Determined to get going early this morning and be at Kremlin by 10 to purchase tickets for the Armoury at some stage during the day. All good, up and showered and dressed and had breakfast and arrived down at the Kremlin ticket office in good time to join the queue for the Armoury tour. Waited in line for almost an hour and were 1 spot from the cashier window when there appeared to be some delay. Vanessa stepped up to the window and asked for 3 tickets to a "nyet" from the lovely lady definitely wearing her grumpy undies for the day. She obviously had no English and we certainly didn't have the appropriate Russian to even establish what was going on. A family in the adjoining line seemed to have a problem as did another couple behind them.
We finally realised that they had sold out tickets for the 2.30 session at the armoury. This was obviously not a problem to us but it was the disdain and rudeness of the babushka behind the counter that had us jaw dropped. When it was obvious she couldn't answer our question in English she merely turned away and pretended to be doing something else and totally ignored any attempt by us to find what was going on. We have encountered this several times, you speak English and apparently you are not worth trying to communicate with. We have decided it is a leftover to the true Communist era as we have experienced this from the older generation.
Time for us to put on our own grumpy undies and we all stomped off muttering expletives under our breaths (except Vanessa who doesn't use expletives)about rude Russians not letting us look at their national treasures. On to Plan B. We had purchased tickets to the Kremlin compound itself while waiting for the Armoury tickets. Time to take a walk up the ramp and into the grounds of the Kremlin.
Now, I must admit a bit of ignorance on this subject, I did not realise that the Kremlin was actually a walled part of the city where the Tsars etc. lived. I have somehow always thought of the Kremlin as the actual building where the leaders of Russian government worked and threatened to push buttons to explode bombs against enemies and had a direct phone line to the White House. John Haynes, why did you not put me straight on this fact - you have been there before.
After walking past an ugly Communist era grey marble building, you come to the building where Mr. Vladimir Putin works when he is in the Kremlin and not out riding bears (a favourite magnet, postcard and action figure of a bare chested Putin riding a bear is a big seller to the Russians apparently). This is also the home to the young men who are in the Kremlin Guards.
Before we go in to take a look at a few churches in the Kremlin, we stop at the Tsar cannon which is the one of the biggest cannons ever made. The barrel alone weighs in at 40 tonnes. It was cast in 1586 and False Dimitri back towards Poland in 1607.\
Just adjacent to the cannon is the largest bell in the world. The Tsar bell weighs 200 tonnes and was cast in 1701 after the first bell fell and smashed in a fire in the bell tower of Ivan the Great. They gathered up all the bits of the smashed bell and in 1737 cast this larger bell. It was still in the casting pit when another fire broke out. Cold water was poured over the pit and a large chunk of the bell broke off. Both the remains of the bell and the chunk now sit on the ground below the bell tower of Ivan the Great which was closed today.
Time to check out the numerous churches in the Kremlin. The first was Cathedral of the Assumption. Unfortunately no photos are allowed to be taken in the churches. The first church built here was in 1326, new one in 1475 after a couple of other attempts fell down. In 1613 the first Romanov Tsar Michael was anointed there. In 1642 the walls were painted with frescoes seen today. The coronation of the last Tsar of Russia Nicholas II was held there in 1896. It contains the private pews for the Tsars and Tsarinas and is the resting place of many rulers of Russia. After the Revolution liturgies stopped and it becomes a part of the Kremlin Museums. In 1955 it became a public museum and then liturgies recommenced there in 1990. Amazing amounts of gold in the iconastasis and the paintings therein.
Second church was the Archangel Cathedral which started as a small church in 1333 and the new cathedral was built in 1504-1565. All remains of Russian princes were placed in the cathedral and it was painted with its current frescoes in 1564. Similarly, liturgies were stopped in 1918 and recommenced in 1991. Incredibly ornate building.
Third church was the Annunciation Cathedral with its 5 gold onion domes. 3 domes were built in 1484. The current frescoes were painted in 1508 and repainted in 1697. Like the other two churches, it had liturgies ceased in 1918 and they were restored in 1993.\
Amazing structures and so old by our standards. I will try downloading some google pics of interiors.
