Friday, 15 September 2017

From David and Lee in Russia - In the footsteps of Peter The Great

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

In the footsteps of Peter The Great

Lunch was finished and it was off to the Kremlin without having entered even one shop within rym just a nice cup of tea and on our way. The Kremlin is not, as I had envisaged, a building but rather the name Kremlin refers to a fort and is a large walled area containing many buildings. Now what these buildings were used for in days gone by was for those of that era to dwell on, but now it is largely a tourist spot and military barracks. There is an immense building which was formerly the party congress hall with 6000 seats for delegates to represent all corners of the then Soviet Union. Also built in the earlier days of former government was the Hotel Russia which by coincidence had some 6000 beds, one for each of the delegates. This hotel was not in the Kremlin and no longer exists. There are also several Russian Orthodox Churches  one of which we visited it is quite spectacular. It was this church which Napoleon had used for a base for a while in 1812.

Napoleon looking as though he had just remembered that he had too carry all his loot back to France, there was a lot of it and it was a long way to go

The main reason for our visit to the Kremlin however was to visit the Armoury, now this has nothing to do with where the Armour is housed but rather more like the Tower of London and is now a museum and houses a magnificent collection of stuff from the by-gone imperial era including the crown jewels. 

Inside the Kremlin's walls are (top and bottom) some of the gold leafed domes which adorn the Russian Orthodox Churches and in the middle the Congress Hall and what is reputed to be the worlds largest canon.

It far exceeds what is in the Tower and the value must surely be in the hundreds of millions if not billions. Included are some fine examples of Faberge's art including one, a miniature train made in gold and in such fine detail to be absolutely amazing. It alone would have set new records on the Antique's Road Show. There is a large display of clothing, original, belonging to the Royal Families over the centuries and another of Royal Coaches dating back to the 17th century. Unfortunately no cameras allowed so no pictures. Within the Kremlin there are many areas where tourists are not allowed to walk including a large square and should someone stray into such an area then one of the many guards around the perimeter blows their whistle very loudly and motions you back from your wayward path. We watched one Korean lady who didn't seem to understand all this whistling and much to the amusement of all and sundry was escorted from the area. I never did work out exactly why we couldn't walk there but rules is rules I guess. Altogether a pretty remarkable day out, I like Moscow very much, it is clean and a lot of fun. The Metro is very easy to use and only costs a little over a dollar to go anywhere. The trains run every 2-3 minutes and are usually pretty full so it is well used. (Later in St Petersburg we found that their trains were but 1 minute apart). With this in mind we paid our dollar and set off on the brown circle line to have a look at the stations, you can hop on and hop back off to your hearts content for your dollar and we had heard that these stations were well worth a look at.

Moscow's stations are works of art in many cases.

Getting around by Metro is not too difficult providing you know 
1) The Russian name of where you are and 
2) The Russian name of where you want to eventually get off.
There is very little consideration to English speakers in Russian signage in Moscow although there is  a little more in St Petersburgh.

So we wanted to go from краснопреснепнская and get at off at до6рынйнская. 
EASY!!!, anyway it seems to work.

Next morning we had two visits to make and as this tour is themed "Tolstoy's War and Peace" it was appropriate that we were to go firstly to a museum of the Battle of Borodino, a beautiful reconstruction of the battle on a 115 m long by 15 m high painting of the battle which wraps around the central hill on which you stand to view it. Between the viewing hill and painting backdrop is a life size foreground model making a seamless panoramic view of the entire scene. The battle is incidental, the artwork and craft so realistic one could almost be there.

I took many a photo but these will do.

The painting is by Franz Roubaut and was completed 100 years after the battle and was based on an earlier original.
During this visit one of our party tripped on the stairs going down to the toilet and damaged her knee. An ambulance was called but would not attend the poor woman until the insurance aspect had been sorted. Now insurance companies are sometimes unjustly berated in such circumstances for being somewhat tardy in sorting things out, this one deserved all everybody was thinking of them. They bucked they squirmed they quoted non existent small print and the injured couple were faced with putting it all "on the card". "The card" was soon a full card and still no insurance acceptance, in the meantime it had been found that the lady had fractured her knee in some way and an operation would be required. Two days later the insurance company accepted the claim but not without pressure from Travesphere (our tour company) who recommend them to all there customers. All is well that ends well. A few days later another party member, a rugby playing No 8 had his wallet picked from his pocket whilst getting on the Metro. He caught the guy and was about to hammer him senseless when he realised that they had been working as a pair and the wallet passed to the accomplice who was well gone. We had watched (this was in St Petersburg) at the ticket barrier, where you put you ticket into a machine and it releases the gate for you to proceed, as youth after youth vaulted over the barrier. Alarms would sound, but nobody did anything. Fortunately for our man he only lost 3000 rubles and a credit card which was soon cancelled so not too bad.
The afternoon was spent at the Leo Tolstoy house (no photos) and a bit on the boring side, as pick pocket victim said, knowing who ate from which soup spoon was a bit over the top but I guess they have to spin out a visit around a reasonably modest house to two hours somehow.

Leo Tolstoy's house and a bit of folk dancing.

All in all our visit to Moscow has been a resounding success but tomorrow sees us on the train to St Petersburg some 700 km to the north west a journey of some 4 hours.

Our train from Moscow to St Petersburg, it was very long, over 20 carriages and it seemed many thousands of passengers.

First impressions of St Petersburg were disappointing, but I think it was just the way we came from station to hotel. Next morning and we were hitting the sites and things seemed much better and by the time we left St Petersburg was right up there with what had been our expectations. This once imperial capital was on the very grand scale, maybe not as well preserved as Vienna but certainly has many of the same sort of buildings.
Anyway more of that later, now I have a plane to catch and then a train and then I shall be in Scotland so goodbye and good health to all.

GO the MAKOs


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