Sunday 30th: Our guide for the day, Lydia, met us at 8.15 and we set off by bus to the Kremlin even though the hotel was right beside one wall. The weather had changed completely from yesterday - gone were the sunshine and blue skies and it was much colder. Light snow fell all day. The first stop inside the Kremlin was the Armoury where we were allowed in an hour earlier and had it all to ourselves. Lydia explained all the main exhibits and we were all agog at the opulence of the treasures there, mainly from Tsarist times and far more than anyone anticipated.
Then it was out into the courtyard to see the various cathedrals and the enormous bell tower. We were taken inside Assumption Cathedral, the main cathedral of the Tsars of Russia and the burial place of the Orthodox Church hierarchy. From there we left the Kremlin and exited to Red Square to see St Basil’s Cathedral, the well-recognised symbol of Russia. The exterior is fascinating but the inside is even more so. It consists of a main church and a number of very small chapels linked by narrow staircases and passageways. In one area three men sang traditional Orthodox hymns without accompaniment as usual and we were treated to a rendition of ‘Kyrie Eleison”. The acoustics were wonderful and it sounded like a whole choir.
Lunch was at a nearby restaurant, Turandot, where we were given a three course meal with plenty of wine. Then the bus took us to a highpoint on the southern side of the city for the view but it was too cold to step out for long. So Lydia took us to the Victory Metro underground to see a couple of the opulent and unique stations which are showpieces of Socialist art. From Victory we stopped at the next two stations. Each one is furnished with marble, statues, frescoes, mosaics and chandeliers and generally commemorates a famous victory.
The bus took us from the last metro station to the train station where our Golden Eagle was waiting. First we were ushered into a beautiful reception hall with a live band and champagne before being assigned to our carriage attendant who escorted us to our compartment. The next hour was spent unpacking and coming to grips with the very small size of the suite compared to the river ship. Eventually we squeezed the necessary items from our cases into a couple of spaces and sent the cases off with the attendants. We have a Gold Suite which cost a bit more than the Silver but worth it for the little bit of extra space for two people.
The train left Moscow at 5.30 and we were off on our Arctic adventure. Our first dinner in the dining car was very good but we flopped into bed as by this time we were exhausted!