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A walk through Moscow

A walk through Moscow
 
   
   
   
   
 
 

ALMOST hallucinating from having arrived in Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Express at 4:00 this morning, and only with just enough time to set up in my room, I met my guide at the hotel foyer at 9:00.

First light from hotel room

First light from hotel room

It was cold and completely overcast outside. Moscow was expecting a high of just 11 degrees today. My guide thought that was rather hot having until about two years ago lived in Russia’s northernmost city about 1300 kilometres to the north on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Taking the Moscow Metro

Taking the Moscow Metro

We crossed the road and headed down into the subway into the city, arriving in the older part of the inner city around numerous government departments. The stone buildings were all rather old and covered in fancy facades, yet they exhibited the coldness as expected from the capital of what used to be the Soviet Union.

Mall in Moscow

Mall in Moscow

Walking along a mall with displays of the harvest festival, the road turned a gentle bend and the building at the end was a warm apricot colour standing out against the other stone buildings. This was the main headquarters of the KGB.

KGB headquarters

KGB headquarters

Turning from there, we headed further to the city centre passing a very posh old hotel that ironically had a communist phrase engraved into it warning people of the dangers of capitalism.

Fountain in front of a hotel

Fountain in front of a hotel

A little further along we reached some large rust red buildings, this was the national museum. Just past the museum was the Alexandrovsky Gardens, a tranquil formal garden over a large shopping centre, completely concealed if it were not for a large glass dome with views into it. The dome had the names of various cities around the world in their respective directions.

Dome over shopping centre

Dome over shopping centre

The gardens had a stream of large fountains and statues, leading to some large white buildings with golden domes. This was the Kremlin, the heart of the Russian political centre. From there we could see down one of the main roads of Moscow. My guide mentioned this road had to be widened once to allow more lanes of traffic, and to do that they had to move all the big stone buildings back from the street a couple of metres. That was an enormous project but successfully completed.

Alexandravsky Gardens

Alexandravsky Gardens

As we explored the garden, we passed several guards in black uniform standing around an eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with plaques of all the wars the Russians have fought in over the past couple of centuries. We were lucky to capture the hourly changing of the guard, where the three guards who had stood motionless over the past hour were replaced with three more guards. Day and night this ritual happens 24 times a day, 365 days per year since it was first started in 1967 when it was built and the remains of some unknown soldiers killed in the Battle of Moscow in 1941 were reburied.

Moscow Museum near Red Square

Moscow Museum near Red Square

We headed back out of the Alexandrovsky Gardens and turned in between the main red buildings into Red Square, not named because of the red buildings, but because the Russian military calls themselves the Red Army. The famous Red Square straddled the rounded summit of a low hill.

The GUM

The GUM

To the right was the high wall of the Kremlin and to the left was the GUM, a shopping centre in a spectacular stone building. Ahead of us was the majestic St Basil’s Cathedral, containing seven churches in the one building – almost like Russian dolls.

St Basil's Cathedral

St Basil's Cathedral

We walked through the crowded square quickly exploring it, but I will be back tomorrow and will have a more detailed blog on it. Upon passing St Basil’s we reached a highway crossing the Moscow River. The remainder of the tour would take us along the far bank of the Moscow River.

Looking back into Red Square

Looking back into Red Square

Once across the other side we walked along getting spectacular views of the Kremlin, and some of what my guide called the Seven Sisters, seven old stone buildings with spires built in various locations around the centre of Moscow.

The Kremlin

The Kremlin

I could also see the new city centre, with its tight cluster of towering glass high rises almost reaching the low clouds typical of very modern cities. That would be the financial district of Moscow.

City centre

City centre

Upon passing the Kremlin, we crossed the river at the next bridge, passing a mysterious grey government building where my guide said many government officials mysteriously disappeared. It is believed when they had constructed the building, they had built a whole network of hidden corridors which mercenaries could pass through undetected and abduct workers who were suspected of being disloyal to the Soviet Union.

