associated with Moscow — is out the east exit: St. Basil’s Cathedral. The twisting onion domes are more impressive in person than in photos. Unfortunately the inside was underwhelming; it contains a maze of several icon-filled small chapels in ordinary Russian styles.
Finished with the Kremlin and St. Basil’s, we were out in the cold in Red Square. So we went to the mall next door in search of food.
On the top floor — above the fancy shops such as Prada and Ferragamo, we had lunch at Stolovaya No. 57, a “Soviet-style” cafeteria. I was brave, trying “Herring in a Fur Coat” and a jelly-ish drink. The herring dish was good.
Poor planning meant we were in Red Square at the wrong time to see Lenin’s tomb, so we returned the next day. We waited in a long line, which seemed to move in spurts, and fairly quickly made it to the lax security checkpoint before heading into the mausoleum. Inside, Lenin is on display, forever embalmed, and a bit orange. We had seen Ho Chi Minh, also embalmed and on display, in Vietnam six years ago. It’s a similar experience, and it caused me to try to remember what color Ho had turned (I recall him being a bit orange as well, though pictures are hard to find).
Moscow also was our second chance to be Parkrun tourists, running a 5k in Gorky Park with 40+ Russians. We both ran personal bests in this beautiful course along the river. This is covered in our upcoming post about Parkrun (link to be added).
My final tourist destination (Elizabeth stayed to relax at our hotel) was the Space Museum (Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics). There are some actual spacecraft and some mock-ups, along with taxidermy of two dogs who went to space, survived, and lived out their lives on earth (one even had puppies). Most of the displays were signed in Russian, but there were enough English descriptions to make it interesting. And space dogs with their space suits:
We also enjoyed our neighborhood and would recommend it to other travelers. We stayed near the Tretyakovskaya metro station (and not far from the Kremlin), which was a short walk from a street with restaurants and a bar with a great selection of craft beer. It appears that while the brewing revolution didn’t make it to Spain, it made it to Russia.
While our stay in Moscow was short, we enjoyed visiting the major sights in between bursts of rain.
[We’re making yet another attempt to get caught up on our blog posts. This post describes our visit to Moscow on September 16-17, 2016.]