Sunday, December 18, 2011

On the Road: Moscow

Doug and I arrived in Moscow around 6 p.m. and had just enough time to unpack our suitcases before starting an escorted evening tour of the city. It's a vibrant huge city, especially beautiful at night.

The GUM department store on Red Square was lovely. Before the 1917 Revolution, it contained 1,200 stores. In 1928 Stalin closed GUM and converted it into office space; it reopened in 1953 as a department store. Today, tourists make it a "destination" - much like Harrods in London or Saks in New York.

Doug's in front of Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square; there is no longer any ceremonial changing of the guard in front of the mausoleum. It's estimated that more than 10 million people visited his tomb between 1924-1972.

Stalin's embalmed body shared a spot next to Lenin from 1953-1961.

Inside the Kremlin, we visited the Cathedral of the Domition; in 1547 the coronation of the first Russian czar, Ivan the Terrible, took place there. The last coronation service was held May 26, 1896 for Nicholas II.

While touring the Kremlin complex, we stopped to see the czar's bell - 22' wide and 20' tall. Made of bronze, the bell was broken during casting and has never been rung; the broken piece weighs nearly 25,000 lbs.

The czar's cannon, cast in bronze in 1586, is also located in the Kremlin complex. It has never been fired in war.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to Soviet soldiers killed during World War II.

Moscow celebrated the 450-year anniversary of St. Basil's Cathedral this year. The onion-domed landmark was built to honor Ivan the Terrible's victory over Russia's former Tatar conquerors.

A lovely fountain inside the main central entrance to the GUM department store is a popular meeting spot; it's also a photo stop for newlyweds.

Natural light from the skylights make shopping and sightseeing at the GUM's 200-plus stores a pleasure.

Moscow's rapid transit system is the second largest in the world (Tokyo is first) with the most beautiful stations on the Ring and dark blue lines. Each is like a palace/museum - whether decorated with bronze statues, mosaic tiles, stained glass or ornate chandeliers.

It opened in 1935 with one line and 13 stations; today it has 182 stations carrying nearly 9 million people each weekday.

Not all stations are beautiful, but Doug and I found our 3-hour escorted tour very interesting. We were also impressed that there was no graffiti!

Moscow has 2 circuses, but friends who had visited there previously, told us we "had to see" the Old Moscow Circus, founded in 1880. It was a lot of fun; our favorite act showcased the antics of several adorable dachshunds.

A bronze statue outside the entrance to the circus pays tribute to the Russian clown Karandash.

We spent our last night in Moscow attending the finals of the 15th annual International Singing Competition of Italian Opera at the lovely Bolshoi Theatre.

Twelve finalists performed that evening, representing "the best" from more than 600 singers from over 28 nations competing in the annual contest of young opera talents.

The second floor lobby was as lovely and impressive as the theatre itself; we had a wonderful last evening in Moscow!

(blog entries by Heidi Hutson)

No comments: