From Russia With Love

I know that the title of my travel story is from a 1960’s James Bond movie which was filmed mostly in Istanbul and other Eastern parts of Europe. Well, my trip to Moscow kinda fit the title for that.

We have seen Moscow in many films and we were awed by how fantastic the buildings in the Red Square.

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Kremlin Entrance

First getting a visa to Moscow is the same as how you process visas on traveling to countries such as in Europe- Schengen Visa with medical Insurance that should be acceptable to the standards of Russian government.. You can check the website or  visit the nearest embassy or consulate for the needed requirements. Normally it takes 3-7 days for your visa and the fee is 82$. Most nationals needs visa to travel to Russia.

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Moscow

As soon as we arrived in the airport, we took the Aeroexpress train going to Belorusski Railroad station that cost 470 Russian Rubles/8$ one way. Train ride took 45minutes only and adjacent to the station is the Belorusskaya (green line).On this line we got down to Treatralnaya which took us to the Red Square for 1.5$. There are many taxis on the airport that will say that the aeroexpress or metro is not working. We encountered one man saying its not working but we told him we already bought our train tickets. We got lost at first taking the other way around, I only noticed when we were in Sokol Station. The train name is Cyrillic so its really difficult to figure out which station we were in. I compared the Cyrillic alphabets on the train stop to the map that I have with names translated in English Most people they don’t speak English fluently so better have a map with English & Cyrillic alphabets on it or you can arranged directly from your hotel for an airport pick up.

I have read some reviews that people in Moscow or Russia are not that friendly, maybe due to the fact that most they don’t speak English and its hard for them to communicate. Maybe, some other travelers were lucky enough to have met a local who speaks English fluently and very accommodating. As what we have encountered, some can speak and some can say few words in English. Also, according to Forbes 2013 issue, Moscow has been ranked as the ninth most expensive city in the world by Mercer, has one of the world’s largest urban economies and one of the world’s largest cities.

As per wikipedia, the name Moscow is thought to be derived from the name of the Moskva River.

On our short trip, we were interested in seeing the famous  landmarks of Moscow and we were glad that the weather was not too cold for us to explore that part of the city.

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The Saint Basil’s Cathedral

The Saint Basil’s Cathedral was built by Ivan the Terrible between 1555 and 1561. According to legend, the builder of this cathedral was blinded so that such a beautiful structure could never be built again. The cathedral is vividly colorful and contains redbrick towers that add to its beauty. The design of St. Basil’s Cathedral provides strong religious symbolism and is based on architectural designs found in Jerusalem.

In one legend, the French ruler Napoleon even wanted to take St. Basil’s Cathedral back to France with him, but due to the lack of such technology, he ordered his army to destroy it so that no one else could occupy it. His army had prepared to attack the church and had also lit up the gunpowder, but a mysterious rain shower prevented any explosions from occurring. This has been on the article famous wonders. From afar it looks like a different varieties of candies, so colorful, appealing and the beautifully twisted exterior makes it different from any other Basilicas.

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Minin and Pozharsky

Before entering the Saint Basil’s cathedral, you will notice a monument dedicated to Minin and Pozharsky. Prince Dmitry Mikhaylovich Pozharsky is a Rukirid (a dynasty founded by the Varangian Prince Rurik in 862AD) Prince and Kuzma Minin who was a Russian merchant gathered all Russian volunteer army to fight against Polish invaders on the 17th century.

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Minin and Pozharsky in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral
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Resurrection (Voskresenskyie) Gates with Iverskaya Chapel

The buildings are the main attractions in the Red Square. The above picture is the Resurrection (Voskresenskyie) Gates with Iverskaya Chapel. It was built in 1669 to enshrine the icon next to the Kremlin walls in Moscow. The chapel was the main entrance to Red Square and traditionally everyone, from the Tsar down to the lowest peasant would stop there to venerate the icon before entering the square.

Few metres from the Iverkaya Chapel is the Kazan Cathedral. It was considered one of the most important churches in Moscow. Prince Dmitry Pozharsky financed construction of a wooden church to the Virgin of Kazan on Red Square in Moscow, which was first mentioned in historical records in 1625.

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Kazan Cathedral

Adjacent to the Kazan Cathedral is The State Historical Museum. The museum was founded in 1872 by Ivan Zabelin, Aleksey Uvarov and several other Slavophiles interested in promoting Russian history and national self-awareness. I thought at first it was a palace or a residence in the late 18th century.