Somewhat churched out, it was now time to see if we could perhaps obtain tickets to the Armoury later in the afternoon. With a little patience Eloise stood in line and faced the same dragon lady cashier and secured 3 tickets for the 4.30 session in her hot little hands. The cashiers have scheduled breaks at certain times and it was funny to watch the people in the adjacent line standing dumbfounded when the appointed break time rolls around and the venetian blind is lowered without ceremony leaving those in the line dumbfounded with no explanation whatsoever. Ah, Russian etiquette just does not exist sometimes.
Now secured a visit to the Armoury, we head off in search of lunch and decide upon McDonalds which is just adjacent to Red Square above the huge underground shopping mall.
All modern with the computerised ordering system in Russian and English so Eloise diligently selects all our options and after about 10 minutes it is time to swipe a card and pay but to no avail!! For some reason, Russian card machines suddenly decide not to accept the card being presented for payment, and this was one of them!!!! Tried standing in the queue but got redirected to another queue and gave up!!!! Down into the underground shopping centre for lunch at a coffee café with no English menu. Oh the joys of ordering food by pointing at pictures and hoping you get what you think you are getting, especially a vegetarian.
Time approaching for the Armoury tour so a quick checking in of the backpack and walk down to the end of Alexander Gardens and into the museum after the obligatory security check and cloakroom check in.
None of us knew what to expect from this visit but three of us walked out mindblown. I have never seen anything remotely similar in all the places I have visited in the world. Not even the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London come close. Once again unfortunately, no photos were allowed (except by the sneaky older Russian couple in the carriage room apparently, until they got caught).
To say it was a collection of Russian treasures does not even indicate what is held in this place. It started out with religious paraphernalia from the 14th century, including the most incredible Testament covers made of embossed gold and embellished with huge gemstones and pearls. Each picture of the Virgin Mary had a halo made of gold and inlaid with similar gemstones and pearls (hundreds of them). There were about three rooms containing glass cases with these items before we headed on to weaponry and armour.
Following this we had the thrones from the coronations of many of the Tsars along with the most incredible display of crowns encrusted with rare precious stones like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and of course thousands of pearls. Next was the room containing displays of silver and gold articles given to the Russians by diplomats and visitors including the most elaborate English tableware from the 1600's, then the Germans and the French Sevres porcelain dinner setting with plates each individually painted with Greek gods and appropriately named the Olympic setting. We also saw some of the Faberge eggs, one containing a replica of a train. These eggs were given by the Tsar usually to his wife and perhaps his mother. All eggs contained some little token of affection usually in the form of a gold replica of something.
Next we moved on to clothing which belonged to Catherine the Great, her wedding dress and coronation dress with the most incredibly small waist and equally small shoes. The displays also held fans and snuff boxes and other toiletry articles. The dresses were embroidered with the most delicate gold or silver thread.
The last room left us gobsmacked with the display of carriages and sledges of the Tsars dating from the early Romanovs to the last Tsar Nicholas. Just like carriages you would expect from fairytales. I do wish we had been able to take photos. I will again try to add photos from google if I can find some. I am trying to find a book in English which has photos of this museum. I cannot imagine the value of the items on display - absolutely priceless one would imagine.
Unfortunately they only give you 1 and a half hours per session and all too soon our time was up. You follow an audio guide and it really only allows you enough time to look and listen to the items mentioned. Almost worth a second visit just to look closely at all cases.
We left there absolutely dazzled by what we had just seen and made our way up to Red Square and Bosco Café for some dinner. This is the only place where you can dine looking out over the Red Square. The girls fell in love with the delicate dinner service they use. Had a reverse meal, started out with a coffee, cups of tea and a couple of cakes and a slice of cherry pie then decided to order some pasta for dinner as well.
Of course, guess what we had to finish off with - yes, yet another Russian choc chip chocolate icecream cone for Miss Vanessa and of course Eloise and I. Had to pause a little while back out in Red Square for me to have my photo taken holding my little local paper the Rowville Lysterfield News. They publish photos of travelling locals reading the paper around the world. Not seen any from Moscow yet so going to send it to them.
We finished up early this evening after a day of walking around and walked our way back to our apartment via the main street to Tverskay and the Pandora store for a few purchases. It was quite refreshing to get back to the apartment for a few cups of tea, doing a load of washing and some interneting.
The girls laying in bed planning out our days tomorrow and Wednesday before we sadly have to leave. Wow, what cool stuff we have seen today. Will be going to the Diamond Fund (sort of like the Crown Jewels), the contemporary History Museum then the Communist Walking Tour.