Building with hidden passages

Building with hidden passages

Just past the grey building was the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a large cathedral built over an old swimming pool in 2000. At 103 metres high, it is the world’s tallest Russian Orthodox church.

Cathedral of Christ

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Another cathedral was built here in 1883, but it was destroyed in 1931 on order of the Soviet founder Joseph Stalin to become the Palace of the Soviets. Construction of the palace started in 1937 but abruptly stopped 4 years later during the Nazi invasion of Moscow. It eventually became a swimming pool built into the remains of the palace foundations and replaced with the swimming pool. It was eventually rebuilt as a cathedral in an old format. We explored the cathedral before crossing the bridge back over the river again.

Statue on cathedral

Statue on cathedral

We explored some chocolate brown buildings that once formed the Red October Chocolate Factory. It was going to be demolished when the factory relocated to a new location away from the city, but instead became an arty area with little boutique shops, most with a lot of character broken free of the former communist era. One store had half of an old car welded into it.

Old chocolate factory

Old chocolate factory

Past the chocolate factory I could see a huge bronze statue of a man on a tiny ship. This was the Peter the Great statue standing at 98 metres tall built in 1997 to commemorate 300 years of the Russian Navy. My guide didn’t like it highlighting it was voted as one of the ten most ugly statues in the world. The locals didn’t like what it represented with Peter the Great having loathed Moscow and moved the capital to the coast at St Petersburg.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great statue

From there we continued heading along the road until reaching a park. This was the first of three parks which my guide assured me would be like going back in time. The first park being modern, the next one traditional, and the final one natural.

Statue in park

Statue in park

The first park was Gorky Central Park, with a large boxy building in the middle of it and a few modern promotional displays visible from our path made from concrete and large granite stones running towards the Moscow River. In the middle of the park in front of the grey building was a large collection of statues. These were all abstracts of people, every one of them with tortured expressions on their faces. The display was called “Victims of Totalitarian Regimes”. One had a pile of concrete heads in a wire cage. Others stood in lines, other stood solo. They all had very distressed expressions.

Statue in park

Statue in park

Once we reached the grey building, the path followed the Moscow River, with its ferries running up and down stream. Across the river was the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Education. Both were very large serious looking old Soviet style buildings overlooking the river and the park.

Department of Education

Department of Education

After about a kilometre of following the river, we reached the start of Neskuchiy Garden, with its fountains and exotic plants. It was going through a fairly substantial renovation in preparation for winter. There were several cafes and small amphitheatres surrounded by colourful exotic flowering plants set up in a formal garden. We walked through the garden passing ponds and pagodas.

Neskuchiy Garden

Neskuchiy Garden

Eventually we reached the river again and followed it a short distance before heading up a wide flight of marble stairs beside a stream into the third park, Vorobyovi Gori.

Pond in Vorobyovi Gori

Pond in Vorobyovi Gori

This park was completely natural, full of old very tall standing deciduous oaks and elms. The leaves on the trees were green, but there were a lot of fresh yellow leaves on the ground and quite a few falling around us in the still air. We followed one of the paths through the forest, hardly expected in the middle of a big city.

Man feeding squirrel

Man feeding squirrel

We reached a junction in the paths where an old man had a squirrel on one hand and he was feeding it with the other. This is a crucial time of year for these little creatures as they needed to collect as many nuts as they could in preparation for the winter hibernation.

Tall forest

Tall forest

We turned right to follow a path running about a hundred metres parallel to the river, though it was out of sight with the forest being so thick. The path ran straight for some distance and for a while I forgot I was even in the middle of a major city. The forest did have a strong European feel to it. There were a couple of other squirrels darting around nearby, getting their stores ready for the winter.

Squirrel

Squirrel

Eventually we did reach the end of the forest and back into the bustling city, from where we headed back underground into the metro.

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28 September 2016

 

Moscow

Russia

 

55°45'N
37°35'E
151 - 163m ASL

 

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Jeff

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