Moscow & St Petersburg travel blog

A grey day dawns with a heavy mist covering the city. Interesting breakfast jam 'Cherry with Bones' which turns out to be Raspberry with seeds'!

Maria is our guide for the day & Vladimir our driver. First stop the Gorki Leninskie Sanatorium 30 Km outside the city. Well worth going off the beaten track to visit. This huge estate, and the house contents, was last in the hands of Zainada Morozova before being 'nationalised' in 1918 after the Revolution. It was then used as a Sanatorium for the higher echelons of the Bolsheviks. Lenin was cared for here after an attempted assassination in 1918 and again after his first stroke which left him paralysed on his right side. He remained here for the next 10 months until his death after a second stroke.

There is some irony in Lenin living in luxurious surroundings, with his Kremlin office moved out to the Sanatorium, with a library of 28,000 books and a Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce, adapted for the weather conditions with skis on the front wheels and caterpillar tracks in place of the rear wheels! And with wonderful views over the birch forest surrounding the estate!

After lunch here we head back to the city, the capital of the world's biggest country. It is a real mix of incredible splendour and truly ugly concrete blocks and high rise apartments of the Stalin era. These are interspersed with the wonderfully ornate churches and neo-classical houses and mansions. The return of religion is interesting with many new churches being built. And it is not just the old who attend.

The extremes of wealth and poverty are still evident despite the revolution and the move to embrace capitalism. On one side of the vast Red Square is Gum, Moscow's Harrods, even down to the external lighting. It houses all the global designer brands and has an almost identical food department.

A cold breeze is blowing through the square past Lenin's Mausoleum and busts of past Presidents, well those who did not fall out of favour! The walls of the iconic Kremlin, once Citadel of the Tsars, and now official residence of Putin, the President, line the other side of Red Square, meaning Beautiful Square. It is familiar from TV news items and rows of stern communists watching vast military parades. St Basil's Cathedral looks more like a toy Church with its multicoloured 'onion-domes', one for each of the 9 chapels within and the 10th above the burial place of St Basil.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is our next stop. Stunningly beautiful interior with wonderful frescoes. There are many cases containing relics which are very obviously highly revered. Just before we leave, above us in a gallery, the choir rehearses for the next service. An uplifting end to our visit.

As the weather has worsened to cold drizzle we resort to a bit of a driving tour, hopping out to take occasional photos - of the incredible Moscow University with 40,000 students & a 36 storey tower on the main building; of the Convent of New Maidens where noblewomen went by choice or force; Lubyanka which now has another name but is still KGB; The Bolshoi Theatre to name but a few.

Back to base and a light supper at My-My where you choose your dishes from a wide range to make up your meal. Better than it sounds. Had hoped for a quiet evening but there seems to be a Chinese get-together in the next room! We did have to resort on knocking on the wall at one point when the screeches & cackles became too much! The joys of global tourism!!

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