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The State Historical Museum

As per the history of the building, The State Historical Museum its exhibitions range from relics of prehistoric tribes that lived on the territory of present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum’s collection comes to millions.The present structure was built based on Sherwood’s neo-Russian design between 1875 and 1881. The first 11 exhibit halls officially opened in 1883 during a visit from the Tsar and his wife. Then in 1894 Tsar Alexander III became the honorary president of the museum and the following year, 1895, the museum was renamed the Tsar Alexander III Imperial Russian History Museum.

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GUM Department Store

Another building on the Red Square is the GUM– It is the name of the main department store in many cities of the former Soviet Union, known as State Department Store.The most famous GUM is the large store in the Kitai-gorod part of Moscow facing Red Square.

It is currently a shopping mall. Everyday, you will see many entertainers, vendors who will approach you selling a pure rabbit hat or coat and some wearing a Venetian mask and gown. Prior to the 1920s, the location was known as the Upper Trading Rows Catherine II of Russia commissioned Giacomo Quarenghi, a Neoclassical architect from Italy, to design a huge trade center along the east side of Red Square. The existing structure was built to replace the previous trading rows that had been designed by Joseph Bove after the 1812 Fire of Moscow.

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Lenin’s Mausoleum

Another structure you will notice in the Red Square is the Lenin’s Mausoleum or known as the Lenins Tomb which is the resting place of Vladimir Lenin who is a Russian Communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist. There have been a voting happened and most people agreed to have Len’ns body be buried but still no final decision from the government. Today, the Mausoleum is open for public viewing except for Monday and Friday from 10am to 1pm.

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Lenin’s Mausoleum

Behind the State Historical Museum and on the side of the Kremlin is the Alexander Garden, with Horse Fountain and where you can find the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.

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Horse Fountain

For sure the Alexander Garden must be very beautiful during Spring.

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Tomb of Unknown Soldier

On the side of the wall, in the Alexander Garden you might be wondering why there are two guards and what are they guarding. It is the The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It is a war memorial, dedicated to the Soviet soldiers killed during World War II.

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Tomb of Unknown Soldier

The remains of the unknown soldiers killed in the Battle of Moscow in 1941 were initially buried in a mass grave of the Shtyki Memorial at the 40th km of the Leningrad highway at the city of Zelenograd. This was the location of the closest approach of the German armies to Moscow during the war.

Our last stop in Red Square is visiting the Kremlin.We were lucky that the line going inside the Kremlin was not too long. There are many types of packages visiting the kremlin which you can see on their website here.

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Kremlin

The Kremlin is Russia’s mythic refuge, a self contained city with a multitude of palaces, armories, and churches, a medieval fortress that links the modern nation to its legendary past in the ancient state of Kievan Rus. The name Kremlin means “fortress inside a city”,

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Kremlin Entrance Gate

The existing Kremlin walls and towers were built by Italian masters over the years 1485 to 1495. The irregular triangle of the Kremlin wall encloses an area of 275,000 square meters (68 acres).The wall’s thickness is between 3.5 and 6.5 meters. Originally there were eighteen Kremlin towers, but their number increased to twenty in the 17th century. All but three of the towers are square in plan (courtesy of wikipedia).

There are more or less seventeen sights to see inside Kremlin. From towers, buildings, churches, offices, and gardens. Here are what we have seen or visited:

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Kremlin Armoury

The Kremlin Armoury began in the early 16th century as a purely functional storehouse for the Kremlin’s weaponry. However, within a few decades that original and prosaic structure had gained the added function of a workshop and repository for all sorts of treasures of the increasingly magnificent Imperial court.

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Kremlin – Militaries

In 1813, following Napoleon’s invasion, the Armory building became an exhibition hall and museum, though the Imperial arms and regalia had long since been removed by Peter the Great to St. Petersburg. It was only in 1851 that the collection was returned to Moscow, where it was installed in the current building, then new. Despite the loss of significant items in the collection during the early nineteenth century, the treasures contained within the Armory are overwhelming.Next door, at the Diamond Treasury, visitors can catch a glimpse of the infamous 190-carat Orlov Diamond. Most of the information written can be found  here.

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Charo in Cathedral of Twelve Apostles and the Patriarch’s Palace

Cathedral of the Twelve Apostles and The Patriarch’s Palace.These two buildings are in fact a continuous structure, together constituting the Kremlin domain of the patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox .The Patriarch’s Palace is one of the best and rarest monuments of Moscow mid XVII century’s civil architecture. The Palace was erected in 1653-1655 by Russian masters on Patriarch Nikon’s order on the place of more ancient constructions of the Metropolitan and later Patriarch’s Estate in the Moscow Kremlin. They now serve as a museum of 17th-century applied arts, including ecclesiastical regalia as well as furniture and domestic objects from the period.A collection of icons showing the development of icon-painting in the XVII century is placed in the church. .

