Sunday, October 31, 2010

Inside the Kremlin

Red Square

St. Basil's Cathedral

ItalicLenin Mausoleum & Kremlin Palaces

Kazan Cathedral

Gum Department Store

Shoppers in Gum

The Kremlin, citadel in Russian, is as imposing and daunting as the name itself. It has a striking similarity in aspiration to its counterpart, the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing. The wooden fortress dates back to 1156, burnt and destroyed by the Mongol-Tatars in the early 13th century.

After 250 years of domination by the Golden Khanate of the Mongol horde, the fortress city rose up again to become the Kremlin that we see now. The growth of the citadel paralleled the transformation from the lowly Rus to the imperial Russia, and the rise of Moscow as the grand city of the tsars.

The most recognizable site in the Kremlin is the Red Square flanked by the Kremlin Palaces and Gum, with St. Basil's at the far end. The addition of the Lenin Mausoleum came in 1924. Cathedrals seem to be more prominent nowadays than the government buildings of this once communist, atheist haven.

The once wooden fortress remains as formidable as the tsars would have wanted. And for the ordinary visitor, it is well worth the grand hike inside the citadel, its museums, cathedrals save for the palaces which are off limits.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Spring Day in Moscow

A Nice Spring Day for Moscovites

Moscow Underground

Resurrection Gate, Kremlin

Trinity Tower, Kremlin

Park outside the Arsenal, Kremlin

Arbat Shopping Mall

Moscow is a grand place but it can be forbidding unless one visits in friendlier season, like summer. Arriving at Sheremetyevo Airport in March 2006, I was welcomed by a late winter blast rather than spring as I had hoped for. It was dull and grey. Snow and ice piled up on the side of the road and along the Moskva River.

It was wishful thinking considering Russia and southern Canada where I live share similar weather condition called, a continental climate. I don't know how the climate got described as "continental" when "tundra" would have been far more appropriate.

In mid-April, after my return from central Russia, the sun finally got through and the snow was gone. Alexander, our representative in Moscow, took the opportunity to invite me for a walk about in the Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage.

We got as far as the Red Square which if I remember right was off limits to pedestrians that day. I refrained from taking photos of the square just in case. However, we did get to see various cathedrals with onion bulbs, watch towers, and very official looking buildings in the citadel. Kremlin bathed in sunshine was pretty grand.

In late afternoon, we took the subway where the escalators go down as much as 50 metres like a mine shaft, ending on a platform that looked and felt like a museum. The trains, not to be outdone in antiquity, were Orient Express vintage with wooden panels and trims inside the car.

We got off at one end of the Arbat and walked down the pedestrian shopping mall. We stopped for coffee in an Armenian coffee shop where a demitasse of expresso can result in serious heart palpitations. After two of these ultra caffeinated drinks and a lot of stories, it was time to head back to the Hotel Arbat, two blocks away.

Moscow in mid-spring seems a vibrant and exciting place. I presume that in the summer, it can give the visitor a kick as strong as that expresso.