I fully intended for my Moscow posts to be on consecutive days...then life sort of got in the way! Nonetheless...here is day two of our little venture for your general enjoyment...
I loved that sitting on/crowded around the arches of the doorways were saints and angels...
After the night's fancy revelries, the 9.30 alarm was ceremoniously ignored. When we finally peeled ourselves out of bed, had breakfast and got ready, it was midday. I felt like we had wasted half a day but in the end we saw everything on our loosely planned itinerary.
First stop was the Kremlin. The Russian for Kremlin is кремль, which also means citadel or fortress in generally, so there are many kremlin's in Russia but the one on Red Square is of course the most famous. Fortress they said, and fortress it turned out to be! 'Helpful' tourist signs on Red Square pointed us every which way, and we searched for the tourist entrance to no avail. Earlier in the day we had laughed about Lonely Planet listing 'The Kremlin Wall' as a free Moscow activity - 'its just a wall!' we said...little did we know we would see every inch of it just trying to get in! At one point, we considered scaling it but as we all know, I'm not the tallest person in the world.
There was a hallelujah chorus when we saw the guarded entrance only to be told entrance tickets were on sale back towards Red Square :| Not impressed!
After finally breaking in, we were surprised to be faced with numerous gold domed cathedrals. Considering the Soviets weren't to keen on religion, it seemed a miracle that they were all still standing!
My angelic pose...
Beautiful mosaic doorway
Love the Old Russian script...
And marvelled at the size of the Tsar Bell...
We saluted the War Marshals who received the Soviet star of honour...GO MONTGOMERY! (UK represent!)
But the highlight of the day for me, maybe even the whole trip (except the Bolshoi, of course), was our visit to the Diamond Fund (Сокровища Алмазного фонда).
Its such a shame that we had to surrender our cameras at the door because the exhibition was truly breathtaking - natural diamond and gems of all shapes and sizes, huge gold nuggets in their natural forms all alongside the treasures of the state diamond collection, from the Tsars coronation regalia to diamond encrusted medals of valour. We were taken on a guided tour of the exhibition by a jeweller who told us not only about the diamonds on show but also about the clarity, cut, colour and history behind each piece which made each cabinet come alive. Here are some of our favourite treasures courtesy of the Diamond Fund Website:
Sam's Favourite Crown
The Catherine the 2nd coronation regalia (which she only wore the once!)
Quirky camel gold nugget!
As a Brit and a massive fan of the Royals, I probably shouldn't say this, but I enjoyed the Diamond Fund exhibit much more than the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. High treason, I know!
Our last sightseeing stop of the day was the Temple of Christ the Saviour, as recommended to me by my Host Mum, Galina. It is the biggest church in Russia and the tallest orthodox church in the world...pretty impressive huh?
The church we see today is, in fact, the second to be built on this site. The first was consecrated in 1883 (after taking over 40 years to build!), but it was destroyed under Stalin's reconstruction of Moscow in 1931 (as I said, the soviets weren't fans of Orthodoxy!). The Church we see today was consecrated in 2000 after a long hard campaign for its reconstruction.
I wasn't sure what to expect from such a modern church but I was pleased to see all the grandeur and tradition of old style Russian churches had been carried over to the new build with grace! Unlike a lot of the churches we've visited since being in Russia, this one is less of a museum and more of a working place of worship. I was happy to be greeted by that friendly burning candle smell when we came in from the cold. Unfortunately, cameras are also banned inside - but trust me, it was beautiful (think gold leaf, mosaics and intricate icons!)!
Our trusty guide, Moscow in My Pocket had, thus-far, been a helpful friend. So we decided, for the evenings adventures, to pick our destination from its list of eateries and drinking establishments, aided in our choice by its helpful budget guide (the more euro signs, the more expensive the restaurant!). With Moscow firmly in Our Pockets, we headed out to the metro with the prospect of budget tex-mex and cocktails.
It turns out the Moscow in My Pocket is, in fact, the most useless city guide in the entire world.
The restaurant we picked out had closed down...windows boarded up and all. We remained, however, hopeful and trusting...how unfortunate, we thought...poor restaurant recently gone bust, poor Moscow in My Pocket not knowing!
All was merry...we found a new restaurant. It even had Mexican offerings...
A delightful time was had by all...wine and fajitas just like we planned.
Onwards to Moscow in My Pocket recommended cocktail bars...with my map reading askew, we ended up at our second choice destination rather than the first 'dive bar' we had planned to frequent. Not to worry...Margaritas awaited...
Alas, Moscow in My Pocket again came up trumps...the bar had not just closed down, it had been bulldozed! The address led us to a snow dusted building site... FAIL!
We ended up in a 24 hour American diner drinking Belini's watching the Men's World Curling Championship Finals...we sure know how to party!
Not quite the evening we planned...but an adventure all the same!
Come back tomorrow for our third and final day of our little jaunt to Moscow...