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Tsar Cannon

Tsar Cannon and Bell. These two curiosities form an oddly appropriate pair. Both are among the largest of their kind in the world, and neither has ever worked. The 40-ton Tsar Cannon, built during the reign of Ivan the Terrible’s imbecilic son Fyodor in 1586, possesses a barrel in excess of five meters long and a calibre of 890 mm.

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Tsar Bell

The two hundred ton Tsar Bell, though the largest in the world, was never successfully completed, much less rung. A smaller predecessor (weighing in at a mere 130 tons) was built in the middle of the 17th century but was destroyed in the Moscow fire of 1701. Three decades later the Empress Anna ordered the fragments to be recast into a much larger bell, but the resultant wonder cracked in 1737 after having fallen into its casting pit. Another century passed before the bell was lifted and set in its present location. Beside the bell lies a small eleven-ton scrap that fell from the bell during its excavation.

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Assumption Cathedral

Assumption Cathedral is the oldest, largest, and most important of the Kremlin’s many churches. It stands on the site of a small cathedral erected by Ivan I around 1330 to mark Moscow’s new status as the seat of Russian orthodoxy. A century and a half later, Ivan III (the Great) decided that his predecessor’s modest and by then time-worn work was insufficient as a symbol of the city’s grandeur.

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The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael
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The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and The Cathedral of Annunciation

The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael. This most Italianate of the Kremlin’s churches, the last of Ivan the Great’s contributions to Cathedral Square, is the burial place of the early Tsars and their predecessors, the princes of Moscow. Commissioned in 1505 and built by the Venetian architect Alevisio, its notably foreign features include the scallop-shell decoration of its gables and the ornate Corinthian capitals of its columns.

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Ivan the Great Belltower

Ivan the Great Belltower. Dominating not only Cathedral Square but the entire Kremlin is the gleaming gilt dome of the Ivan the Great Belltower, long the tallest structure in all of Russia. Constructed of bright white stone and soaring to a height of over eighty meters, the bell tower was begun in the early 16th century and completed in 1600, during the reign of Boris Godunov.

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The Church of the Deposition of the Robe

The Church of the Deposition of the Robe. This comparatively modest structure was built by Russian craftsmen just a few years after the completion of the Cathedral of the Assumption. It now houses a fascinating collection of wooden figures.

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The Cathedral of the Annunciation

The Cathedral of the Annunciation. The golden-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation served as the private chapel of the Tsars. It was raised by Ivan III in the late 1440s on the foundations of a much earlier and more modest church and has been damaged, repaired, enlarged, and altered on numerous occasions since then. One addition deserving of special appreciation is the Grosnenskiy Porch, found at the Cathedral’s southeast corner. The porch was built by Ivan the Terrible in 1572 after he contravened church doctrine by marrying for a fourth time (the Orthodox Church allowed only three marriages). The porch was the resultant compromise, and from it Ivan would carry out his religious devotions .

Another famous to see in Moscow is the rail system or the underground Metro station architecture and paintings.

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Metro Station in Moscow with different Renaissance Designs- Splendid!
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Metro Station in Moscow with different Renaissance Designs- Splendid!

The city of Moscow opened its Metro service in 1935 with a single 11 km line connecting just thirteen stations, but it has since grown into the world’s fourth busiest transit system, spanning more than 300 kilometers and offering 188 stops along the way. The Moscow Metro was one of the USSR’s most extravagant, hypnotizing beauty of Russia’s historic Metro Stations.

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Metro Station in Moscow with different Renaissance Designs- Splendid!

This architectural projects with the intention of building palaces for the people. Built when Stalin was in power, the metro’s artists and architects went about designing stations that were to epitomize the Russian word ‘svet’, meaning radiance & brilliance and ‘svetloe budushchee’ – a radiant future.

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Metro Station in Moscow with paintings
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Metro Station in Moscow combination of modern and Renaissance designs.

This project was used as an opportunity to showcase the country’s power. With their reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, many of Moscow’s Metro stations are likened to famous European palaces. Check here for more info.

As per the Solobackper said  “For a moment, its very hard to digest that these are the metro stations of a subway network. Being one of the most extravagant architectural projects of erstwhile USSR, the interior of these stations can beat many reputed hotels as well as the heritage buildings by its grandeur. Check here.

As well as being one of the most efficient and cheapest underground transit systems in the world, the Moscow Metro is also undoubtedly one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my entire life. Our short trip to Moscow gives us an insight how extravagant this country is.

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